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Belmont man sculpts pens from abandoned textile mills

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TWC News: Belmont man sculpts pens from abandoned textile mills
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Using a small lathe in a workshop behind his house, Yates Abernathy shapes wood and acrylics to make pens.

He sells them for anywhere between $25 and $40.

"Mine are relative inexpensive, you got to know what your market is,” said Abernathy from Y.E.A. Pens.

He has sold quite a few over time too.

“I've got pens in Germany; I've got some in Switzerland, California, Chicago,” said Abernathy.

Much of the popularity of the pens is because of the wood used to make one of the lines. Not the type of wood so much, but where the wood originated. It comes from abandoned textile mills that have been torn down.

"When they started tearing the mills down, I realized that, 'Hey, I could take and get some of this mill wood from the old textile mills and make pens out of it'” he said.

Currently, Abernathy makes pens from wood salvaged from nine mills that have fallen throughout the Carolinas.

Once people discover what he is doing, there is little trouble finding customers.

“They were proud people and they, they see their heritage gone and this is one thing that they can, they can hold onto a little bit,” said Abernathy.

There is plenty of support for the work Abernathy is doing, even beyond those who buy the pens. Demolition supervisors typically keep people away from their job sites, but Abernathy has not had much trouble getting wood from those places.

"After you tell 'em or show 'em what you're trying to do, they'll work with you and get you some wood,” he said.

This is all personal for Abernathy. He grew up and still lives in Belmont, a small town which was once home to about 15 mills.

“It was a way of life,” said Abernathy. “This county, Gaston County, was probably the textile center of the world at one time. It makes you sad that you, when we were kids you just thought the mill would be there forever.”

Although the mill pen business has been good, Abernathy said he wishes there had never been an opportunity for him to make pens from that wood.

"I'd love to see every one of 'em still standing and some use being made," he said.

Since the mills are being razed however, he figures his craft is one way to keep the memory of them alive.

"If some of us older people don't try to save some of our history and our heritage, it's gonna be lost forever,” said Abernathy.

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