August 2016
Homeplace & Community

From Wood to Wonder

Greg Cox carries forward a family tradition of craftsmanship.

Greg Cox enjoys making big trucks, especially Kenworths. He does not paint the trucks, leaving that to his customers. The toys are bought as soon as he finishes each one.

 

Greg Cox has never found a piece of wood he didn’t like! The beauty of intricate wood grains and the sounds of saws, splitting, spinning and smoothing have delighted Cox since early childhood. Holding a piece of wood and giving it new life brings Cox a gratification that defies explanation.

Cox inherited his love of woodworking from his dad, Fletcher Cox, a master craftsman who lives in Coffeeville. As Cox grew up, he worked with his father, who encouraged his son to try things on his own.

Fletcher’s favorite saying was, "You won’t learn it until you do it!"

Cox watched and listened, and, at age 15, he really got serious about his craft. Now, it seems, he can’t stop. For a while, he sold his work at craft shows all around southwest Alabama. However, after he married and started his own family, he had little time for weekly shows. By this time, customers were familiar with his personal signature, so he was able to craft only upon request. His business plan worked, as he has been busy for the last 25 years, and his pieces are still in high demand.

The quiet-spoken Cox has a unique gift: he can look at something and build it. Even though he does sometimes use patterns for the basic framework of a few of his pieces, he mostly works from an inner vision that only he can see. Cox is blessed with an artist’s keen eye that gives him a grasp of what to look for. He also possesses the mechanic’s understanding of how engines really work. This helps him create the intricately detailed parts he fashions in many of his big toys.

"I’ll try anything," he laughed. "It may take me awhile, but I’ll figure it out and make it."

And make it, he does! Even though Cox does build traditional wooden pieces such as rocking chairs, swings and furniture, his greatest love is making wooden toys.

The larger-scaled models sell as fast as he can make them. He likes to make big rigs that are as detailed as possible, even down to the wiring. His favorites are Kenworth trucks.

 

Greg says his greatest joy is spending time with his family. From left are Kaley McManus and Tanya, Greg and Kelsey Cox.

He prefers building working models, because the intricate parts in each one fascinate him. In fact, he has made hundreds of these and sold them at craft shows and flea markets through the years.

He chooses not to refinish the trucks for two reasons. First, he personally likes the look of the raw wood. Second, the costs for refinishing would be too expensive for most buyers.

He has discovered that many of his customers prefer to personalize the toys with their own business logos and colors. Some customers even display Cox’s work in their businesses.

In each piece, it is evident that Cox has put something of himself into the creation. In fact, he jokingly says he has a hard time giving up his pieces as they seem like one of his children. He recently made a 4-foot long log truck that he was reluctant to sell. When his daughter asked about donating it to her school for a fundraiser, however, he willingly let it go, because he realized the money would be used to help children.

Cox has always loved the logging, hauling and heavy equipment businesses. That’s why he enjoys making track hoes, lowboys, road graders and all kinds of log trucks, some even with folding trailers. The next project he plans to build will be a front-end loader.

"People in these businesses buy these toys as decorative pieces for their homes, offices and camp houses," he explained. "They want the stuff that looks real because they work with this equipment every day."

Once, a friend asked Cox to replicate his beloved tractor.

"I went to his house and looked at his tractor," he explained. "I built it for him. I even put the wiring in the motor, the fly wheel, starter … everything. He couldn’t believe it when he saw it!"

Cox owns Greg’s Woodworking, located on London Road in Sandflat. He tore down a friend’s old house and used the repurposed wood to construct his own workshop behind his home. The shop houses numerous pieces of woodworking equipment, as well as Cox’s three cats that he playfully calls his supervisors.

"I collected equipment through the years," he added," and then I would sometimes come up on some good used values. I’d pick them up and add them to my collection."

He has managed to stock the shop so well that now he needs more room.

A master electrician, Cox works in maintenance at Gulf Scotch in Fulton.

Greg finished his daughter’s bedroom suite just in time for her birthday.

 
   

The most unusual thing Cox has made recently has been a trundle bed for his younger daughter Kelsey. He started after Christmas and finished it months later. He used cypress to make the frame and the storage bins beneath the bed.

When he could not locate factory slides for a bed this size, he built his own.

He has also built a tall headboard with matching sidelights and added ornate, decorative details to the bedroom pieces.

Cox has also made specialty pieces for his wife Tanya and his stepdaughter Kaley McManus. Whatever the girls have asked for, he has managed to make, especially playhouses and toy boxes. He has also made computer tables, end tables, picture frames and a very ornate bench that Tanya has placed in their entry.

Tanya said she is amazed at his work.

"Greg has a lot of patience," she said. "This work is very tedious. Small parts break easily, and he has to rebuild them. It amazes me how much detail he puts into his work."

And it’s in the details that an observer can see the heart and passion of Greg Cox. He may spend countless hours fashioning a miniature part to look just like the real thing. He chuckled and admitted the woodworking process was probably as gratifying to him as the finished product.

Cox stated that using his hands to build something beautiful and useful is one of the most satisfying things that he could ever do.

"The work relaxes me," he smiled. "It makes me feel good to do something that somebody else can enjoy."

 

Kelsey Cox, left, seems to have inherited the family’s love of woodworking. She has built many wooden toys such as a log truck and train. She enjoys working in the shop with her father, who has taught her how to use his many different saws.

Cox is especially thrilled that Kelsey seems to have inherited the Cox family’s love of woodworking. She has already made a log truck and a train with several cars that attach to one another. She enjoys working with her dad, and has become very proficient on the saws. Cox hopes she will be inspired to carry on their family tradition of fine woodworking.

Kelsey also plays sports, so this means her dad spends many hours on the sidelines, supporting and encouraging her. Cox still manages to get into his shop, however, but mostly at night. He admitted, when his machines start singing and he is actively creating a wooden art piece, he is transfixed and forgets about time.

Cox takes great pride in his family’s time-honored tradition of woodworking. His pieces are much more than usable objects; they are living pieces of art, made from his heart. With Cox’s gentle touch, wood comes to life to express the joy of his labor and transform the human spirit.

Check out Greg’s Woodworking on Facebook or call him at 334-830-6466.

 

Carolyn Drinkard is a freelance writer from Thomasville. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..