Unsung artist recreates iconic Oldsmar chairs

Unassuming woodcarver Ray Poynor of Odessa recently presented the Oldsmar Chair Project, a recreation of the city’s iconic Adirondack chairs made from a century-old slab of native heart pine wood.

The Oldsmar Chair Project was a collaboration between the city and Odessa woodcarver Ray Poynor, recreating iconic Adirondack chairs from the city's history using 100-year-old native heart pine wood.

The Oldsmar Chair Project was a collaboration between the city and Odessa woodcarver Ray Poynor, who recreated iconic Adirondack chairs using 100-year-old native heart pine wood.

Woodcarver Ray Poynor doesn’t believe in seeking credit for his work.

The Odessa resident has created a wide variety of items over the years, including display cases for Honeymoon Island and Brooker Creek Preserve, little free libraries, and custom pens made from bullet casings that he gives to law enforcement officers, yet he has never been paid for his work and he doesn’t like his name used in promoting any of his projects.

But after Oldsmar Communications Clerk Kris Hannon convinced Poynor, who has worked at Techn-icar in Oldsmar for 17 years, to help present their collaboration called the Oldsmar Chair Project to the City Council, the unassuming artist reluctantly agreed.

Odessa woodcarver Ray Poynor explains the Oldsmar Chair Project on Dec. 6, 2016.

Odessa woodcarver Ray Poynor explains the Oldsmar Chair Project during a City Council meeting on Dec. 6, 2016.

“I’ve done many volunteer projects, probably lots of them that you all have seen, either at Honeymoon Island State Park, Brooker Creek Preserve, many other places,” Poynor told the council on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

“You’ll never see my name on any of them, and I told Kris if I do this project for you, I’ll give you the chairs but my name stays out of it, and here I am.”

“Is that why Kris didn’t introduce you?” Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel quickly replied.

“That’s fine,” Poyner responded. “I love being Mr. Anonymous.”

After witnessing the craftsmanship that went into the project, in which Poynor transformed a massive, century-old native heart pine beam into a pair of Adirondack chairs that represent those used the early days of Oldsmar’s 100-year history, it’s safe to say his days of remaining anonymous are over.

During the presentation, Hannon explained how the project came about.

The Oldsmar Chair Project.

The Oldsmar Chair Project.

“Jeri Antozzi showed me a picture of the old Oldsmar chair and I said, wouldn’t that be fun if we resurrect it?” Hannon said, referring to the Oldsmar Historical Society Museum curator. “And we looked all over for someone to make these chairs for us.”

Hannon went on to describe her chance encounter with Poynor, who was wandering City Hall earlier this year looking for information about a little free library he wanted to install in town.

“He said I work with wood, not for a living, but I’m a woodworker,”she said. “And I said, well I’ve got a project! And he said yeah, I’d love to make those chairs for you. And I said, fabulous.”

Just as the work was about to get underway, Hannon related, the project took what turned out to be a fortuitous turn when another city employee told her about a special piece of wood.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland looks through a bolt hole in a piece of heart pine.

Oldsmar City Council member Jerry Beverland looks through a bolt hole in a piece of heart pine.

“He (Tim Jacobson) said, Jerry Beverland’s got a secret beam hidden, made out of heart pine, and I bet you could talk him into letting you that wood for the chairs,” she said.

“So Jerry graciously let us use the wood for the chairs.”

“Not graciously,” Beverland replied. “Excitedly.”

Beverland, no stranger to squirreling away artifacts from Oldsmar’s history, explained the beam was a cross-support for the Oldsmar Bank building.

When the building was being renovated into the current Council Chambers, the noted Oldsmar historian thought to stash away.

“They had to bring cranes in to pick the beam up,” Beverland said, noting the heart pine wood that was taken from a forest off Tampa Road is incredibly dense.

“And we saved it. We didn’t know what we were going to do with it. But we saved it.”

What they did with it was get it to Poynor’s woodshop, and gradually, the expert carver turned the 24-foot beam into a pair of magnificent and symbolic chairs.

Woodcarver Ray Poynor hands a custom heart pine pen to Council member Jerry Beverland on Dec. 6, 2016.

Ray Poynor hands a heart pine pen to Council member Jerry Beverland on Dec. 6, 2016.

“The beam that Jerry so lovingly saved, 24 feet long, had numerous 14 to 16-inch bolts crossed through it,” Poynor said. “Also, it had two 26-foot long bolts lengthwise through the beam…. which I’ve never seen in my whole entire life.”

Poyner pointed out that he tried to preserve some of the original stains, bolt holes and cut marks in the wood so the chairs would retain some of the original charm and character of their source material, and that’s when Beverland, a longtime proponent of the arts, gave him his due.

“A woodworker is a person (un)to themselves,” Beverland said. “A painter takes a canvas and paints something, a woodworker takes away from the wood, which is so much harder to do, as Michelangelo did with all the marble.”

After the meeting, the council came down and inspected the chairs, which are nearly impossible for one person to move, and Hannon elaborated on how the project serendipitously came together.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis inspects the chairs with Odessa woodcarver Ray Poynor on Dec. 6, 2016.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis inspects the chairs with Ray Poynor on Dec. 6, 2016.

“The way we found each other in the hall, and then found out about the beam, and how the project would not only resurrect a historical part of Oldsmar but it had a sustainability aspect to it, he was so excited about it,” she said.

“Ray’s just a wonderful guy, absolutely amazing,” she added. “It turned into an amazing, beautiful project. It seemed like it was meant to be.”

For his part, Poyner seemed resigned to the fact that thanks to the Oldsmar Chair Project, he wasn’t Mr. Anonymous anymore.

“I had a feeling that was gonna happen when Kris told me I had to come tonight,” he said in his relaxed drawl.

“I’ve done bigger projects but not wood of that age before,” he added, noting he counted more than 90 growth rings in the wood, making the beam more than 100 years old. “It was quite an experience.”

To see—and sit in—the Oldsmar Chairs, visit Oldsmar City Hall, located at 100 State St. W.

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