After building custom homes and cabinets for 40 years, Sampson’s backyard woodshop has become a second home, a place where he builds rocking horses and other animal-themed creations. To date, Sampson has built and given away about 25 rocking horses and sold another three.
“It’s time consuming,” he said, “but fun too, because you see the finished product.”
What started out as a hobby has grown into a labor of love. About 20 years ago Sampson bought the plans for two sizes of rocking horses to make for his four grandchildren. The horses start out as a series of wooden parts, but as Sampson soon learned, when the parts are intricately formed into something that rocks, people want to see them roll right out of his shop.
When Sampson’s friend Dan Schuette first saw the toys, he instantly thought of his own grandchildren. Before long, Sampson and Schuette were building the horses from the legs up for Schuette’s 10 grandchildren.
“You give one to your grandchild or great-grandchild, you sign it on the bottom, and they will keep it forever as an heirloom,” Schuette said.
Once Sampson’s 46-year-old daughter saw her kids riding the horses, she wanted to join in. Soon Sampson was hard at work building a larger horse for adults. “Kids just love these things,” Sampson said. “Adults do too.”
Each horse takes about 40 to 60 hours to build. Sampson and Schuette carefully sand each piece until the shape is just right. The duo then meticulously places each piece into place, paying close attention to small details such as the direction of the wood’s grain.
For Sampson and Schuette, both in their 70s, carpentry is as much a hobby as it is about making money. They’ve also built step stools, high chairs, vases and bowls that are on display in Sampson’s shop.
Sampson has done woodwork for neighbors, and is always at the beck and call of his wife, Diane. Step in proximity to Sampson’s house, and he’s sure to point out something other than his rocking horses that he has created out of wood.
“I’m very lucky,” said Diane Sampson. “I’m very fond of what he does. I have to keep him busy.”
There are few things the duo has made out of wood that haven’t gotten rave reviews. “I brought one (a wooden urn) up to Oregon after my brother passed,” Schuette said. “They (the mortuary) asked where we got it, and said they wished I lived up there so they could have a standard supply.”
Sampson and Schuette have tried to sell the horses in at least one local store, but were unsuccessful. Large horses for adults go for about $900; the small version for kids is priced at $450.
Sampson accepts requests from customers. For more information, call Sampson at 925-757-9269.