Linda Sailer, Forum News Service, Published July 18 2013
Wooden oil pumpers in demand: Retired farmer sells replicas inspired by state’s oil boom
He made six pumpers in 2004, using a pattern from a magazine. Then in February, he started making them again, adding his own details to give them a realistic look.
“It’s a hobby and they’re in demand,” Steffan said. “I’m selling them by word of mouth.”
Steffan, 76, and his wife, Marlene, farmed north of South Heart until 1997 and then moved into Dickinson the following year.
Looking for a hobby, he took up woodworking in his garage. He makes wooden crucifixes, bread boxes, pencil holders, puzzles and a variety of farming equipment such as tractors and trucks.
“I’m out there all the time – from breakfast until 11 at night,” he said. “Then some days, I play cards.”
Over the years, Steffan has invested in a variety of woodworking equipment, including two scroll saws, two band saws and a lathe.
The lumber is stored in a trailer in his garage. He likes to work with the cedar, red oak and white pine because of its beauty, he said.
Steffan browses through woodworking magazines for craft ideas. He doubled the size of the pumpers suggested by the patterns.
Then he decided to try making the pump’s wellhead. He studied a horizontal oil well – nicknamed the Marlene Steffan well – that was drilled near his farm.
He used miniature wooden pulleys and bicycle spokes to fashion the wellhead.
Steffan hasn’t advertised the pumps. They sell themselves. He showed one to a businessman, and left the store having sold three.
People having an interest in the oil industry – be it the workers or the landowners – have the most interest in the pumps, he said.
“I made 30 of them and have eight left,” he said. “I have parts for 23 more.”
The pumpers are finished with a natural finish and numbered, making them a limited-edition series. He sells them for $60.
He is always thinking of his next project. He plans to make an oil pad, having oil tanks and flares. He’s made oil semi-trucks for customers.
To keep the hobby interesting, Steffan goes back to making crosses, tractors and bread boxes.
Many of his items have been given away to his family, which includes a son and daughter and six grandchildren.
“He’s working all the time – he’s got to have it perfect,” Marlene Steffan said.
Some of his crafts are on display at his nephew’s shop – Steffan Saw and Bike. For more information, call Steffan at (701) 483-5776.
Linda Sailer writes for the Dickinson Press.