Written by Rick Mauch

If you’re looking for something ordinary, Mike Sweatt is not your guy.
But if you’re looking for something unique, something folks will talk about every time they see it, he’s got just the item for you. That item could be a pen, his biggest seller, a table, or something entirely new and creatively made from his expert woodworking skills.
“I enjoy all of the things that I make. I’m always looking for something different,” said Sweatt, who specializes in creating all sorts of objects out of wood.
Though his specialty is pens, his repertoire of creations have included plenty of items. He’s even created items as large as a wine barrel and whiskey barrel storage cabinet.
“To me, it’s very satisfying to see the results of your ideas and that the item actually came out as intended,” he said. “And, hopefully, someone will want to purchase the item.”
Indeed they have. While, at age 73, he makes his creations more for enjoyment – his own and those who love what he makes – than money, he does do pretty good business, mostly via social media at mikeysturninz on Facebook. He regularly has a booth on the historic Granbury square as the city is known for its regular markets throughout the year.
“I enjoy doing several vendor shows a year as it allows me to meet people and show off some of my works,” Sweatt said. “I always look forward to repeat customers, or those that come by to say how much they have enjoyed the items they have purchased in the past.”
Sweatt grew up on a farm south of Tulia, Texas. He moved to Granbury in 2004, and after retiring, he was looking for something else to keep him busy.
“I really do not know how I started doing this. I just started,” he recalled, adding with a laugh, “Well my wife thought when I retired might get under foot.”
Quite the opposite. He’s definitely staying busy these days. At least 10-12 times a year he gets special requests. Often these items are connected to special memories for the buyer.
“I sold a USS Texas (battleship, pen) to a fellow the other day, and he said that his grandfather had served on that ship. It meant a lot to him,” Sweatt said.
In fact, he created a pen once that has special meaning to himself.
“Recently they tore down the elementary school that I attended, and my mother was a teacher there. It was constructed in 1952,” he said.
He’s also created pens from the Tulia High School auditorium that was built in 1956 and recently remodeled, he said.
“I probably have orders for 80 pens from former students that want to have a part of their past. Now that is fun and rewarding,” he said.
Thus, he makes items with a story, tales and memories that will bring a smile or a special thought to whomever possesses it. He uses a variety of woods in his creations as well, including wine barrels and whiskey barrels to make side tables, bistro tables, stools and wine racks, even cutting boards.
“I have pens made with various historical woods, such as old battleships, sporting venues, old gym flooring, whatever I can find,” he said.
Among the fan favorites are pens he makes out of the old livestock pens at the legendary Fort Worth Stockyards. They are sold in the museum.
“Also I enjoy taking wood that has sentimental value to someone, say the childhood home, grandparents’ place, a tree from there, or old building, and making a pen for them,” he said.
Perhaps he inherited his skills from his grandfather, whom Sweatt said was also a “good woodworker.” Also, his mother was a painter.
As for what he gets most from his work, Sweatt said simply, “Enjoyment, satisfaction, and being challenged.”
And, of course, there is always the enjoyment he gets when he sees the look of satisfaction on someone’s face after he delivers them a one-of-a-kind product highlighting their own special story. It’s portable history for them.
“Satisfaction comes from when I’m creating a pen from a piece of historical wood, knowing that history is preserved in that pen,” he said, adding in his usual humble style, “My hope is that they enjoy the item they purchased. Particularly the pens with a story.”