Happy-Bugnalow-robot-movie-production-wooden-toys

Toy Robot Movie Production Troubles

It’s been well established that toys come to life under certain circumstances (ie: when placed in magic cupboard, or when the kids leave the room); our toys are no exception. Our animal toys are mostly content to graze around the living room or nap under the shade of the couch. The fairies buzz around the potted plants. The cars usually zoom around, always underfoot. But the robots? Oh boy those robots.

The robots are restless and always working on something. Of late they have taken up movie-making. They built their own equipment and took over a corner of the garage for production. They fooled around with physical props and sets, but couldn’t get the look they were going for. So up went a green-screen for later CG work. Everything was going well . .

toy robot movie production

I made it clear the movie was their project, and I also made it clear they could only have the garage for the weekend. I thought this was plainly stated in the contract. Whoever wrote the thing and whichever bot signed it were two different beings. I brought this to their attention (again) late Saturday evening. Wow! Drama!

Lot’s of yelling squeaks and bloobs and bips (I struggle to understand them when they talk fast). I caught every third or fourth word – lot’s of blame and name calling. But to their credit they worked out their differences, and then worked through the night. They finished up garage photography the next day and my wife and I were able to move the car back in.

The robots finished their movie. It had a limited release in all the art-house theaters (poster below). It’s a big hit as far as small movies go. Robot Lords from Cosmic Space is due for home theater release later this year; certain to be a cult classic.

Pick up your own robots and make your own movie today!

Vintage Looking Sci-Fi Movie Poseter With Robots

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Boy Holds Too Many Balloons, Floats Into Sky

toy posed reenactment of child floating into air holding balloons

5 cents each or 15 / 50 cents. “I’ll take sixty please.”

The balloon barker was a large fellow. He could hold two hundred balloons and not budge an inch, but the Attleson’s boy? The Attleson’s boys was thin as a bean stalk. He handed over his money, took those balloons in his two hands, and ZIP! Off he went into the air.

It was a steady breeze that day so he made it a good two miles before he thought to let go of a balloon or two.  He loosed a few more and finally landed in John Southwick’s sorghum field. If you can believe that.

If you can believe it.  Our grandmother believes it.  She swears by this story, says it happened when she was a kid herself.  Though she lost the newspaper clipping, and wavers on being at the scene or simply hearing about it second hand.

Still, it’s a FUN story, One of our favorites, and we’ve recreated it here in toy story-telling form.

Want to act out your own adventures with toys?  Well, click here to purchase some.

toys pose for fanciful story of boy flying into air

decorative circle

One Simple Trick to Happiness

One Simple Trick to Happiness

You can’t flip through a family magazine, play a parenting podcast, or tune into a talkshow without being bombarded with advice, tips, tricks, and strategies to spend more time with your family and lead a happier life.

Want to spend more time with your children?  Have more quality family time, happiness, and all that?  Forget all the articles and books you’ve seen.  When it comes to spending more time with your family there is only ONE SIMPLE TRICK you need to know.

And honestly, feel free to substitute anything you’d like in place of spending time with your family.  This simple trick is fairly universal.

And unlike all those silly internet advertisements, this simple trick is real.

Looking for a way to spend more time with your children?  It’s easy:  JUST SPEND MORE TIME WITH YOUR CHILDREN.

But before the spade of “buts” come, there is one simple catch that accompanies this one simple trick:  YOU’LL ALMOST CERTAINLY EARN LESS MONEY AND HAVE LESS TIME FOR YOURSELF.

My wife, Liz, and I have been testing this trick since the day our oldest child was born.  We work(ed) very hard to spend a lot of time with our children.  On workdays we have breakfast at home, some days we even make pancakes or waffles from scratch.  We hunt for bugs under rocks or blow bubbles on the porch.  At a time when most people are still working at their desks, we’re sitting down to dinner.

The best of all, with few exceptions either Liz or I, if not both, have spent Fridays with our children.  For us three day weekends are the norm.  For us Fridays aren’t that slackadasical last day of the work week, instead they’re trips to the less-crowded zoos and museums, picnics in the park, hikes in the woods, puzzle-building in the dining room, block building in the living room, and all around fun-having.

Though we didn’t take up this grand experiment so willingly.  Initially we had no choice in the lifestyle.  I was laid off from my job as an architect when our oldest child was just four months old.  I made due with part time and odd jobs for a few years and in doing so Liz and I came to cherish all the time we had together with our growing family.  It’s nice to be up every morning before the sun is.

I had time to make some playthings for the Kids and heard a few too many “you should sell these” comments.  So I did.  Thus Happy Bungalow (famous wooden toy company) was born in our basement.  It has been a tremendous amount of work, but has allowed me to earn enough money while working from home and spending more time with my family.

Now every morning isn’t berry topped oatmeal for breakfast.  And every Friday isn’t a Mary Poppins inspired romp through the chalk drawings.  We have to leave early or work late sometimes.  Fridays see sick or grouchy kids (or parents).  And now that our oldest is in school, mornings have become much tighter (and funny enough, the school doesn’t subscribe to our three-day weekend schedule).

The catch though?  Working less to spend more time with our children means earning less money.  This means we’ve become even handier at fixing lawn-mowers, repairing leaky gutters and toilets, and getting by with clothing that’s more worn than we’d like.  We make pancakes from scratch, because it’s so much cheaper (they taste pretty darn good too).  We eat in more because we can’t afford to eat out as often as we did pre-children.

Then there’s the stress, the worry, the anxiety, and the occasional fight.  Liz has had a full time (though flexible) job throughout our children’s lives, but I’ve largely had unpredictable work.  Initially as a part time architect, then as a newbie professional toy-maker.  So for several years the burden of supporting the family financially fell on Liz.  Again, very stressful for everyone.

BUT WE’VE MADE IT WORK

Sticking with this lifestyle hasn’t been easy on the accounting end, but it’s been wonderful on the personal side.  Our children will only be young for so long.  We’ll play catch-up on the monetary side in a few more years when the Kids aren’t so into spending an afternoon playing made-up adventure games in the park.

I know, this isn’t easy, and it may not be possible for you.  Though I will say that before we were put into the situation, we wouldn’t have thought it possible for us.

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.

The Adventures of The Three Bold Babes

The adventures of Three Bold Babies.  Circling the globe and riding dragons.  We have three adventurous babies here at the Bungalow (or recent babies) who would LOVE to ride a dragon.  Just not the jagged-skinned, fire-breathed, sharp-toothed variety.  We mostly dream up purple dragons with yellow stars and blue stripes.  And polka dots.  There must always be polka dots on your dragon.

vintage illustration  the adventures of three bold babies

And we must not forget that, of course, it is the rare exception that babies are allowed to gallivant around the world.  Most triplets spend their waking hours being photographed.

vintage baby show photo

A Magic Spell for Getting What You Want

Here at the Bungalow we have loads of kids still learning the finer points of negotiation.  For the most part they do well, except when they’re a little hungry or a bit tired.  When they’re hungry and tired?  Then the going can get rough.  They don’t call it the magic word for nothing. So myself (Don) and Liz work tirelessly on this particular spell.

For Getting What You Want

When begging has failed you.
When crying is no good.
Your tantrums were for naught?
Then try saying these words,
with a flick of your wand
and a slight bend of the knees:

“Oh please oh please oh please.
May I have this please?”

Magic Spell Written on top of Vintage Manuscript

DIY Cutout Animal Paper Dolls

It’s a little chilly here at the Bungalow.  Brr . . . We’re treating it like a rainy day and staying warm inside:  lots of puzzles, board games, and paper crafts.  The latest we’ve come up with is a paper animal safari.  If it were a television show it would be called:  PAPER DOLLS:  ANIMAL CUTOUT EDITION.

But it’s not a tv show.  Just another free printable from Happy Bungalow.

3 giraffes, 3 tigers, 3 crocodiles, 2 lions, 2 tigers, 2 elephants, and 2 trees to lounge under. Everything fits on one 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper.  Click to print your animal cutouts.

Animal Cut Out Paper DollsDIY Cutout Animal Paper Dolls

Wood Toy Cars – How They’re Made

 

How To Make a Wood Toy Car

In 38 Not So Easy Steps

(w/ Illustrations)

 

Well, I don’t know just how many steps there are, but I bet I’m close.  We make our toy cars and trucks like any other toy we make: Quizzing The Kids about what they’d like to see in a new toy. Then come some sketches which they usually don’t understand, but are enthusiastic to support. Next comes some hand-drafted drawings (see picture below) and the first round of prototypes which The Kids understand well.

( You can see the first prototypes in the picture below in the center towards the top of the drafting board. )

Wood Cars on the Drawing Board.

So the Kids play with the prototype cars for a while and then we hold a panel review session.  It goes something like this:

Me:  “What would you say you like most about this product?”

The Kids:  “They’re great!  Too cool!”

Me:  “What would you say you like least about this product?”

The Kids:  “They’re great!  Too cool!”

This feedback really helps to inflate my ego and solidify my position as Most Awesome Dad.

I play with The Kids, see what other toys are invited to play with the new group, and keep an eye out for rough play that might reveal weaknesses.  Then I take the toys back to the shop for simulated play and abusive testing.  Weaknesses are corrected and the design/look of the toy is usually tweaked.

Then it’s on to figuring out how I’m going to build these things.  It’s one thing to build a one off toy for the fun of it, it’s another thing to make  quality toys for a price people are willing to pay.  It’s a long process and quickly drifts into the weeds of specifics . . .

Pieces for Toy Cars cut and ready for drilling.. . .  so we’ll shorten it up a bit . . . a stack of wood is planed, cut, sawn, cut, sawn, and cut again.  And here at the Bungalow we use hardwoods – not a 2×4 (aka pine, spruce, or fir).  These cars are made from red oak, ash, walnut, and hickory.  Tough enough to be played with by three year old boys and strong enough to survive a random gnawing by a little brother.

Once all the piece are cut, they’re neatly stacked (see above).  All the cars have a base and a top, are the same width, mostly the same length, and are all cut with complementary angles.  Every car gets two holes drilled for axles (see below) and one small hole on the bottom where the tow truck can hook onto.  I use a custom-made adjustable jig for all the drilling.Wood Toy Car on drill press.This operations piles up the saw dust – I depend on my compressed air hose to keep the work-surface clear.  I drill and drill and drill and drill.  You might think drilling holes for an hour or more is boring – but you’re wrong.  I get to sit on a stool while I do it.  It’s hard to be bored in the shop when you’re feet are happy.

All Happy Bungalow cars are equipped with Strong Ox tires, mfg. Cincinnati, Ohio.  They’re cut with a special hole saw.  The wheels are made from walnut, unlike most wood toy cars you see which are made from a lighter toned wood (maple or beech) and look suspiciously similar.  Our axles are cut from walnut dowels.Strong Ox Tires production, mfg. Cincinnati OhioBy now there’s a stack of car parts that need gluing, sanding, gluing, sanding, sanding, a smidge more sanding, and finally some natural wax finishing.  I use power sanders, but a lot of the sanding work is done by hand.  All corners are smoothed over – no sharp edges are left to pester little hands.  I cringe to say this, because it sounds like some lame marketing line, but I do pride myself on craftsmanship.  Well made, well detailed, and finely finished.

Wood Tires waiting sanding.See the end results hereAnd take home your own car from our shop here.

Happy Halloween

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