Math is Important for Making Toys

We’ve been making a lot of stars lately.  Hundreds and hundreds of stars; which is awesome because someone is paying us to make stuff!  How much cooler of a job can you have?  But, as we’re making hundreds at a time, it’s best to be efficient at it.

math workd out on boardSo the stars are laid out on the wood before cutting (no, even though I’ve cut more than a thousand stars, I can’t cut them from memory).  So I laid out a few stars and then measured to see how many stars would fit onto so many feet of board.  It’s something like a word problem:

Don has to make 100 stars.  If 7 stars fit onto 1.8 feet of maple board, how many feet of board will he need to make 100 stars?  (assuming no knots or other defects in the wood that would have to be cut out)

Except there’s no calculator in the shop – only old fashioned long-hand math.

I also figured up how many square inches of wood each star used – this told me my raw materiel cost for each piece.

So yes, math is important.  I don’t use calculus in the shop very often, but geometry and algebra are very important.  Kids!  Pay attention in math class!  Don’t end up being the person that needs a calculator to double check his 7 + 7 math.


As a side-diversion:

Before I made toys, I was an architect (technically I still am, I just haven’t done any for-hire work in a while now).  The number one response when telling a stranger I’m architect:  “You must be good at math.”

Well, I am good at math, I think it’s fun – like solving a puzzle – but surprisingly to most people great math skills aren’t essential to architecture.  Basic geometry and a little algebra is all you really need to be competent.  A high-schooler would be able to handle most of the math work.

So what’s the number one skill essential to being an architect?  Working an unspeakable number of thankless (and unpaid) hours.

As a toy-maker at Happy Bungalow I work more hours, but they are the opposite of thankless.  I have fun every day, almost without pause.  I mean come on!  We’re making toys here.  My job is to make toys!

Stop into our online toy shop to take home some of our work.

kid illustration of family

Happy Bungalow’s Wooden Toy Promo Video

Our first promo video – put together for a grant application.  Filmed on location in the Bungalow.  Featuring our super-fun wooden toys, head-artisan Don, and an artist rending of the entire crew.

Happy Bungalow Makes Wooden Toys, Repairs Plastic Toys

As you might guess, there is no shortage of toys here at the Bungalow.  Plenty of wooden toys, sure, but we have some plastic toys as well.  We encourage everyone to buy handmade wooden toys, perhaps in our online toy shop, but there are some thing you just can’t make out of wood.  Like a tiny ladybug just a bit bigger than a penny (see below).  Perhaps you’ll recognize her as the companion of a well known [and skimpily dressed] fairy.  Wears a lot of green, has a fondness for lost things, and tinkering.

Anyway.  The ladybug is a mighty favorite of one of the Kids here at the Bungalow.  A faithful companion for months (literally never leaving his side).  Some of the paint eventually wore off, and then off came an antennae.  Liz and I were well practiced in finding the ladybug, so despite odds to the contrary, we found the broken antennae (about the thickness of spaghetti and 1/8″ long).

A superglue fix lasted about an hour.  “The ladybug broke again!”

Okay.  It’s time to get serious.

We can rebuild her.  We have the technology.  We can make her stronger.

tiny plastic ladybug undergoing antennae repair

I take our injured bug to the shop (note penny and vintage Lance’s X-Acto knife for scale).  She needs a metal rod implanted to strengthen the break.  By some miracle a company makes a drill bit just a bit thicker than a human hair (only sort of exaggerating).  I carefully drill into the ladybug, then manage to drill into the broken antennae (and not my finger).  Snip a piece of wire, glue it together, glue my fingers together.

Wait, what?

Ugh.  Yeah, I super-glued my fingers together.  Note than slicing the fingers apart with an X-Acto knife is more challenging than you might think.  But soaking your fingers nail-polish remover will [eventually] loosen up the glue (read:  1/2 hour of your life spent considering why you didn’t wear latex gloves).

But most importantly the ladybug was made whole and the Kids were happy and thankful.

Of course three weeks later it broke again.  To our workmanship’s credit though, the new break was above the bionic implant.  The broken piece was lost to eternity, but the Kids came to terms with the loss.

We’re happy to report that Ladybug is worn around the edges, but still well-loved.



Happy Bungalow is a Family Business

Happy Bungalow is a family business – Don, Liz, and the Kids.hand-drawn family portraitHappy Bungalow makes wood toys – but don’t think grandpa whittling on the back porch, rather – roaring dinosaurs, zooming fast cars, flittering fairies, and the most awesome robots you’ll find.  We use only natural wood (no stains) and only make toys we want our kids to play with (and yes, that we have fun playing with as well).  We’re an old-fashioned family business – our woodshop is part of our house and holds a number of tools, but no lasers.  Every piece is cut by hand, sanded silky smooth, and finished with love.  Well, linseed oil and beeswax actually – it turns out love doesn’t adhere to wood very well.

Robot Lords from Cosmic Space

Vintage Looking Sci-Fi Movie Poseter With Robots

“Vintage” movie poster:  Robot Lords from Cosmic Space.  Looks nice, and maybe passably real at a glance.  Though we made this one up ourselves.  The robots in the poster are renderings of our own wooden robot toys available for purchase in our online toy shop.  Pick one up and make some fun of your own.

wood dinosaurs cause havok with wooden toy cars in play scene

Dinosaurs vs Cars

The day was getting on just fine until the dinosaurs showed up and started turning over cars.wood dinosaurs cause havok with wooden toy cars in play sceneWant to have a dinosaurs vs cars matchup in your own home?  Well, just head over to our shop and pick up some wood dinosaurs and toy cars.

Robot Disco

robot toys dance on circuit board dance floor

Love Always Wins

Two handcrafted wood robots holding hands with the caption, LOVE ALWAYS WINS

vintage brontosaurus illustartion

Circus Dinosaurs and the Thunder Lizard that Never Was

vintage brontosaurus illustartion

The bulk of my dinosaur education (outside of Dinosaur Train on PBS) came in the 1980s.  I learned the five primary dinosaurs: Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Terodactyl (which is correctly spelled Pterodactyl with a silent P).  There were other dinosaurs, I guess, but none that stuck with me.

Recently in the 2000s (the time-period formerly known as the future) I’ve come to understand there are hundreds of dinosaurs.  Furthermore, the brontosaurus isn’t real.  You know, the brontosaurus (aka The Thunder Lizard) that plodding giant of yore.

The bronto, it turns out, was a paleontological bone matching mix-up – back in the late 1800s the Western US saw a race to dig up new dino fossils.  It was really tense.  Explosive even.  In scientific haste, fossils from different dinos were falsely paired together.  The mistake stuck for a long time.

Even longer for some like me.  It was tough, in my mid-thirties, hearing that the brontosaurus wasn’t real.  A child told me this none-the-less.  I quickly stopped him before he shattered any of my remaining youthful innocence

Given some time, though, I’ve come to embrace this dinosaur making-up of names and such.  Pretty much stick a couple syllables before “oSaurus” and you have a name.  Let’s give a whirl:


The real fun though is in the Sideshow, carnival barking, stroll down the Midway, also known as names.  Like Thunder Lizard (our fictional bronto friend) or Tyrant Lizard (t-rex), even Roof Lizard (stegosaurus).  Sure, roof lizard is a bit lame, but you get the idea.  Just stick a word or two before Lizard and you’re in business:

Car-Crushing Lizard
Major-Ouch-Inflicting Lizard

Can’t you just hear the showman put his lips to the megaphone, calling out to the cotton-candy eating townies:

Here it is folks, the show you’ve heard so much about.  The show your neighbors talk about, the show your relatives write you about.  It’s all here and it’s free folks.  Free for the wee ones, free for the tall ones, and free for all those in between.

Step up close now and get a view of the real excitement.  We have the Thunder Lizard, car-crushing, earth rumbling, fear inducing beast from the dawn of time.  

Children, Parents, and Grand Folks.  Friends and strangers.  Come close, gather round here.  Take a look at the Tyrant Lizard!  King of the ancient lords.  With jaws of steel, bones of iron, and they say folks . . . they say,” as his voice drops to a whisper, “he can even breathe fire.

Inside this very tent.  Right here today only see these terrible beasts of old.  Thunder Lizard!  Emperor Lizard!  The Three Horned Brute!  Scaled Monsters!  Starting in just minutes.  Buy your tickets now folks.”

Okay.  I have a hankering for funnel cake and popcorn.  Click here to take home a wooden dinosaur toy as a souvenir from our shop today.

Wood Cars and Trucks Design

wooden cars and trucksNew wood cars are being designed and constructed here at the Bungalow. These prototypes are taped together, unfinished, and in need of sanding – but this hasn’t dulled a certain household member’s excitement. Finally we have made a fire truck!  Fire truck!  Fire truck!   Along with a semi-truck, taxi, dragster, fuel truck, mini-car, and bus we’ve amassed enough vehicles to put together a Car of the Month Club.

We’re envisioning this Car of the Month Club to be something like a jelly of the month club, except much lower in sugar and much higher in fiber*. As rated by the Kids, the favorite new vehicle is (hands down) the fire truck. The semi-truck is a close second though. We’ll be working on a few interchangeable trailers soon.

While these trucks aren’t yet available for purchase we have some other great wooden cars in our shop.

* Our toys are not really edible