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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.

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

Robot Comic Art

A sort of promotional item we’ve put together a robot comic art poster.  Featuring your favorite Stobor robotS rocketed-powered robot, the 413-RE (popularly known as Rocket Rob).  Read more about Rocket Rob here.

robot comic robot art

click to enlarge

Rocket Rob robot comic

click to enlarge

This comic is the second pass at things.  Below is the first.  We’re happier with the second with one exception.  Hidden in the below image is a sci-fi reference we’re proud of.  If you spot it, send an email to don @ happybungalow.com

Of course the comic is based on our wildly popular wooden robot toy Rocket Rob.  Check out all of our wooden robots in our shop.two wooden robot toys

 

Farmers Markets, Art Fairs, and Craft Shows: 2013 Review

2013 was a busy year for the Bungalow as we took the show on the road to 33 farmers markets, art fairs, and craft shows. Covering 2 states and half a dozen cities we met lots of cool folks (maybe even you).

It was a great year – thank you for you kind words, fun conversations, and generous support.

H plus eye equals HI

 We had a great time in Rabbit Hash on the Banks of the Ohio.

Rabbit Hash Kentucky

 We set up outside Music Hall.

Music Hall Cincinnati Ohio

And inside Music Hall.

Memorial Hall Cincinnati Ohio

We saw a genuine Delorean (no flux capacitor though)

Delorean:  Time Traveling Car of Hollywood Fame

 We made a few buggy friends

spider and grasshopper at art show

And a good time was had by all (though the hot sun did tire some of the robots)

tired wood robot toy after long day of work

 

Now we’re heading back to the drawing board (literally) to come up with some new toys: airplanes, robots, boats, mermaids, dragons, and on and on.  We have quite the list assembled.

And despite our Delorean sighting,  the future has not provided us flying cars.  So we’re taking it upon ourselves to produce said vehicle.  Or at least a toy version.

Marketing Broadside

wood toy broadsideNew marketing material for stores selling Happy Bungalow toys.

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.

Craft Show Post Show

Happy-Bungalow-art-craft-show-setup-2013-09-08-alt002-570

I’ve embraced the idea of being a toy-maker.  Initially I was hesitant for a two reasons.

One:  I thought I was excluding too much potential customers.  Ha!  It turns out there’s loads of adults out there who still want to have fun.  Also, developing a new product line is time consuming; perfecting the craft even more so.  It’s better to focus on what I know best and build upon it.

Two:  I wasn’t comfortable with being labeled a toy-maker, but I’m cool with it now.  It makes people happy.  What I do makes other people happy!  And I make a few bucks doing it.  It’s hard to beat that.  Though I still make business card holders, the occasional clock, and the coolest cabinet hardware you’ve seen.  And that gray area of toys:  miniature furniture.

So I’ve been growing the toy lines.  Adding more robots, many more animals, and unicorns.  I’ve also added completely new lines of cars/trucks, pirates/sea life, and aliens/monsters.  There’s plans on the horizon to create a line of boats and airplanes.  Just about something for everyone, and all within the toy umbrella.

So with all this new stuff I’ve been tweaking the show setup lately.  It’s no longer a matter of filling space, but trying to keep the space organized so people can find everything.

Happy-Bungalow-art-craft-show-setup-2013-09-08-alt001-570

This is my setup from the past week.  I’ve added another shelf to hold animals and I could use more space with all the animal requests coming in (just when I thought I had them all).  A revamped circus is back on display along with the play trees.  Gone is the very tall tree stand, though I’d love to get it back into the mix somehow, perhaps on a back table.

The robots, cars, and monsters are getting along well with each other.  I have a magnetic board that’s super-handy for switching around displays.  I’m planning on adding another shelf there for the old railroad town buildings and expanded dollhouse furniture display.

Beyond product I also want to add more fun to the booth. For the website, I’m working on a story that links all the different toy worlds together that I want to bring to the physical. You can see a piece of it in the air. To the left of the sign post is a kids floating away holding onto a bunch of balloons.  He couldn’t afford a hot-air balloon ride at the circus, but he could buy helium balloons on the cheap (in the story this sends him to fairy land).  So I’ll be working with the Kids to build more props.  Stay tuned everyone.

Easy Saw Blade Cleaning DIY

This post may start off a bit dull, but by the end, I think it will be looking mighty sharp.  That’s right – it’s a sawblade sharpening post!

Clean and sharp saw blades cut cleaner and are much safer than dull and dirty blades.  Keep your saw blades cutting better by cleaning them regularly.  The cleaning process is easy and cheap.  Skip the fancy “systems”  you see in catalogs – you only need five things to clean your saw blades:  Soap, Water, an old toothbrush, a plastic container big enough to hold your blade, and a towel.

I use a cat-litter box (never-used) for washing in.  The plastic is soft and won’t ding the tips of the saw blade like a metal pan might.  I add car-wash soap or dish soap (whatever’s handy) to an inch of water.  Place the saw blade in the water and let sit for five minutes.  Then brush off the pitch on the blade with a toothbrush.  Rinse with clean water and dry with a towel.  Repeat with your other dirty blades.  It’s as simple as that.

Happy-Bungalow-how-to-clean-saw-blade-570

The Three Little Pigs and The Wolf

Continuing on the story-book theme.  We’ve revised the Three Little Pigs story.  I was able to use some of my architecture knowledge (you know, those two college degrees, professional licensures, and a decade of experience that is little used day to day in the shop.  eek – but they still make me pay back the loans.)

frontis-s

Once upon a time there was a Sow with three little Pigs.  Anxious to make their way in the world, they struck out to seek their fortune.  For leagues they walked together until their path split into three.  Unable to agree on which branch to take, the three pigs shook hands and parted ways.

The first pig met a man with a bundle of straw.  “A ha!,” said the pig.  The pig was familiar natural construction techniques, but certainly no expert [ominous foreshadowing].

The pig said to the man, “Please sir, may I have some of that straw to build a house.”  After some haggling, bartering, and animated debate the two settled on a fair price and with great piles of straw, the pig set about to build his house.

As house construction goes, the little pig’s hut went up quickly and he set about tidying the interior and planning his next act of independence.

Presently came along a Wolf, and knocked at the door, and said, “Little Pig, little Pig, let me come in.”

To which the Pig answered, “What seems to be the issue?”

“Your house won’t serve you well in a storm.  Straw holds up terribly to high winds.  A storm will huff and puff and blow your house down!”

“But straw is a natural material, economical to purchase, and fun to build with.”

“You should consider rebuilding your house – mix the straw with mud for a much sturdier home.”

“Phaw!  Build another house wolf?  For I’ve just built the house you see before you.  Good day to you!”

Shrugging his shoulders, the wolf departed.  The pig set about preparing carrot stew for dinner.

And sure enough the next evening, along came a tremendous storm.  The winds huffed, and puffed, and then blew the straw clean away, leaving the little pig out in the open, cold, and soaking wet.

The following morning, miserable and without a possession, the little pig left to find his brother.  Dejected, the young pig walked for miles until he found his older brother where the tale of the straw house was told.

“Don’t worry little brother.  I helped a man clear his field of fallen trees. Trees felled by that very storm that brought down your house.  As compensation the man let me cart away all the wood I would need to build a house.  With your help we can build a home in double time that no storm can knock down.”

So the two pigs worked at their saws and hammers, stopping only to eat a bit and sleep at night, and built a solid cabin.  So hungry were they that in the middle of the cabin they built a great fire from wood scraps on which they would cook a feast.  (those two were quite hungry following their hard labors)

Then along came the Wolf and said, “Little Pigs, little Pigs, let me come in.”

“No, no, by the hair of our chinny chin chin for we are terribly hungry wolf.”

“That is precisely the problem.  Your fire is too large and should be on a hearth next to a stone chimney.”

“Oh wolf, we are too tired and too hungry for that.  We will build a chimney tomorrow.”

“This is foolish Pigs, your fire is large.  It will huff and puff and burn your house down.”

“We are too hungry Wolf!  Please bother another!”

Oh boy.  [second verse, similar to the first]

Certain enough, the Wolf was right.  The fire was too big.  It did huff, then puff, and finally it burned the two Pigs house down.  Luckily the two brothers were able to scamper free of the blaze and save themselves.  With all their tools burned in the fire, the two Pigs went off to find their oldest brother.

For an hour and a day the two pigs walked until they found their brother.  To their great relief the third pig was building a house of brick.  The youngest brothers told their stories and immediately their oldest brother produced a pencil and paper.  “We must carefully think about the construction of this house.”  And working together the three brothers made a number of changes.

A week later when the house was complete the Wolf came by.  “Little pigs, little pigs let me in.”

To their older brother, “Oh by the hair of our chinny chin chins.  This is the chap we were telling you about.”  Then to the wolf, “Certainly wolf, come in.”  The door was opened and the Wolf came in.

“Pigs, this is a fine house.  Bricks.  Heavy shutters over the windows.  A proper chimney and clean flue.  I believe this will do.  I’d say anything could huff and puff, but never would this house be taken down.”

“We’re glad you approve wolf, for we worked hard together to build a solid home. Would you care to stay for dinner?  We’ve made turnip soup, sweet potato hash, and baked apples.”

The four ate up their supper and lived happy ever after.