Outside the Box: Father, son team help inventors do their thing
December 12, 2003
Just call it inventing a process that allows inventors to invent.
Father and son team Ben and Gordon Ridge recently moved to Gardnerville to base their operations of Cherokee Accessories.
One of the duo’s more recent achievements has been a video/workbook combination, entitled “Reproduce Almost Anything With Basic Silicone Mold Making,” which earned acclaim in Model Retailer and Military Modelcraft magazines.
Ben Ridge, a self-proclaimed inventor since childhood, said he first started surviving off inventing in 1961.
He and a friend were traveling the world and landed at a seaport in Athens, Greece, with a $1.40 to split between them.
Ridge got himself in the business of making genuine Greek artifacts to sell at local tourist shops.
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“I made them out of terra-cotta, which I gathered up in a cardboard box in the pottery district there,” Ridge said. “I started having the pieces fired in that area and I’d finish them with clear shoe polish and tie a leather thong to them.
“In no time at all, I had people pounding on my shutters asking for more artifacts to take to the shops.”
After moving back to the mainland, Ridge got married and proceeded to work his way through San Francisco State University as a molding plant manager.
He was offered a teaching job for a vocational plastics course in 1977.
“I got hired about a week before the course started,” Ridge said. “I had several hundred students about to come marching through the door and I was wondering what in the world I would do for a lesson plan.”
It just happened to be the same year that the first “Star Wars” movie came out.
“That was our lesson plan,” Ridge said with a laugh. “We did the Darth Vader armor, the whole white Storm Trooper outfits. We built all the blasters and two R2-D2’s (one of which still stands in Ridge’s living room).
“A number of young people who were basically not cutting it in regular high school classes came out to my class. Once I realized they had some creativity and that they wanted to build something, I would let them build whatever sci-fi props they were interested in.”
Several of Ridge’s students went on to work in the movie industry as prop managers and special effects directors.
The students’ work has been seen on movies such as “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” “Dragon Heart” and “Starship Troopers.” One student was in charge of the RoboCop movies and built the ED-209 killer robot.
Ridge got a special look at it when the student was transporting the robot down for filming.
“It’s kind of a heady thing to realize that you helped these kids onto something special like that,” Ridge said.
Ridge said he would be willing to provide educational presentations to the local schools if ever requested and is eager to help aspiring entrepreneurs realize their dreams.
“Whether we are talking about making characters out of movies, or parts for antique guitars or toy soldiers, there just is not a limit to what you can do,” he said.
For more information on Cherokee Accessories, visit Ridge’s Web site at http://www.reproduce100s.com.
– Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.