The Toy Maker Workshop
Part of the joy with old-fashioned toys is that often you can make them yourself. Making wooden toys is not a joke though - it requires decent woodworking skills and of course a proper workshop. What makes a good workshop for a toy maker? We'll see now.
Unlike the typical modern carpenter who uses a lot of large power tools, the toy maker usually needs only fine hand-tools. One thing though is common for all:
A good workbench will help you a lot, even when building small toys. The vises, the work area, the tool furrow make your work easier. And with the bench dogs you can secure parts of any size and shape. It's very common to work small and odd shaped parts when building wooden toys. There are several types of workbenches you can consider:
- Classic or Roubo style workbench. These are cool and great to work with, but they are expensive and occupy a lot of space. If you are just a hobby toymaker you maybe don't have the space and budget for it.
- Modern small portable workbench. I'm talking about things like Black & Decker Workmate. This is a really good and cute bench, but it's small and doesn't have all the convenient vises of the real workbenches. It's a geat option if you have small space however.
- Handmade workbench. Sometimes to save money, sometimes to save space. A lot of woodworkers build their workbench themselves. And while sometimes this is just a robust table, some of them build real woodworker benches. See plenty of ideas at Instructables.
Whatever you do, you need comfortable place to work your toys in the workshop. Don't use the kitchen table for this.
Having a workbench is nice but I guess you won't shape wood with teeth. You'll need some tools. Let's see what are the most basic tools required for making toys and give some suggestions:
First and foremost, you need a hand saw. Even if you have some power saw, a hand saw is always required and handy. I would suggest even getting several handsaws:
- A regular large hand saw. This needs no explanation, it's for rough cutting of all kind of parts.
- A keyhole saw is handy for various holes and curved cuts.
- A back saw. This one is used for fine cutting and is very important in making small parts. So you must have one.
- A coping saw. Yet another very important hand saw in toy making.
If you want to have some power tools, I recommend a bandsaw over a table saw. The band saw is more useful for making curved cuts which are used that often in toys. If you can't afford a bandsaw (money-wise or space-wise), consider buying a jigsaw. They are good for most of the things.
A hobby toy maker however will be fine with just the hand saws.
Smoothing the wood pieces requires also files and sandpaper. You don't need too many - just one rush-file and one fine file, and a few different sizes of sandpaper will be enough. These cost just few bucks are always handy, not just for making toys.
Chisels are absolutely necessary part of your toolbox. Toys often have all kind of fine mortises and tennons that can only be done with a good chisel and rubber / wooden hammer. Ideally you'd need a set of wooden chisels with different width. Doesn't need to be super-fancy. The one from the picture below is affordable and will do great work.
Of course you need at least one hammer in additional to the wooden hammer. I don't have anything special to recommend here - just use any hammer that fits your hand well.
You'll also need some measuring tools. The typical tape measure is less handy for toy making. Better get a good metal ruler and a right angle ruler. If you are making finer small toys you may also want to have one caliper. There are many digital calipers nowadays but I very much prefer good old mechanical ones like this:
You may want to have also a couple of pencils. At least one regular tin pencil and one woodworking pencil. You can buy these from your local bookstore or hardware store.
Most woodworkers also use planes a lot. A toy maker would need this less, but one plane is probably a must have in any workshop. Just imagine the shame you'd have to experience if a fellow crafter comes to your workshop and wants to see your planes. And you have none! :D Jokes aside, you need a small plane like this:
A small set of screwdrivers is something that you probably have anyway. If you don't, you should get one for your workshop. It will be useful for any work in your home too.
Same about the pliers. No home can go without any, especially the home of the toy maker.
Finally, your toys will usually have to be finished and painted. So you need a bunch of brushes to unlock your creativity. Brushes are used all the time so I prefer affordable sets.
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