Santa’s Wooden Toy Shop
Fort Collins, Colo.
As we stepped into Santa’s Wooden Toy Shop in LaPorte, Colo., we were greeted by the master toy maker, Ralph Knox. As we gazed around the room, it seemed we might have been transported to the North Pole. The hundreds of magnificent toys surely must have been made by dozens of dedicated elves.
When Ralph got out of the service in 1973, he realized he needed to invest his money before it was just frittered away. He bought a wood shop in Steamboat Springs, planning to build furniture, but when a friend showed him a wooden toy and asked him if he could make them, he found his passion. Ralph took his first 28 toys to a shop in Steamboat.
The proprietor immediately gave him an order for 50 more. Since then he has built over 32,000 trucks, planes, rocking horses, and other works of art. Each year he changes designs to add to his line of hand-crafted toys. His favorite is the Spruce Goose plane.
The cold of northern Colorado made him look for warmer weather, which lead him to LaPorte. In 1977 he bought a building, with the understanding that he would feed the foxes that live across the creek. After doing a major remodel of the building, using mainly recycled materials, Ralph built the wood burning stove out of recycled parts, including a door from the original boiler in the Northern Hotel. There are only two such stoves in existence and he calls it the heart of the store.
The wood comes in boards that Ralph cuts into thin pieces, then sands and laminates together. He uses many different types of wood that provide the beautiful colors of the toys. One little truck is made of 10 different woods, coca bola, canary wood, blood wood, teak, purple heart, birch, black walnut, paduk, pella, and bamboo. The toys are all glued and doweled, then rubbed with non-toxic oil that brings out the colors and gives a soft sheen. It takes three to seven hours to build each toy that will become family heirlooms. The average cost is between $22 to $60. A custom rocking horse costs $2,800.
Ralph works at Taylor Kohrs in Denver, then works on the toys at night and weekends. “There’s 24 hours in a day ” that gives me time for things besides my job,” said Ralph.
Ralph’s smile and sparkling eyes give credence to telling that his biggest joy and reason for making the toys is the kids. When children come to the shop, their eyes light up as they gaze at the marvelous toys.
This big hearted, talented man with love for children donates any toys that haven’t sold by Christmas to the Safe House in Fort Collins.
Santa’s Wooden Toys shop is open year round from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekends and by appointment during the week. It is at 3817 West CR 54 G, LaPorte, Colo., 80535.
For more information or to set up an appointment please contact Ralph at (970) 419-8711 or e-mail him at Ralph_santa_claus@msn.com.
Parking is available across the street in the church lot.
Santa Claus will visit the shop from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on December 15. This is a great time for a family outing and shopping for gifts that will bring happiness to children of all ages.
As we left the shop, Ralph called out, “Remember, Santa loves cookies.”