David Stuart is the ultimate recycler.
Standing at a windowsill in the living room of the apartment he shares with his wife, Nancy, he carefully reuses prescription pill bottle caps and former tangerine crates and turns them into tires for a small truck he is making out of reclaimed items.
“I, as a rule, try not to buy anything,” said the slight 72-year-old Auburn resident with a faint southern drawl. “I like to use junk things people would throw out.”
Described by his wife as a jack of all trades, Stuart had a woodworking shop at their home before moving into their Barker Mill Arms apartment eight years ago.
There wasn’t space at their new place for a full-blown shop so he went smaller scale, using only a cordless drill and an X-Acto hobby knife.
Just because they had downsized, didn’t mean Stuart was ready to give up tinkering.
Known at the elderly housing complex as a fix-it man, he gets calls from friends and neighbors to repair small things such as a broken table or chair.
And all he accepts for payment are their discarded soda cans.
Three years ago, Stuart found he needed the aid of a cane to stay independent.
When he found himself with an adjustable metal cane from a local medical supply shop that he did not like three years ago, it was only natural for him to make his own.
“I had one of those metal adjustable deals that didn’t suit my fancy,” Stuart said. “So the only way to get one I wanted was to start making one.”
Into the woods behind Barker Mill Arms he went, searching for an appropriate branch he could whittle into a cane for himself.
After stripping the branch of bark and sanding it smooth, Stuart likes to add character to his canes.
Quickly he turns an ordinary branch into a hissing, scowling snake.
“Mother Nature provides the materials, and I use my imagination,” he said.
With a couple coats of varnish, a splash of paint, a coat of sparkle, discarded plastic fork tines as teeth, and two thumbtacks for eyes, Stuart has a finished cane in about three or four weeks.
He has hopes to make enough to showcase his creations in the fall craft fair at the complex, but people see them and want to buy one and his stock depletes quickly.
But his generous heart doesn’t keep people who can not afford a cane from owning one.
“If someone can’t afford it, and even though I put a lot of work into it, I’ll give it to them.”
Because in the end, it is all about having a hobby and keeping active for Stuart.