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How To Make Wooden Farm Toys

I’m a sucker for wooden toys. In my mind, there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a child play with a toy you handcrafted.

Kurtis Foote, of Just Build Stuff, published a scroll saw book How To Make Wooden Farm Toys. Farm toy patterns are hard to come by, so I was pretty excited to get this book.

These designs are geared toward beginner and intermediate woodworkers. In fact, they only require a scroll saw and a drill press to build. They’re rugged enough to withstand a lot of play, but elegant enough to double as models. They’ll certainly delight any child or child-at-heart.

The book is easy to read and follow along. Each project is broken down into step-by-step instructions. Kurtis uses extensive 3-D renderings.  I especially like the exploded views. It makes it simple to see exactly how each toy is assembled. The patterns are full size, so there is no need to enlarge and tape together patterns.

I was hoping there would be a few more toy designs included. Technically, there are only three. The first project is a combine with two interchangeable heads (a rolling reel head and a corn head). I really like the interchangeable head as it expands the toy’s possibilities. The second plan is a skid loader. This clever design has a movable scoop, which is a lot of fun. The third project is a standard tractor. The fourth project is a tractor disc, which technically is an accessory for the tractor. However, the tractor disc project is complicated enough (all though, not difficult to build) to warrant its own project section.

The only thing I see lacking is a suggestion for a child-safe finish. The author instead directs the reader to do some research to find an appropriate finish in order to complete the projects in this book. As a toy-maker myself, I know how difficult it is to find advice on child-safe finish and wish it was covered in more detail. (Incidentally , check out this post for a really good finish for toys.)

So, here’s the rundown:

Pros:

  • Easy to build.
  • Elegant designs.
  • Excellent illustrations.
  • Exploded views for easy assembly.
  • Patterns are full size.

Cons:

  • Only 3 complete toy designs.
  • Missing toy finish suggestions.

I think this is a great book to add to your collection.  Especially if you’re looking for unique farm toys. Check it out!

Update: Plans are also available as downloadable PDFs on Just Build Stuff.

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Scroll Sawing Egg Roller Toys

I wanted to end the week with a book review that got me started on this folk toy kick. I recently got Scroll Sawing Egg Roller Toys by Doug Turner. Don’t look for it on your bookstore shelves, because you can only find it online. This is a self published 44 page ebook with detailed instructions, 12 egg roller patterns and 2 bonus craft show quick-sellers.

An egg roller is a wheeled folk toy popular in rural areas. A wooden egg balances between a set of wheels and spins as you push the roller. This mechanical movement is a lot of fun will provide little ones with hours of entertainment.

Traditionally, the egg roller was a pull toy. But the long string is now recognized as a strangulation hazard. So in the interest of safety, Doug left the pull string off the designs. He was also conscious about making sure that the wheels and egg would not be a choking hazard. To avoid toxic chemicals, he chose not to paint or finish his toys. However, he does offer suggestions for safe finishing.

The ebook comes on CD and mailed to your home. All you do is email Doug with your name and address, and he’ll send a PayPal request via email. The CD was in my mailbox within 3 days. So I was very happy with the prompt service.

When I looked through the patterns, I immediately wanted to make the turtle roller. I read through the instructions and printed the pattern. I found the wheels and egg at a local craft store. I ended up using some scrap poplar and began cutting it out. The cutting, sanding and assembly took less than an hour. I wanted to add some color to my roller, so that took a bit more time. But in the end, I had a fun little toy for my son pictured to the right.

When I showed it to him, I was the greatest person in the world, at the same time the most unimportant person in the world. He was completely focused on his cool new toy. He grabbed it, sat down and immediately started to push the roller on the floor. It was quite a thrill to see my son enjoy a toy I built with my own two hands. At first, he wasn’t terribly interested in the egg until I showed him how it worked. Then all he wanted to do is watch the egg spin! I think I have a winner! I’ll be making a bunch of these for my nieces and nephews for Christmas!

Overall Impression:
I was pretty happy with Doug’s book. The egg rollers were simple and easy to build. The charming design will certainly delight young and old alike. I can easily see how this would be a great seller at craft fairs. The patterns were a simple and effective. I found the turtle roller was a bit front heavy. But it certainly didn’t affect the enjoyment or playability of the toy. The other designs look a bit more balanced. Doug provided great service, but I wish he had a shopping cart with instant download on his website. I’m an immediate gratification kinda guy. But the CD was at my home much quicker than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise. The book may not be as polished as something you’d find at a bookstore, but I didn’t expect it to be. The information and the patterns contained within is where the real value was.

OK, here’s the rundown:

The Pros

  • Full size patterns.
  • Descriptive assembly instructions and photos.
  • Instructions for production runs.
  • Jigs designs to make production easier.
  • Lists sources for pre-made parts.
  • 2 bonus craft show sellers.
  • Very good at answering questions promptly.
  • Prompt shipment and service.

The Cons

  • No shopping cart.
  • No instant download.
  • Turtle pattern was a bit front-heavy.
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Making Toys That Teach

My son is getting to the age where he wants to play with more interesting toys. I’m getting to the point where I want to make those toys for him. There is no greater satisfaction than having a child enjoy a toy created by your own two hands.

Last week, I bought Making Toys That Teach, by Les Neufeld. Let me tell you, this book is awesome. It is exactly what I was looking for. Toys that are simple, fun and educational. I liked it so much, I had to make it this week’s Book Of The Week.

These toys are designed for children between 7 months to 12 years old. Each toy offers numerous teaching opportunities, but still allows room for creative play. They teach the basics like manipulation, shape recognition, sorting, and pattern making. But they also teach more advanced concepts like fractions, decimals, geometry and even basic structural engineering! These toys will provide countless hours of play, and they’ll be learning too. Its a win-win situation!

This book has 9 fantastic projects. I know I’ll build each one of these wonderful toys. The coolest toy, in my mind, is the Ultimate Building Block Set. It is the best blocks set I’ve ever seen. I wish I had this when I was a kid!

OK. Here’s the rundown.

Pros:

  • The toys are simple and elegant.
  • The toys offer creative play and learning opportunities.
  • Each toy has a section on how to use it for teaching opportunities.
  • The projects are easy to make.
  • Only basic tools are needed.
  • Easy to read plans and measurements.
  • Clear instructions with plenty of color photographs.
  • Lots of lists; Cut lists, Materials List, Recommended Tools List.
  • Great bibliography for further reading (mostly academic).
  • List of resources and suppliers.

Cons:

  • I wish the book would go into more detail about safe finishing techniques.
  • I also wish the book would include information of toy safety.

If you have kids or grand kids, this book is perfect for you. It is worth it just for the building blocks alone. The toys you create will provide countless hours of fun, and help foster creativity and problem solving. I can’t recommend this book enough. Grab yourself a copy!

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Fantasy & Legend Scroll Saw Patterns

I’m a sucker for the fantasy genre. I love wizards, dragons and evils that must be vanquished by a group of unlikely heroes. Naturally, I’m always on the lookout for fantasy based scroll saw patterns

When I came across Fantasy & Legend Scroll Saw Puzzles, by Judy and Dave Peterson, I knew I had to have it.

Judy and Dave create free standing puzzles. These are thick puzzles that are intended to be handled and stand on a shelf by themselves. They prefer using hardwoods to utilize their unique color and grain patterns. Their book takes you step by step in great detail for creating your first puzzle. Each step includes a close-up photo as they cut the puzzle. They cover everything from basic techniques to specific techniques required for puzzle making. They show you their method of sanding and finishing so you too can achieve the finest looking puzzle possible.

The book is 75 pages long and includes 28 unique patterns. Each pattern includes an accompanying photo of the finished puzzle with notes on the hardwood they used. Each pattern is presented in black, white and gray and includes a grain direction indicator for maximum stability. They have a wide variety of mythical creatures, including
dragons, centaurs, gargoyles, griffins, mermaids, unicorns, pegasus, tree spirits, hippogriffs, phoenix, and landscape patterns. The puzzles are stunning and would look great your shelf.

The Pros

  • The patterns are optimized for photocopying.
  • Each pattern includes a photo of the finished product, noting the hardwood used.
  • Each pattern is categorized according to skill level.
  • They give resources and specific information on the tools they use.

The Cons

  • Most of the puzzles do not lend themselves well to be colored with paint or stains.

Overall Impression:
I really liked this book. I love freestanding puzzles and the fantasy genre makes this book a must have. There isn’t a pattern in this book that won’t cut. I highly recommend this book to anybody who is interested in making unique puzzles or who has a soft spot in their heart for dragons and other mythical creatures.

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