Man continues woodworking hobby after going blind

Man continues woodworking hobby after going blind

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If you watch Billy Milburn while he's working with wood in the shed behind his house, you learn very quickly that his lack of sight doesn't slow him down very much.

He uses table saws, planers, and most recently, a lathe to turn wooden bowls.

"It takes me a little longer than a person that's sighted, but I love to do it," Milburn said.

His love of his hobby was undeterred even after a doctor told him he'd lose most of his vision to a condition known as macular degeneration. The condition struck him at an unusually young age.

"I was 43 when I was diagnosed," he said.

But Milburn never slowed. He went to a special school for people with low vision to learn new technology to help them live life as full as possible. That's also where he learned the art of turning bowls on a lathe.

"I can't see them, but I can feel the ridges and glue lines with my fingers," Milburn said.

Milburn has several tools in his workshop that help him do his work even without eyesight. He has a table saw that stops on a dime if it comes in contact with a finger.

But he didn't have anything to help prevent the injury he recently got while planing a piece of wood.

"I was using both my thumbs to push it in and as soon as it [the wood] hit the rollers, it shot it back out at me," Milburn said.

The injury severely sprained both of his thumbs and could have severed them, but he was undeterred.

He has a message to others dealing with low-vision or blindness.

"If you think you can do something, just be careful and do it," he said.

He hopes to inspire others facing obstacles and show them that it doesn't take eyesight to move mountains, just a little determination.

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