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Making a Character Slot

Deep in the forests of Pennsylvania, big blocks of wood go into the workshop on the hill. Weeks later out comes a parade of shifty looking characters from yesteryear; a western bandit with a six gun on his hip, an Indian chief decked out with a feathered headdress, a gangster from the 1920ís, and a pirate from the Barbary Coast. Who are these characters: What goes on this workshop on the hill?

A closer look reveals that this parade is actually a series of realistic looking handcarved character slot machines that a master craftsman and carver creates each year for avid collectors around the world.

Character slot machines are probably the most sought after slot machine around. It all started in the early 1950ís, when Frank Polk carved 92 life-size statues of cowboys and other western characters to hold slot machines.

There are probably less than a 200 of the character slots in existence and, therefore, they are still rather rare.

The process of making a handcarved character slot takes a great deal of artistry and a little bit of production line efficiency. It all starts with several large blocks of wood. The individual blocks are glued and pressed together to create the necessary thickness. Patterns, similar to those used to make a suit of clothes, are used to cut the wood into roughly shaped legs and arms.

These legs and arms are then further carved by chainsaws and chisels and sanded to create the realistic carved wrinkles in them. The legs are proportioned to the style of the slot machine selected to create added realism. The most difficult and time consuming part is the careful carving required to create the head and face. Each head is handcarved with a full head of hair and glass eyes, if requested.

After all the body parts are cared, they are assembled together. A fully restored slot machine is placed on the legs and last, but not least, our newly created friend is dressed up in authentic buckskin, cowboy hat, headdress, or whatever is necessary to recreate the image he is trying to replicate. Genuine hand-tooled holsters are especially made for the different cowboys.

As difficult and time consuming as the wood carving is, just imagine how difficult and time consuming it is to find a full Indian headdress or stitch up a buckskin outfit. The end result of these weeks of effort is a unique, truly one of a kind, collectorís piece.

To See the Character Slots, go to: Character Slot Machine Web Page.

Copyright: 1996 Ken Durham.





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Ken Durham
3000 Galloway Ridge, C-306
Pittsboro NC 27312
For Orders Only: 202-213-1585
All others, please email: durham@GameRoomAntiques.com