Terrance Rawlings, 72, carpenter, craftsman known for woodworking items

July 28, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Terrance Rawlings, a retired carpenter and craftsman who made ornate wood products that ranged from chess pieces to coffee tables to statues, died Friday of heart failure while living with relatives in Dover, Del.

For more than 30 years, Mr. Rawlings, 72, crafted wood products in the basement of his East Baltimore rowhouse. Friends and relatives recall hearing the grind of his drill and swirl of his lathe nightly and usually saw him covered with sawdust.

"He could have easily been the model for a commercial on how man should look after a hard day's work," said his son Bryant Rawlings of Dover. "It was more than a hobby or something to make money from. It was a love."

Over the years, Mr. Rawlings made and sold statuettes (some as tall as 3 feet), police nightsticks, furniture, chess and checker boards, action figures and dolls.

He sold his items to friends and occasionally at flea markets. His works were original, friends said, never copied from figures he saw in books or on television.

"He really didn't care much about making money from his stuff, just making it to satisfy himself," his son said.

A native of New York, Mr. Rawlings attended Delaware State College and served in the Army from 1944 to 1945 during World War II.

He settled in Baltimore after his discharge, and worked as a carpenter for a local construction company and a meat cutter for the old Albert Goetze Meat Co. in Northeast Baltimore.

When Mr. Rawlings began his first wood projects, recalled longtime friend Robert Gaines, he began with chess and checker boards. He mastered those in a few months and moved on to chess pieces.

"We aren't talking about the run-of-the-mill, mundane chess piece," Mr. Gaines said. "We're talking about pieces where you could see the lines in the faces of the queens, the gums and teeth of the knight."

Although Mr. Rawlings made many of the same item, he didn't use a mold to make them all exactly the same. Instead, he preferred replicating each piece by sight.

"Each line, each crevice, each wrinkle was alike," said Roman Atkinson, a friend.

Mr. Rawlings, who lived near Johns Hopkins Hospital, was jokingly known to some friends as "Mannix" after the television character for his tendency to interview people like a detective.

"He was good for the neighborhood in some respects because he'd ask anybody who he thought looked suspicious," Mr. Atkinson said. "If someone he knew got their home broken into he wanted to know who did it. It may not have been the wisest thing to rush up to someone and question them, but he didn't seem to mind."

He married Carla Brogden in 1950; she died in 1967.

A memorial service is being planned for next month.

He is survived by another son, Raynard Rawlings of Baltimore; two daughters, Glenna Evans of Cleveland and Sharon Weston of Baltimore; a brother, Charles Rawlings of Trenton, N.J.; and two grandchildren.

Pub Date: 7/28/98

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