Mostly they fail me when I forget to customize them for a particular job, and that’s what happened this time. I’d put a new “window” air conditioner in our kennel at the office. However, the kennel’s huge windows aren’t a sash style, and, thus, won’t accommodate simply sliding a window unit in, closing the glass and pulling out the side aprons. No, it requires cutting a hole in the wall and making the hole and the air conditioner work together.
Nearly a month ago, I received a call from a woman who had apparently read one of the local “who’s doing what around here” in a popular newspaper insert. She told me that she and her husband had saved what they thought were valuable cherry burls from the woods near their summer home about two hours away from my shop, and they were hoping I might “turn them into something” – art? — bowls?
I have shared before about some of the toys that were made by my Grandpas and my Dad. While they all did serious woodworking, I suspect that toymaking brought a special twinkle to their eyes around Christmas.
Mortise & Tenon Magazine has evolved into a semi-annual feast of words and images that inform and inspire. This latest issue follows the proud tradition of its predecessors…If you revel in the diversity of ways to approach woodworking, its history and its practices, I think you’ll like it too.
This month, Bob Rummer, who has written several articles about the joys of generational woodworking within his family, wanted to share a short fairytale, The Toymaker Finds Vorstellun, to inspire your woodworking for the holiday season. You can find his story below the poll.
In turn, Bob’s story inspired us for this month’s poll and we want to know what kind’s of toys you have made for your own children and grandchildren as holiday gifts? If what you typically make isn’t listed, feel free to add it in as an answer to inspire other woodworkers this holiday season.
The Toymaker Finds Vorstellungskraft
Once upon a time, in a small village at the edge of the forest, there lived a Toymaker. His shop was filled with all kinds of wonderful toys—smiling dolls, brightly painted boats, wagons, tops and spinners, toy soldiers, wooden animals, trains, planes, and of course dollhouses. The children in the village would come to his shop to watch him work and they would ask, “Opa,” (that is what der Kinder called him), “can you make me a special toy?”
The Toymaker wanted to make the perfect toy. But he knew that all he used was ordinary wood and paint. He puzzled over what would make a truly special toy. Should the toy jump? Or should it be bright and shiny? Maybe it needed to be soft and cuddly. Or maybe it needed to sing or whistle. One day he was working hard in his shop and thinking on this when little Eleonora came in.
“Opa, can you make me a special toy?” she asked.
The busy toymaker did not have time to be bothered so he reached into his scrap bin and pulled out a piece of wood and quickly handed it to the girl.
“What is it?” Eleonora asked.
“What do you think it is?” the Toymaker replied.
She turned the block of wood over and around and upside down, and thought a bit, then exclaimed, “Why, it is ein Känguru!” Taking her new toy, she happily skipped out of the shop. The Toymaker shook his head in amusement and went back to trying to figure out how to make the perfect toy.
“Maybe I can learn something from the clockmaker,” he thought. The village clockmaker made all kinds of amazing mechanical things. Clocks and music boxes. Wind-up figures that danced and bowed. Cuckoo birds that could whistle a tune. The Toymaker went to the clockshop to see if he could learn how to make mechanical toys.
While he was looking around the shop, Frau Brehm came in with her daughter Matilda. The little girl was entranced by a tiny ballerina spinning around on a beautiful music box. She started to reach for the music box, but her mother quickly grabbed her hand and said, “Careful meine Leibchen. We don’t want to break the ballerina.” The Toymaker shook his head. This would never do; toys are supposed to be played with.
“Maybe I can learn something from the woodcarver,” he thought. The village woodcarver could shape a piece of wood into lots of useful things. He carved spoons and bowls and springerle cookie stamps. He carved panels of knights and dragons to hang on the wall and he carved the signs for all the shops in the village. The woodcarver also carved and painted wooden puppets that you could move around with sticks and strings. The Toymaker came into the carver’s shop just as Herr Ackermann and his son, Heinrich, were shopping. “What do you think of this puppet, mein Junge?”
“Well Papa, it is nice, but the smile never moves, and it never blinks”
Looking at the puppet the Toymaker thought the boy was right, the painted face seemed kind of stuck. This wasn’t the perfect toy either.
The Toymaker was discouraged, and he wandered into the village square. Frau Volk, the Storyteller, was sitting on a bench and enjoying the fall sunshine. Maybe the storyteller could help him.
“Why so downcast on this beautiful day, Herr Toymaker?” she asked. The Toymaker explained how he was seeking the one special thing to make the perfect toy that all the children would love and that he hadn’t found at the clockmaker’s or at the woodcarver’s.
“Tell me, Frau Volk, why do the children sit and listen to your stories for hours? I wish I could make a toy that would keep them happy like that.”
She looked thoughtfully at the Toymaker and saw that he truly wanted to make the children happy. “Ach, perhaps this is what you seek” and she reached into her pocket and pulled out a small leather sack. The sack felt full of something, but when he looked into it, he saw nothing.
“What is it?” the Toymaker asked.
“What do you think it is?” replied Frau Volk.
The Toymaker frowned and thought hard. Suddenly he remembered Eleonora’s känguru and he understood. Bursting into a wide grin he jumped up. “Vielen Dank Frau Volk!” (which means ‘Thank you very much!’) and he ran back to his toyshop as fast as he could.
In his shop, he quickly got to work on a new batch of toys. He made boats and wagons and wooden animals and toy soldiers and balloons and riding horses and games and puzzles. With a big smile, he shook the small bag over all of them, knowing that these would be perfect toys.
He put the small bag in a special box and wrote on it, “Die Kindheit Vorstellungskraft” (Childhood Imagination) and put it up on the shelf with his paints. From then on, he was always careful to sprinkle some Vorstellungskraft on the things he made because a child’s imagination is the magic that can turn a block of wood into a Känguru!
In the October 2020 issue of Wood News, Char Miller-King interviews Victoria Kim, a fellow woodworker from Georgia whose woodworking combines her incredible oil painting skills with her passion for building.
This month’s feature is a hidden gem in my book. She brings a unique set of skills to the table that were developed in her home country, Korea, combining her oil painting skills and intense passion for building. Victoria Kim of Kingsland, Georgia, and owner of The Fine Rustic is the epitome of artistic inspiration for both men and women.
One day following an email inquiry exchange, a new friend travelled some distance to bring me several fresh-cut, large logs of apple, a gift-in-trade. In the course of our conversation, I learned that the tree had been a favorite of his late grandfather and that he hoped I would replicate his grandfather’s ancient and well-used carver’s mallet in different sizes/weights from some of the logs so he could use them in his own carving.