No Mere Merry-Go-Round: Ohio Carousel Maker Carves From Scratch Wooden carousels, with hand-carved and painted horses, seem like a relic of the past. But Carousel Works in Mansfield, Ohio, is one of a few companies still making them to order.
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No Mere Merry-Go-Round: Ohio Carousel Maker Carves From Scratch

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No Mere Merry-Go-Round: Ohio Carousel Maker Carves From Scratch

No Mere Merry-Go-Round: Ohio Carousel Maker Carves From Scratch

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/358051063/358238898" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK let's talk about old-school manufacturing of an old-time product. You can find antique versions of it on the National Mall in Washington, or inside the Indianapolis Children's Museum and other spots around the country.

(CAROUSEL MUSIC)

INSKEEP: That is the sound of a carousel. It's the kind you maybe rode as a kid or that you ride with a kid who then says, again.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

At least one company still makes old-fashioned carousels with hand-carved animals. It's a company in Mansfield, Ohio appropriately called Carousel Works.

ART RITCHIE: Our biggest trade secret is we've got this big barrel of elbow grease. You've got to come in here and work every day.

INSKEEP: Art Ritchie is one of the owners and when he says they make these carousels from scratch, it is no exaggeration.

RITCHIE: We make our own castings and do our own machine work. We've got a woodworking shop that blocks the figures together and we've got a carving department. Then we've got a group that does all of the sanding and the priming and the preparing and pre-painting. Then we've got a whole group of painters.

INSKEEP: He thinks of the finished product as more than a ride.

RITCHIE: Ours are finished pieces of furniture; they're sculpture.

INSKEEP: Ritchie's team made the carousel we heard just a moment ago. It's a work of art and machinery at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. It's new. It's full of animals that visitors might have just seen in real life elsewhere in the park.

GREENE: Since 1991, the company has made 30 carousels installed around the United States, each made to fit with its surroundings.

RITCHIE: We just talked to a group that saves pit bulls. We're talking about building a carousel that's all dogs. Now, what else can you put on there? We were fooling around with it. Can we do a big dog bone with a rug on the top so one of the dogs could ride, too, or, you know? That's the fun part about it. If you're not laughing and giggling while you're designing these things, you're in the wrong place.

INSKEEP: At the Bronx Zoo, it is a carousel entirely of bugs.

RITCHIE: And the only thing we didn't put on there was a cockroach because he said everybody would walk in and say, I got a bigger one than that my kitchen so...

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: Ritchie says kids love the bugs, especially if their parents don't.

RITCHIE: 10-year-old boys, any animal that grosses their mother out has got to be the one you've got to ride.

INSKEEP: And making kids laugh is Ritchie's professional goal.

RITCHIE: The way my wife explains it, when you think like a 10-year-old anyway, that I can kind of figure out what's going to make them laugh and make them giggle.

INSKEEP: That's Art Ritchie, one of the owners of Carousel Works, one of America's few remaining manufacturers of wooden carousels.

INSKEEP: Riding the giraffe, it's NPR News.

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