Interview with "Ric the Combmaker" of Sierra Legacy
by D.A. Fox
"This is not a business, this is a livelihood. This comes from my heart to yours."
-Ric the Combmaker
"Ric the Combmaker"
has been making hand crafted wooden combs for over 20 years now. If you take any time at all to get to know him, you will realize that this is not just something he does to pass the time or to make a living, this is his life. He loves what he does and it clearly shows. If you want to know Ric, you need to get beyond the outer being and look into his heart... it's there his dream begins.
Ric's woodworking dream began with a desire to "never work for anyone ever again."
He worked for years in the aero space industry doing quality control and drafting. He was 33 years old when the time had come for a change. On the day Jimmy Carter was elected President, he pulled the plug on his old life, packed up his belongings and moved back to northern California. It was there he was reunited with old friends from his school years. One of these friends was a woodworker who made treasure boxes from Redwood Burl, and would soon be leaving for the Alaskan oil fields. Before he left, Ric was able to see what he did and how he did it. Newly inspired, with the help of his Mom he bought a band saw, and has been supporting himself by working with wood ever since. For some reason the phrase, "And he lived happily, ever after" seems to perfectly apply!
Ric, when did you start 'Sierra Legacy'?
Where do you find the woods you use?
"I buy from a couple of hardwood dealers in the San Francisco Bay area."
What makes certain woods better than others for combs?
"This is a difficult question to answer. I have been working in wood for 22 years, and I find the woods I use now make the best, most colorful, and useful combs. I feel I have wood for anyone's taste, whether they wish to hear their comb sing through their hair, or they desire seeing the beauty of the wood in their hand."
How do you come up with your comb designs?
"While doing a craft show in Oceanside, California, I traded a treasure box for a wooden comb made out of 4 pieces of wood. That was the inspiration to create a two piece wooden comb."
When did you make your first comb?
"I produced my first comb in March of 1981. I have been waging peace on earth ever since making wooden combs. The reason I say this is users of my combs receive a lot of joy through the simplicity of combing their hair with wood. It stimulates the scalp, and that affects how your deal with stress every day. The more you use it, the better it gets."
Do you do all of your own carving work?
"Yes, I developed my own equipment, had it built, and preceded to make combs. In February of 1987 I wrote an article for Fine Woodworking magazine that explains my process."
How long does it take to make a comb from start to finish?
"It takes my whole life, I don't count my hours."
How long will a Sierra Legacy comb last?
"My comb is 22 years old. If you take care of your comb you can pass it on to your kids."
Is there any special care that needs to be taken? Can they get wet?
"The comb needs to be oiled once a month, and I avoid hot and cold. I keep it in my comfort zone. I do not recommend the combs get wet, but not for the reason you might think. If you comb your hair when it is wet, you will break hair 80% quicker than when it is dry - and then you end up with split ends."
Are your combs sold in stores or only through your website?
"I sell through my website and one craft show, the 'Oregon Country Faire' during the second weekend of July in Veneta, Oregon. For 20 years I did 20 to 25 craft shows a year."
When I asked Ric if he found his combs to be gentle and safe for long hair, with conviction he answered, "Absolutely! And anybody who is using a brush, plastic or boar bristle, is just destroying the health of their hair. Hair doesn't like static electricity, nor being stretched. Wood combs will remove the static, distribute hair oil without stripping the shaft, and they slide through the hair without stretching it. The results, healthy hair, no split ends, and a smile on your face. That is why I say I'm waging peace on earth. If you're happy, that affects the person next to you, and everybody around you. That's how it begins."
I see that you have long hair yourself. Have you had long hair all your life?
"I have "mouse down" hair, fine, blond, and similar to baby hair. I've only been able to grow my hair since I started using wooden combs. It was always fly away and full of static. I don't use any grease or oil on my hair to control these issues.......just my comb."
Hair forks are quite popular now, and your anti gravity forks look great! How well do they hold long hair, and are they used in the same way as hair sticks?
"Every woman is different, as we know. How they use the fork depends a lot on the texture of their hair. Anybody who uses chopsticks or pencils, will understand how to use it. It's pretty simple, and holds well."
Ric, I'm sure you've made countless combs over the years, but do you have a favorite comb? One that's special to you?
"How do you pick your favorite child? They're all beautiful, they're all different. The colors, the weight, the figure, all are unique. They're all my favorite."
That's a beautiful sentiment. I can tell you are a true artist! Before we let you go, is there anything else you'd like to share with us about your wooden combs?
"I would just say that wooden combs are a 9000 year old beauty secret. I can say that because they have carbon dated a wooden comb in the Middle East at 7100 BC. In fact, creating wooden combs is one of the oldest professions, and it was only the advent of plastics in the 1930's that destroyed the wooden comb industry (and a lot of others) in America. To my knowledge I am the only wooden combmaker in America. That's all I do......make beautiful combs. This is not a business, this is a livelihood. This comes from my heart to yours."
And from our hearts to yours, we'd like to thank you for spending this time with the Long Hair Loom!
"I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to tell your visitors about my combs. Thanks and Happy Trails."
Ric is willing to take custom orders by using two separate woods. As long as they are compatible, you can have your pick. If you'd like to make an order from Ric, please visit his website for more pictures and ordering information: Sierra Legacy
Special thanks to Lynne! We appreciate all your help!
Addition: May 28, 2003
Lynne (Ric's sister) wanted me to pass on a message to those who have emailed them.
She says, "For some reason your ladies who use MSN, Yahoo, or AOL have our replies go into their junk folders. So, could you mention to them they need to check their junk email when they are expecting a reply from a vendor. I always answer within two days, and I don't want anyone to feel ignored.
So, please check your Bulk Mail folders/junk mail folders, whatever your box says. If you use Yahoo, I know you can create a filter so any particular mail that goes there that shouldn't, will then go to your inbox. You might want to make sure you do that!
17/33/35+ - Bangs at 15 inches - Type 2CMii (3B underneath layer) Somewhat fine, slightly wavy (with curls on the underneath layer), light brown with gold and red highlights. To see more pictures, click on the gallery link found here:
You can also find me here: The Long Hair Loom
"Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, they will become your character. Develop your character for it becomes your destiny." -John MacArthur
Aubrey Organics S&C
Oils: Jojoba, Sweet Almond, Virgin Oil de Coco Creme, Monoi, Castor, Meadowfoam Seed & essential oils
Shea Butter (from which I make my own leave-in)
MP Popular Mix Brush
Wood and Horn combs