Out of the Woodwork

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.

   

Dogs not included

Written by Jennifer Hicks Monday, 01 June 2009 19:29

Arden Creek Designs in Loon Lake, N.Y., offers various lines of custom-built rustic furniture and décor, and specializes in traditional custom-built dog sleds. The business started in the late 1990s, when owner Steve Gothard felt he needed to teach his home-schooled teenagers about general business principles.

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Bringing Katrina victims to the table

Monday, 01 June 2009 19:25

Sitting around the dinner table every night with your family may seem about as routine as can be, but for Jim Moose and others in rural western Pennsylvania, it represents a significant partnership with the needs of nearly 200 homeowners displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Moose has been a furniture designer, builder and woodworking teacher for 16 years. He also heads up the Western PA Table Project, a mission project of the New Wilmington Presbyterian Church in New Wilmington, Pa.

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Taking the job home

Wednesday, 06 May 2009 15:43

Jack Ivy is a sales manager for Cabot Stain Products in Toronto. For the last 30 years, he has owned an old hunting cabin on 63 acres adjacent to Algonquin Provincial Park in Madawaska, Ontario, about a 3-1/2 hour drive from Toronto. Three years ago, Ivy decided to demolish the cabin and begin a new project. He says it was time “to live and learn.”

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A musical occasion

Wednesday, 06 May 2009 15:42

David Sheppard, founder of Heirloom Musical Creations in Dripping Springs, Texas, designs and builds exquisite music boxes with a focus on sound quality, custom engraving and glass etching. Sheppard says a visit to an Amish gift shop influenced him in 2006 to turn his woodworking hobby into a family business.

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