Orangefield carpenter nails retirement ‘hobby’
Cutline: Orangefield’s Mann LeBlanc runs his Bobcat Woodworks out of a shop behind his home. The retired union carpenter builds outdoor furniture.
By Dave Rogers
For The Record
If it’s a pretty day out this spring, you might catch Mann LeBlanc and his Bobcat Woodworks creations on a corner near you.
“Spring and fall are my busy season, when people are out working in their yards and gardens,” he said one day last week as he surveyed the wooden outdoor furniture he had for sale at the corner of Texas 87 and FM 105.
The retired Orangefield carpenter will be busy regardless, whether it’s building new creations in the shop at the back of his two-acre lot or tending his large garden.
“If you’re going to keep your place up, you’re going to stay busy,” LeBlanc, 86, said on a cloudy morning a couple of days later.
A resident of Orangefield since 1939, LeBlanc worked for four decades as a carpenter out of a Port Arthur local, going wherever the work took him.
“I worked mostly in Port Arthur and Orange,” he said. “Some in Beaumont.”
He’s been coming back to the house he built himself for the past 45 years. He and his wife Catherine like it just fine.
He calls woodworking his hobby and says he first got into building outdoor furniture like picnic tables, swings and gliders 10 years ago to help another.
“I started out helping out a man named James Powell,” LeBlanc said. “He passed away about four years ago and I started doing it myself then.
“It’s just my hobby. I like what I do.”
LeBlanc says he builds his furniture out of decking board that he cuts to meet his specifications.
“I buy my lumber and dry it before I use it. I hide the knots best I can. I use the best screws and galvanized bolts if I can get them,” he said.
Don’t look for his goods on the internet.
“I don’t put it [advertise] in the paper or nothing like that,” LeBlanc said. “If somebody wants something I’ll sell it to them.
“If they want something special, I can build it for them pretty quick.”
“A lot of people tell me I’m pretty reasonable,” he said of his prices.
He said his five-foot swings and gliders go for about $260.
For more information about his woodwork, call LeBlanc at 409-670-6023 or 409-735-4463.
Several mornings a week, LeBlanc can be found in the workshop he converted from a two-story garage he built for his RV back in his traveling days.
When it strikes his fancy, he’ll load up his pickup with furniture and set up sales on a roadside. If he doesn’t fancy, well, he’s the boss.
“Sometimes I work out there [in the shop] all day,” he said. “And if I don’t feel like staying out there, I come in.”