The Buffalo and the American Reaper Company-Happy Bungalow

The Bison: Nomadic Wanderer

The Bison.  Noble Ungulate wanderer traveling across continents.

Originally from Europe, the Old Country, the bison arrived in the New Country millennia before it was known as America (1). In the great open land where, one day, meritocracy would throw off the shackles of European aristocracy. For in this new land it did not matter what station in life you were born to, it only mattered what station in life you desired to achieve.

 

The Buffalo and the American Reaper Company-Happy Bungalow

 

Here there was a new continent with fields aplenty. Vast tracts of untrodden lands to be tamed – a continent to be cultivated and prepared for a great outpouring of human ingenuity that would change the world.

Here in the new world, so much was new that, many immigrants changed their names (2). Some dropped a syllable, other re-arranged some letters. A few changed their names entirely. The Stag became the Buck. The Elk became the Moose. The Bison became the Buffalo.

THE BUFFALO

The Old World, small ancient land that it is, had been tamed and tidied ages ago. Compact little towns hugged cozy farm lands. Tidy rivers ran along beautiful, but small, open spaces. Every inch of earth was ordered and claimed; there was no room for expansion.

This was not so in the New World.

The Buffalo arrived with a strong back prepared to clear the vast tracts of the American West. But there would be no need for the agrarian scythe – not with the Buffalo!
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Wooden Safari Toy Camel handmade from Sassafras by Happy Bungalow

The Camel, Nomadic Dessert Wonderer

The Camel, Nomadic Dessert Wonderer

I’ve always been a bit unclear on those words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings.  Are they homonyms?  Something like that, I forget.  But what I’m 100% certain about is the camel.  You know, the dessert wonderer.

The animal who dreams of sweet deliciousness.  Cake, pie, cookies, and perhaps even pudding.  We’re guessing camels are wondering about desserts while wandering across the desert.  It’s so dry and endless – I’d think about cookies too.
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The T-Rex and The Chicken relationship explained

The T-Rex and the Chicken

A Tale of Distant Relations

-and-

A Consideration of Abbreviations

 

The T-Rex and The Chicken relationship explained

 

Once there lived the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex. King of all the dinosaurs. The beast who made up for the smallness of his arms with the doubled ferocity of his ripping bite.

Or so we assume. Scientists are hard at work figuring out all the details; there’s a lot still to learn.

A century ago when there was even more to learn? That’s when the Tyrannosaurus Rex was named by those with a flair for the dramatic, the Tyrant Lizard.  His cohorts? The triceratops, stegosaurus, brontosaurus, and all the other sauruses? They were called the Thunder Lizards.
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green

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.

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.