Ironton family gets to point with pen business

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 14, 2005

If the pen is truly mightier than the sword, the Lynchs may be the strongest family in the county.

Mark, wife Ginny and 14-year-old daughter, Brandie, are the artisans behind Countrytime Crafts, an Ironton-based business that attempts to make wooden pens that are meant to not only be used, but treasured.

Mark Lynch, an employee with AK Steel, always liked working with his hands, but when he inherited his father's first lathe, Lynch decided that he'd try to become a different kind of woodworker.

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On the advice of a co-worker, Lynch decided he'd try his hand at creating wooden pens. As the product caught on at craft shows he attended, the Lynchs hit on the idea of using other's wood to turn sentimental pens.

Now, Lynch and his family will turn most any piece of wood into a pen, from a 150-year-old bedpost to a chunk of a treasured home.

"One lady brought me pieces of her grandfather's log cabin," Lynch said. "She had me turn them to a quill and pen and pencil sets. That's what she gave to her family for Christmas, with a picture of the cabin."

Though Lynch works with pens that are special to others everyday, the ones he was most touched by were those he created for the "Freedom Pens" project, which supplied 30,000 handcrafted pens to soldiers in Iraq.

Lynch and family supplied around 135 pens for the effort, as well as paying to ship them overseas.

"The troops over there, they loved them," Lynch said. "We got all sorts of response from them, different e-mails and stuff."

Most of the Lynch family's business comes from attending craft shows, although their pens are sold throughout the Tri-State at shops such as Empire Books and Music in Huntington, W.Va.

Countrytime Crafts also maintains a presence on the Web at, although Lynch gets most of his orders in-person.

It's not surprising, as that's part of the special attraction of pens, he said, the way it blends sentimentality with an everyday object.

"The only thing I can think of is that's it's something people can touch," Lynch said. "It's something they can hold near and dear to their hearts. It's something they can use everyday."

In that same line of thinking that has led the Lynchs to branch out to other common household objects. Brandie's favorite, Lynch said, is a wooden keychain that features a secret compartment in the center.

"I gave one of those to my nephew when he graduated with a $50 bill rolled up inside," Lynch said with a smile. "I told him 'Good luck getting it out, at least you'll never be poor.'"

One of the more popular items is a small magnifying glass fashioned from the boxes of scrap wood that Lynch had accumulated.

Countrytime Crafts even offers a handmade wooden coffee scoop.

Just to entertain himself, Lynch created a wooden deer grunt - a tool hunters can use to attract the animals.

"This was just something where I thought, 'What the heck, let's try this thing.' I thought the guys I work with might want to play around with it," Lynch said.

The craftsman said he had been told that large hunting companies might be interested in his little project, but Lynch said he wasn't interested in keeping up with the numbers a large corporation would need.

The Lynch family are true artists, less concerned about turning a profit than turning out a quality product.

"It's nice to be able to sell something, but if it turns into more of a job, it's time to quit," Lynch said. "I work five days a week, if I can't come out here and have fun, if it turns into a job, it's time to quit."