Thursday, April 30, 2015

Preparing scrap door parts for making them into great wooden toys!

A couple of major points to be made at this stage.  One, the woman in the picture is Elizabeth Stroop.  At the time, known mostly as Betsy Olney-Stroop.  My first wife, and co-founder of The Toycrafter.  It later turned out that being a toy maker was not her first choice of a life plan, and we each went on in different directions.  Elizabeth went to Colgate Rochester Divinity School in Rochester, NY not long after this, and that also led to the move of The Toycrafter to 1237 E. Main St., Rochester, NY about a year later?  We spent a year with her commuting to Rochester each week, and coming home to Ithaca weekends, but that was far to hard on both of us! I remembered that we figured out that either I needed to move to Rochester, or we needed to separate our lives.  In the end, we did both - I moved to Rochester, along with our tools, lots of wood, etc.  Elizabeth went on to become a hospital chaplain and a trainer of other chaplains, and found another love, and another family.  Things went well for both of us, and I went on making toys and other things for the next 40 years!  I also found another love, and another family, but this blog is mostly about The Toycrafter!

In the above picture, Elizabeth is jointing the edge of one of the pieces of scrap door parts that we made into our toy cars, etc.  Our shop was on the second floor of a very sturdy building.  The wood shown in the previous post, was stored downstairs. The big grey object next to her is the counter weight on the door in the floor.   Each piece of wood had a joint on all 4 sides, and we used the jointer to remove the shaped edges.  She is wearing safety glasses, but in those early days, we were not as careful with ear plugs, and dust masks as the pictures will show.  Just for the record, in all the years that The Toycrafter made wooden toys, the only major injury happened to me, not long after this series of pictures of us making Rolls Royces!  More about that later.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Very early picture of me sporting the engineer's hat that I wore a lot in those days!

As I mentioned yesterday, I do not intend to do this blog about The Toycrafter in any particular order, but this picture is a really early one!  I was obviously a lot younger in this picture - The file I have these pictures in is labeled 4-75 (Age 29)  This was taken at the third place that The Toycrafter was located.  Stone Quarry Road, Ithaca, NY.  To my knowledge I don't think any pictures exist of the first two locations, but at some point I  will elaborate on that?  This is me - standing in front of a pile of wood that we got from a guy who sold us scrap from The Overhead Door Company in Cortland, NY.  If you look carefully at the wood behind me, pretty much every piece is a completed part of an industrial overhead door, that had some flaw in it, and was thrown away - to be later resurrected as a wooden toy! Again, I will expand on  that later, but this is the first picture in a series that was taken of our process for making one of the toy cars we made early on.  While spinning tops became our main product over the later years, at this point in time, we made mostly toy cars, trains, trucks, etc.  Over the years I always say that we made pretty much any wooden toy you can think of!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Opening Remarks

After lots of thought about writing a book about The Toycrafter, I have pretty much decided that such an undertaking would be far too big a challenge.  Just the thought of trying to get all the stories, thoughts, triumphs, stumbles, etc. into an organized book format, has seemed way too daunting!  I'm almost 70 - coming up soon - and have way to many projects that I want to tackle.  Any one of about 6 or 8 projects come to mind, and any one of them could use up a year or two or three of my time, cutting short my time for bike riding, designing new things, playing with my three grandchildren, etc!  Thus, my decision to create a blog about The Toycrafter.  My plan is to sort of randomly tell stories about my years as The Toycrafter, and also including info about the years after I sold The Toycrafter.  I'm hoping to include some stories and observations from some of my former employees/friends who shared in various parts of the about 35 years of toycrafting.  We went from just me alone in a friend's basement with a small hobby jigsaw - which I still have -, to about 30 of us making close to a million toys a year, taking up the entire 4th floor of the Fedder Industrial Park.  Probably about 20,000 square feet including some storage on other floors in the building!

I'm going to take pictures, or use old pictures, or scan old sales sheets, etc., and then share my recollections about The Toycrafter.  I  will not even try to adhere to any time sequence.  For example, yesterday, an old friend gave me some un-trimmed blanks of some packaging inserts that went with one of our less memorable failures - a product called "Spin-n-Win".  Due to my definite inclination to not throw out things, I actually have some of the tops from the one and only batch we made, and a whole chapter comes to mind!  Yesterday I also found on E-bay, one of my old Limberjacks for sale.  A definite several blog entries about Limberjacks come to mind.  (I may actually buy that limberjack on E-bay, because I'm not sure I have one of that style - especially because this one has a "carved" head, and I only remember doing a shaped head on a very few of that design!) Picture below, but I will add more about limberjacks later. (later note - I did not "win" the auction for this limberjack.)
Anyway, I'm looking forward to blogging about The Toycrafter, and I especially invite any former employees, customers, friends, etc. to offer comments about their recollections of The Toycrafter, and the many toys we made over the years - some very successful, and many total duds - I remember one in particular that we only got one order for, and that one got cancelled before we shipped!  I know I will enjoy this, and I hope you will too!