Out of the Woodwork

At near capacity

Thursday, 27 August 2009 12:50

46_nearcapacity_01The Spar Shop at the Historical Seaport in Aberdeen, Wash., a unit of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, specializes in turning large trees into masts for modern sailing vessels, columns for high-end homes and flagpoles. Recently, the shop completed its largest project ever - a mast for the 127' schooner Zodiac, built in 1924 for the heirs of Johnson & Johnson.

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Greenville guild honored

Written by Jennifer Hicks Wednesday, 29 July 2009 12:47

Minwax, a supplier of wood finishing products, recently selected the Greenville Woodworkers Guild of Greenville, S.C., as the grand-prize winner in the 2008 Community Craftsman Award Program.

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Ultimate project

Wednesday, 29 July 2009 12:45

ultimate_project_01_46As a woodworker who might have had some electrical experience in the past, have you ever thought about what you would do when you retire? This is a story that truly shows that patience is a virtue - a nine-year project that still isn't finished.

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On the level

Friday, 26 June 2009 19:39

Are you a high-tech kind of guy who owns an iPhone or iPod to help you get through the difficult days? Well, if you need to hang a picture, need a quick, accurate level reading, your entertainment technology can help.

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The smallest details

Written by Jennifer Hicks Friday, 26 June 2009 19:37

For more than 64 years, Oscar M. Cortes has been handcrafting Old West reproductions through Oscar’s Old West Miniatures, his family business. The business is located in Quail Valley, Calif., and makes handcrafted wooden wagons, stagecoaches and horses out of hardwoods, metal and leather.

The company has four employees, including Oscar, his wife Maria, and sons Robert and Jorge. They make about 200 different styles of Old West models including water wagons, chuck wagons, sheepherders, buckboards, horse-drawn teams, mud wagons, oil wagons, covered wagons, Conestogas, freight wagons and more.

Everything is built to scale at various ratios, the average being 20-to-1. The models function like the real thing, with working brakes and opening doors. They also have leather suspensions in the framework. The designs are modeled from pictures, blueprints and Old West history the family has studied through the years.

“Developing the first one to make it look like the original is the most difficult part — and also getting the design to scale,” says Cortes. “There are a handful of businesses like ours who make wagons, and a lot of them use the same wheel for many of their wagons, but we don’t … everything is individually made.”

Clients come from all over the world. The majority of commissions go to commercial clients who get production-style products. The company makes about 100 models a month for a major bank that has been a customer for more than 30 years. Other customers include celebrities, an amusement park, collectors and museums from around the world.

A small percentage of clients are from the private sector, many of whom have life-size wagons and want a copy for display at home or at work. The company makes about five of these custom models per month.

An average-sized project takes about 40 hours to make. But for larger and more detailed ones, it can take up to several months to build. The miniatures sell from $150 to $20,000 each.

“The best part is, due to the uniqueness of each piece of art, there is no business competition. Business has always been pretty good,” says Cortes.

Contact: Oscar’s Old West Miniatures, 28630 Goetz Rd., Quail Valley, CA 92587. Tel: 951-244-1186. www.stagecoachworld.net

This article originally appeared in the July 2009 issue.

   

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