Small Business Opportunity – Brisbane

Have been contacted by a small boutique business in Brisbane looking for a local producer:

I’m looking for someone to manufacture some really simple wood items for nursery/kids bedrooms. Like a toy box, hat rack, some little shelves and hooks – these will need to painted white, so wood grain not so important. I really want them made here if possible but I can not find anyone. This is a boutique type business, so I don’t expect massive volume, however we are launching our Website soon and I’d expect a few of the small items to sell well as they are personalised (we will do this after).

Do you know any Wood Manufacturers in Brisbane by chance (where I’m at)

So if this sounds like something that could be of real interest, contact me by comment or email, and I’ll pass the details on.

Great American Wooden Toys

Been reading the Great Book of Wooden Toys, by a well known toymaker, Norm MarshallHas over 50 projects by the well-known American Toymaker Norm Marshall.

All very inspiring, if only there was time to produce fruits from that inspiration.

A wooden toy always beats a modern mass-produced one hands down.

The Rejuvenating Properties of The Shed

Did I ever need yesterday (and a whole heap more required, but I’ll take what I can get!)

Took a day off work yesterday because I really needed a bit of time out to recharge the batteries.  Not to sleep (although with a 20 month-old, sleep is a thing of the past!), but just to ground myself – my blood/sawdust ratio was obviously getting periously low!

And I had (and have) so many things to play around with.  I could take a week and not break the back of everything that could be done, but even a day out there sure helps.

There will be a few item-specific posts about the individual activities, but overall the day went such:

Unloaded the new tools down to the workshop. New tools? GMC are being very supportive of my activites which is very cool, and so there are some new tools to review, and use both in my workshop, and at courses I run etc, such as the upcoming toy course.  (Still looking for bookings for it (through Holmesglen), but there are going to be lots of ‘toys’ to play with, while making toys to play with!!)

So I had a Triton 3 in 1 to get down there, and boy, is that thing a monster.  Not physically large (still a reasonable size), but it feels like it has been carved from a solid lump of steel.  61kgs to be exact.

I also had to (sadly) pack up the Excalibur EX21 Scroll Saw that I have been reviewing for the next edition of the Australian Wood Review magazine.

Once there was a little space, I also had a small GMC benchtop drill press to assemble, the GMC 18V AllNailer to unplack and charge, a CMT Dado set (on loan from Carbatec), and I think that was about it.

Not sure about the AllNailer as yet – the first few nails I’ve driven, some have easily gone full-depth, but others don’t seem to have been able to penetrate to much more than 20-30mm of remaining nail.

I tried cutting a wheel with the 1/3HP GMC drill press (I’m hoping the Triton one will become available soon), and although I managed a 50mm one (in pine), it sure struggled.  The stalling was one thing – that’s just a fact of life that I was pushing it a bit hard, but each time that I did (and I did stall it often), I had to wait 30 seconds for the coil’s thermal cutoff to reset.  I’m guessing what was happening was – each time the motor stalled, the coils in the motor would get hot (immediately), and that there is a thermal switch in there that was tripping.  However, it is a VERY sensitive switch, so even a brief stall was too much for it, and the saw wouldn’t turn on again until the coils cooled.  Interestingly, the first side of the wheel went easily, and it was the second side that was problematic.

Once play time had ended, I went to work on a few prototype parts for a child’s table and chair, including trying out the Mortise Pal for making loose tenon joints using the router (rather than something like the Festool Domino (which looks great, but is miles out of my budget)).

So that’s a bit of an overview of the day.  I’ll go into more detail of the individual events later.

At least I feel a little refreshed.  More needed!!

Some Toy Blocks

Been making a bit of sawdust cutting up some pine to be some toy blocks for my daughter.  Nothing particularly flash or anything, and not worth taking a photo, but still a fun, quick evolution.

Once I’ve worked out a few block designs (and that doesn’t have to be anything more than a square, a rectangle, a triangle, an arch, (obviously their 3 dimensional equivalents) and a couple of other basic shapes, rinse and repeat.

Next, they are going to be dyed using some of the Ubeaut wood dyes, and if I am happy with the results, I might start making a few more sets for some of Jessica’s young friends.  Speaking of which, I have to make some Thomas track for a couple as well – hmm – how many hours are there in the day?

I wanted to turn some round sections as well, and given I have finally run power around the machinery section of the shed, thought it would be easy – turn the lathe on and go.  Nothing.  Dead. Weird.

So I started looking for the fuse – none.  Tried swapping out the switch.  No effect.  Was just packing it up, and saw a suspicious split in the cable near the plug.  Looked just like a cut that a certain skew chisel would make.  One had fallen down while I was reorganising the shed, and had been caught by Deep Throat.  Guess it had also caught the power cable on the way down, and severed the neutral wire.

So to make a short story shorter (as well as the cable), I’ve cut off the lead at that point and wired a new plug on.  Safer than repairing the actual split.  Lost about a foot of length in the cable, but small loss.

Wooden Toys

Toy making is one of the most rewarding things I can do with woodworking.  It isn’t for everyone, and perhaps part of it is that is where the seeds were sewn for me to start this whole passion.

Perhaps in time, as skill levels improve that I will find something else that is even better, but at the moment, from the time I pick up the first bit of timber (or even the pen to come up with an idea), I can imagine the end result, and the pleasure it gives in its use.

I read recently about a 61 year old gentleman with a 60 year old wooden toy.  Nothing overly complex, or sophisticated, but of all the toys he received as a child, this one has stuck with him.  Not plastic, not die cast, but wooden.  I’m sure it isn’t a case of that is all they were ‘back then’ – I imagine of all the toys I’ve had over the years, the only ones that last the distance are the wooden ones as well.  It adds another dimension onto what you are making to know that if designed and made well, that there are generations of children who will enjoy your creation.

That might also inspire us to go that extra distance when building something to put a little more effort into it, use better timbers, make it just that much more sturdy etc.

I’ve been wandering around a few of the toy sales recently, Christmas shopping (sounds way too organised doesn’t it!), and the sensory assault is unbelievable, as is the amount of junk that is sold, at unbelievable prices.  So little of it are wooden toys too – yet there is something inherently tactile about a wooden toy that a bit of plastic crap (even one that walks and talks) can’t match.  So if they can’t be found in the shops, it is up to us as woodworkers to instill in the current generation of children a passion for the more traditional play things.

A couple of years ago, I gave a couple of young friends of mine a wooden marionette each.  One was a dinosaur, the other a duck, based on the designs of ones my uncle made my brother and I years ago (which I still have).  Of all the toys that I have seen come and go in their respective bedrooms, these are still hanging in pride of place.  They may not get played with much, but already they are treasured, and so the seeds are being sewn about the virtues of quality, longevity, hand made rather than mass-produced, traditional materials etc etc.  It is not going to change the world, but preserving a tiny corner of simpler times is worthwhile.

As I have written before, this is a sink and stove set I made for a nephew and niece.

It may not have all the bells and whistles of the current plastic fantastic toys being sold

But does it really make it less of a toy?  For a young child, does it matter if a car is a lump of wood with 4 wheels, or if it looks (and drives) like a Ferrari?  Often, it seems, they tire of the one with the bells and whistles faster than the simpler toy – perhaps because one supplies them with the details, and that wears thin, whereas the other evokes their imagination (for life).

I still remember the wooden toys that I’ve had, particularly the ones that were made for me.  The billy cart when I was 4, the marble roller, the dinosaur puppet etc.  I remember the ones that I made as a child too – planes that flew, cars etc.  I struggle to recall many of the commercial ones, other than perhaps the one company that made plastic toys that really evoked the spirit of a wooden toy – those of Fisher Price.

But back to wood – it is the duty of Parents, Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, friends etc who are woodworkers to make toys for the young people in your lives.  You don’t suddenly have to become Santa’s Workshop, but you’ll be surprised just how much impact making a single toy can have on the recipient.  You may never know, it may be at 60 when that child looks for something to do in retirement that the seed that was sewn finally germinates.  Just a thought for the day.

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