Sunday, June 23, 2013

Buying Local, Buying American

   I remember being a child and hearing and singing this jingle on radio and television commercials:
 "Brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh!"
Later, a television infomercial would feature Joe the Grocer, a healthy, hearty man who would appear on Sunday mornings and talk about local gardens and the produce that could be bought there.  I remember him advising us that fresh produce was grown locally and handled by the farmer and the customer, period.
Why am I reminiscing about these two sound bites from the past? Because their messages rang true to me then, and still do today. The message "Support Small Businesses, Local Businesses" today has a different ring to it,  but the truth is still the same. Buying local is the responsible thing to do.
People voice their displeasure at the number of jobs that have been lost in the past two decades. Manufacturing sent overseas for cheaper labor expenditures means lower prices for consumers and higher profits for the owners of those industries, all do to the lower cost of living and level of quality of life for those overseas workers.  But if people here would listen to themselves, they would hear an honest call to shop local.  
Manufacturers of similar goods produced here in the United States, created and developed by workers living here in the  States  ~  where the cost of living and the quality of life is recognizably higher ~  have high labor costs and so must set higher prices.  It is the same for small local businesses. We pride ourselves on our 'first world' lifestyle. We buy, when we can afford to, American-made products. And when times are tough, some of us turn to cheaper imports. But that never helps things here in the USA. We need to spend our money here.
Our economy right now is still sluggish, following the recession that, like a bad storm that didn't earn a name , whirled through the States leaving behind destruction, broken factories and different expectations. But our dreams and beliefs remain the same: we are The United States of America. We have skills, and raw materials, and creative thinkers, and yes, dreamers. But our dreamers are not without plans to achieve those dreams. We set achievable goals. And we strive to meet them.
Our goal, Rick and I,  is to see our dream come true. We've long believed that, post retirement, we would have time to create the toys and gifts that we believe can bring people to the realization of their own dreams and creative strengths. There is another song lyric that I remember: 
I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride to make it easier. Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be. Whitney Houston, The Greatest Love
We know that many people of the world make toys and gifts. But what I want you to know is why Rick makes his toys and gifts the way he makes them.  When our first child was young, she would often bring a new toy to her Daddy, saying "Please fix this, Daddy." And Rick would do his best not to let her down.  Sometimes it just needed a battery, but more often the plastic had cracked, or something had fallen off, or a joint had failed, and it "didn't do what it was supposed to do."
Rick decided then, so many years ago, that children were best served when they were given toys that encouraged them to think, to create, to imagine and pretend. Toys that would allow children to return to them again and again and always have a new experience in their play. And so he decided to make his own, for his own, and for all children.
Rick believes in his products. He believes that our children and grandchildren need toys that have value. Rick believes that toys that run on batteries and only "do what they are supposed to do" (and never do anything different) require little originality and imagination from children. He believes that toys need to encourage the next generations to be original and imaginative. Rick makes toys that are biodegradable in time, but valuable in their durability. He makes toys of renewable resources (wood) and doesn't treat them with false finishes (brightly colored and potentially toxic paints and stains.) Instead, he lovingly sands and rubs them smooth to bring the wood's natural beauty to the eye of the beholder. 
I remember more lyrics from that song:
Everybody searching for a hero, People need someone to look up to ...  I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow If I fail, if I succeed At least I’ll live as I believe  ...
I am so proud to work with Rick in our shop, making my quilts, writing my books, and enjoying Rick's tenacity in fulfilling his dream of providing toys with quality and integrity to children. Rick does make beautiful things of beautiful wood, and that does make people happy. I'll be writing more about the why and the how of Rick's Wooden Toy and Gift shop at this blog, and I hope you'll visit us today and sign up to follow us by email. 
See the 'submit email' button in the right side bar. If you are not local, you can visit his online store at Don't miss out on any special offers advertised here on the blog.

I'm asking you to do this because I believe that you share Rick's values, our values ~Toys that are:
·         MADE IN USA. Everything we sell is made by Rick or Terry, right here in Georgetown, Massachusetts.
·         NON-TOXIC.  A little non-toxic acrylic paint is used on some gift items; otherwise, wood is left natural.
·         RENEWABLE RESOURCES. Wood comes from American Trees, which grow abundantly here in New England.
·         BIODEGRADABLE.  Plastics will still be in landfills hundreds of years from now. Wood will decompose.

      *Though our wooden toys are not indestructible, they have the potential to last for years and become treasured hand-me-downs for the next generation. If one has an unfortunate accident, Rick will always answer the call: "Please fix this, Daddy..."
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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Wooden Furniture for 18" Dolls

As we wrote in a previous post, Rick often works with select quality Eastern White Pine, and sands and rubs the wood to a beautiful natural finish. He doesn't use stain on the woods, instead leaving them "unfinished," which is a misleading word. He prefers to sell the items in a non-toxic state, leaving the choice of natural or color to the customer. In the case of the motorcycle, we know of two that were changed: one was painted to match Grampy's purple motorcycle, and one was treated with several coats of clear spray varnish to enhance the beauty of the wood and the durability of the heirloom.

Rick finishes his doll furniture, also made of select quality Eastern White Pine, in the same way. He designed the picket fence bed many years ago, and made a headboard for a twin size bed to match. The full size headboard was soon purchased, and though he hasn't made another, he would if asked; one customer asked for a bureau, and Rick made one with deep drawers to hold doll clothes. Because these dolls have many outfits, one bureau was not enough. So Rick made an armoire to hold fancy dresses and shoes.

He's made a 'pedestal table' and arm chairs out of high quality plywood with carefully scroll-sawn patterns in the chairs' backs. To complement the table and chairs, he's made a china hutch with linen storage benath and a grandfather clock with working movement: the only battery powered item in his collection!

Terry dresses the table with a 100% cotton, washable table cloth, coordinating napkins and seat pillows. It makes for quite a display when the table set, hutch and grandfather clock are used together. Tea sets of old can be purchased at many gift shops - plastic sets for younger children are available at many mall toy store chains.

Due to the small cabinet door handles, these pieces are not recommended for children under four. But once your children are interested in the 18" dolls and their accompanying stories, this furniture is a very good investment. Children playing with tea sets and dolls often become very creative in their thoughts and vocabularies. Many hours of good old fashioned fun will take place around this table!

It's important to note that these pieces also nicely accommodate a family of teddy bears~ He even made a park bench to allow the dolls or teddies to chat about books outside.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Trophy Golf Cart

Rick enjoys making toys for kids ... toys that don't require batteries, but do encourage imagination. But once in a while, he likes to make toys for grown ups. The item we're going to share with you today is just that: a shelf-sized golf cart and golf club bag.The cart and bag are made of two naturally-contrasting woods: ash and black walnut.

If you're a baseball fan, you know ash as the wood that is used to make baseball bats White ash is light in color, not too heavy in weight, but powerfully strong.  Besides the baseball bat, it is also used to make hockey sticks, and because it is easy to steam-bend, it makes great sled runners, snow shoes, boats and canoe paddles. Black ash is not black but rather a beige color, that retains its beige evenly over time, unlike most woods which will take on a yellow or gray hue with age.

 Instead of a mild contrast between white ash and black ash, Rick chose to strike the more dramatic contrast between white ash and dark walnut. The black walnut is a hardwood often used for its fine grain and natural dark beauty. It  contrasts with the lighter ash beautifully without any stain, which makes it perfect for our uses.

 Rick spent many hours crafting this miniature golf card and bag. The wheels of the cart are made of wood, but their outer tires are a hard rubber, and they were purchased to mimic the look of a real golf cart.  Not intended for the rough and tumble playtime of a child, this trophy of a cart was designed for golfers who love craftsmanship. It has several small parts that would of course be a choking hazard for a small child.

As with all of his beautifully worked naturally blended pieces, you can see Rick's Trophy Golf Cart here in our shop in Georgetown, Massachusetts, or online at our web store: He made two, with the light and dark woods in reverse order. One has sold, and the other is a treasure waiting to be bought.

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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Rocking Motorcycle made of Eastern White Pine, gentle to the touch

A board of Pinus strobus (eastern white pine) ...
A board of Pinus strobus (eastern white pine) having a dovetailed joint cut in it. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Newsletter # 3:

People are always curious about what kinds of wood we use in our products. We use a variety of woods, enjoying the contrasting colors when pieces are made of more than one type.

Many of our pieces are made of Eastern White Pine. But not all Eastern White Pine planks are equal. Our wood must be carefully viewed and pass the test of 'select' wood ... that means that there are few knots, widely spaced, and the planks are straight.

If you have ever gone into a lumber yard and watched people choosing boards for their D.I.Y. (do it yourself) projects, you may see some setting a pile of good lumber to one side, and of 'rejects' to the other. At first glance, you may not recognize the flaws in the 'reject' pile ... but a woodworker would quickly show you how to hold a board and look down its length for a straight line indicating that the board has not warped or twisted since being cut, and then to turn it over scanning the back, edges and front for loose knots that would cause a saw to jump, or be in the way for positioning joints such as the dovetail joint in the photo above.

The Rocking Motorcycle made here in our shop is made of select Eastern White Pine; the body has to be 'built' by joining several lengths and thicknesses of pine planks with glue. The body pieces are then shaped with sanding, resulting in a very smooth, gentle-to-the-skin touch. Each wheel is made of more than twenty separate pieces of pine. The wheels do spin on their axles.

Its rockers are made of Hard Maple. Hard Maple is often cut from Sugar Maple trees (the ones that people tap in late winter/early spring to gather maple syrup.) You can tell the difference between a board of hard maple and a board of soft maple by finding a smooth edge of the wood and firmly pressing your fingernail against it. If you can leave a mark, it's soft maple. If you can't, it's hard. The rockers will get a lot of wear and tear, and so the wood needs to be hard to hold its arc shape.

Even though the motorcycle has three times the quantity of pine in comparison to the quanitity of maple in the rockers, that smaller amount of maple will cost more than the larger amount of pine. But it is worth it for the life of the rocking motorcycle. This piece of 'furniture' will last for decades and will become a family heirloom to be shared from generation to generation. That is said with this caveat: even though it is a toy, it must be cared for like a piece of furniture. Leaving it outside in the rain will age the pine, may warp the wood, and weaken the joints. Lifting its full weight by the handlebars to move it from place to place will also strain the wood along the grain. But given the right care and treatment, this rocking motorcycle will delight many for years to come. It is an investment for your family, and has been made with a loving labor.

Remember, you can see images of the rocking motorcycle at our website. It is also currently being featured on eBay. See the right side margin for links our webstore and Etsy and eBay. Or drop by the shop, if you're local. If you're coming a distance, call us at 978-352-2676 and leave your name and number or email and we'll set up an appointment for you.

And one last thing - if you want to receive an email each time we update this news, just 'follow' us at the links in the margin.  Thanks!

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Friday, June 7, 2013

Wooden Turtle Puzzle

Today’s featured item is our Wooden Turtle Puzzle.  Made of high quality Cherry and Ash, the turtle’s exterior measures 4” x 6” x ½” and weighs less than a pound. The inner pieces that form the shell are small and vary in size; they would be a swallowing hazard for children under four, and so we advertise this puzzle for ages 8 to adult (though some talented youngsters age 6 will solve it before the adults will!) The wood is sanded and polished to a smooth, natural finish, with no paint or stain, leaving it non-toxic. 

Although our primary sale point is our shop in Georgetown, we also work with PayPal to accept online orders at our web store (
More recently, we’ve decided to try Ebay and Etsy, two online sites that encourage sellers and buyers to use the auction option. We’ve begun by posting the turtle at Ebay. We also posted a dump truck at Etsy, but I’ll give you those details in our next newsletter.

Thank you again for allowing us to share our information. Please share it forward with folks who have children or grandchildren. They would enjoy these old fashioned, wooden toys that take imagination, not batteries. 

Keeping it short ~ look to the right to follow this blog ~ we appreciate your support in spreading the word. We'll stay in touch! 

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Disability Awareness Butterfly Plaques, June 1, 2013

Welcome to our new blog. We have a website, and you can always visit there and shop there. But this is a place where we will post our newsletters, featuring a new item from our workshop each time. Now, we've been learning a little bit about blogging and newsletters, and it is not our goal to bury you in marketing; rather, we want to appeal to your love of wooden toys and items that make people happy.

Here's a look at the first newsletter that we sent out a few weeks ago. Re-posting it here will give us something to start this conversation. 

"Hi, Rick here,
We've started something new. We're going to send emails from time to time, so more people can get to know us and the items that we make.

Wooden Toy and Gift started in the mid-1970s; we began with wooden Christmas ornaments, and gravity-powered spinning carousels. And now we have many other gift items to offer our customers.

Today, we would like to share with you our framed scroll-sawn butterfly disability awareness plaques. The butterfly is made of hard maple and worked on a scroll saw, one at a time. The background can be any color you choose, or the color of a specific disability awareness ribbon. The frame is also made of hard maple with plexiglas over the front. It measures 7" x 7" x 1 1/4" deep.

Come visit us at or on Facebook. If you enjoy what you see, please share the information with a friend.

Look to the right and find the widget that will let you follow this blog, so that you will receive an email each time a new newsletter edition is posted. Please invite your friends to follow us as well. And, if you or your friends have questions for us, or ideas for different items, you can leave a comment below, or contact us at our business email:"

They told us, in the webinar on blogging, that readers like blogs that are short and to the point. So we'll say bye for now, 'til next time.

Autism Awareness Ribbon
Autism Awareness Ribbon 
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