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Handmade A Tale of Production Part 1: That Old Magical Cabinet by Don Clark

Handmade: A Tale of Production – Part 1

 

HANDMADE: A TALE OF PRODUCTION

Part One: That Old Magical Cabinet

 

by Don Clark

 

We open on the weary toymaker, Henry. He makes loads of old timey wood toys inside the coolest little workshop that was formerly the cutest little barn. It’s not a barn barn. More like an outbuilding that sheep (or something) lived in.You wouldn’t know that now though. Henry re-outfitted the building decades ago. He heats it in the winter with a pot-bellied stove fueled by shop wood scraps. Handy. Henry had the shortest commute he knew of – about fifty feet. He and his wife lived in an old farmhouse. Their kids were grown

His shop it a cozy little place filled with sunlight, toys, and tools. Some of the tools he’s inherited, but most were picked up at yard sales and the like. He has a professional interest to be sure, but, good grief, he has more rusted hand planes than he’ll ever find the time to restore. Let alone, need. In addition to his power saws, he has four or five dozen handsaws. Maybe six? And let’s be honest here; you can make do when one or two. Henry has a half dozen hand-drills. Like he needs any more help adding to his arthritis.

On top of all this, he’s not even sure what some of the tools are.

That doesn’t matter though. Henry’s chief interest is the tool’s owners and their stories.

Take that saw over there. Some old fella used that saw for thirty years before he was just too old. Then he spent a decade first cupping his ear and saying “WHAT?,” before relenting to the inevitable and just nodding when someone spoke to him.

Then he passed, where his tools, rusted from an untended decade in the garage, were sold at an estate sale. His children and grandchildren holding back tears as they swapped old stories. But the tools don’t look like much, they mostly went unsold. Henry can’t bear to think of those tools being shuttled off for scrap.

He bought all the unsold tools. Henry had to keep those tools in use.

Because he can’t bear to think of his old tools suffering a scrap-yard fate.

This is our toymaker. Making toys for the young folks, some of which have grown up to buy his toys for their young folks. Read more

The Hare Hair Stylist - A Silly Pun-Filled Story by Don Clark-Happy Bungalow

The Hare Hair Stylist

The Hare Hair Stylist

The Hare Hair Stylist - A Silly Pun-Filled Story by Don Clark-Happy Bungalow

It used to be that journalists had just one job. For instance, a fashion reporter, style reporter, or the offbeat / quirky news specialist. Never was one person called upon to do all four jobs.But times are tough; People just aren’t reading magazines like they used to. Unfortunately many people lost their jobs. Most eventually found new jobs; some even started up their own companies.

But for those left with a job, their blessings were mixed. Yes, they still had a job, but now it had become jobs. Plural. So fashion / style / offbeat beat came to be handled by one person.

Melanie McKay was such a person. This is the time she found herself on the niche interview of her life.
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Detective Serial featuring Archibald the Penguin by Don Clark

Archibald Penguin No. 1

Introducing Our New Serial!

Who Ate All the Fish?

featuring

Archibald Penguin, Our Bird,
The Famed Detective.
The Cheeky Penguin who
Loves Fish as Almost as Much as
He Loves Fighting Crime!

Detective Serial featuring Archibald the Penguin by Don Clark

The Players:

Polar Bear —  A Hungry Animal
The Walrus —  A Certain Tusked Mammal
Seal —  A Happy Fellow
Pelican —  A Creature with a Large Mouth
Archibald Penguin —  Our Bird
Henrietta Puffin —  Penguin’s Ever-Present Companion
Shark —  A Miracle of Evolution
Killer Whale —  Poster-Fish for the Misunderstood

Chapter 1

We find Archibald Penguin, Our Bird, on the ice and snow-covered shores of the Southern-Most Continent. He stands near the edge of the water, the cold gray sea continually washing against the frozen ground. His ever-present companion, Henrietta Puffin, is with him. Together they look out towards the sea where there is water in great abundance.

“But there is one thing missing Ms. Puffin.”

“Indeed Penguin. Indeed. What do you suppose is the cause of this?”

What my dear Puffin?” Our bird spun on his webbed feet to look inland. “Or more precisely who?” The pair looked down at four sets of footprints leading inland. “This cove is normally teeming with fish, but there are none to be seen. What is to be seen, however, are three sets of footprints.”

“Yes,” Ms. Puffin added, “If I’m correct, the tracks of the Walrus, Seal, and Polar Bear.”

“ I concur. I purpose we follow the trail of the Walrus. The trail looks particularly heavy.”

“Laden with a multitude of fish?”

“Perhaps that is so. Let us go and find out Ms. Puffin.”
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Committee of Camels designs the perfect ostrich logo

Where Do People Come From?

Where do people come from?

Our children are always interested in where they come from. We do our best to explain. We show them baby pictures and old scrapbooks. This leads to more questions. So we speak of parents, then of parent’s parents, and so on. Eventually our children ask the question that we’ve all asked. The question that, aware of it or not, always lingers in our mind. It is perhaps the first question ever asked.

Committee of Camels designs the perfect ostrich logo

Where Do People Come From?

We have an answer, my wife and I. It’s not universally accepted, and try as we might, we have located no “hard” evidence of its truth or exact origin. But we believe in this answer. For the answer is a story that speaks in the quiet of the still darkness that is the Truth.
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Happy Bungalow's wooden toy warranty

Super Official Toy Warranty

Happy Bungalow's wooden toy warranty

Happy Bungalow’s Super Official Toy Warranty:

For a period of 10 years Happy Bungalow will repair, replace, or refund materials (exclusive of shipping) that prove defective, upon inspection (or emailed photo) by us, during normal residential use.
This Warranty does not cover:

Scratches, dings, and dents that may occur through typical use.  Damages caused by abuse such as, but not limited to, smashing, kicking, throwing, hammering, tantrumming, Evel Knievel stunt reenactments, attempted sub-orbital space flights, etc. etc. This is an indoor product – left outdoors for a period of years it will do what natural wood naturally does and turn into dirt. We will accept no returns on products that have been allowed to turn to dirt.

Of course, you may have other rights based on the state you live in.

*Yes, we’re being silly,
but if you have a
problem call or write:
(+1) 513-442-6924
don@happybungalow.com

vintage advertisement for magic wand and unicorn

A Magically Fun Time

vintage advertisement for magic wand and unicornThere is no mystery about how to have a MAGICALLY FUN TIME.

And you don’t even need a magic wand.  Just know you’re going to have fun, kick off your shoes, forget your troubles, laugh a lot, and HAVE FUN.  Really, no fooling.  We know, some things are easier said than done.  And maybe the whole, if you want to have fun – just have fun, bit is a little hippie-trippie, but trust us.  It works.  Have patience.  Take some relaxing breaths.  Look around and find the joy in life and do your best to block out the non-joy.

Remember: kick off your shoes, forget your troubles, laugh a lot, and HAVE FUN.

What?

You just need to purchase accessories?  Okay.  Find some enchanting toys in Happy Bungalow’s online toy shop.

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

Wooden Toy Safety Warning

So we had a little incident here a few weeks ago; apparently you can have too much fun!  A few hundred toys were gathered, creating a sort of critical mass of fun.  There were a dozen or so rainbows emanating from our living room, and we’re pretty sure we saw a real life fairy.

To be clear, no irreparable damage was done, but the folks from NASA and the NOAA asked us to put a new notice on our toys:

“Playing with Happy Bungalow Toys may open a rift in the PLAY-FUN continuum.”

But we really don’t see the harm in honest play, so we added:

“Please play with joyous abandon!”

Interested in some living room science?  Pick up some toys in our online toy shop.wooden toy safety warning

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.