• Laurel Contributor

Grandpa’s Workshop

by Donna Rhodes

Artisan Mike Holden and his daughter Ciara are happy to give Santa a helping hand when it comes to the children of Western North Carolina.

Mike Holden crafts marvelous wooden toys. Customers with an eye for aesthetics appreciate his model forms and delight in their durability and movement.

Two events shaped Mike’s design destiny. First, when he was 12, his 30-something brother showed him his new scroll saw (a narrow-bladed tool for cutting intricate designs).

“It tickled my fancy,” says Mike. “I used his saw every chance I got. Then I got my own at Christmas.”

Second, a fan of things on wheels, Mike eventually became a trucker. But after a few years on the road, a life-threatening cancer brought life to a screeching halt. It robbed him of sight and hearing on his left side. He spent a lengthy recovery working with wood. . .shop-playing as he calls it.

His 10-year-old daughter, Ciara, an artist herself (cartoonist), was intrigued with her dad’s inventiveness. Mike taught her wood-working basics. She caught on quickly.

Five years later she and he are a team, producing sculpted hardwood toys, mostly sleek automobiles and trucks that are donated to unfortunate kids or sold to restock materials. Mike says, “We give away 5,000 toys a year just to see smiles on kids’ faces.”

Mike, an adoptee himself, has a warm spot for foster and adopted children.

Grandpa’s Workshop has sponsors who contribute lumber, supplies, and donations to his endeavor, among them Ace Hardware, Bear Woods Supply Co., Smuckers, and Handmade of Franklin. If you are a woodworker, carpenter, or turner who has oak, ash, maple, poplar or other hardwood scraps, send them Mike’s way.

Mike has another business start-up, a restaurant delivery service called Food-Fetcher. He delivers meal orders to folks in Franklin and outlying areas for a modest price. When he’s not delivering dinner or sculpting toys, he’s splitting firewood . . . his third business.

Look up “Industrious” in the dictionary and you’ll probably see Mike’s photo! Or just visit his website: awcwoods.com (Grandpa’s Workshop). He’s also on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Call him (352) 598-5197 for more info.

Order a custom toy car — any make, model, or color. If it’s wood on wheels, he can make it. Your donations you give will spread joy and love exponentially to needy kids throughout Western North Carolina this holiday season and beyond.

The Laurel Magazine

Laurel Magazine is a monthly magazine guiding you where to shop, play, dine, and stay in Highlands NC and Cashiers NC.

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