Over the summer, I was approached at a monthly Triangle Woodworkers Association (TWA) meeting by Fred Ford, chair of the annual Toys for Tots campaign. He was just confirming that I would be hosting workshops for toy builds and wanted to know what we would be building. I do not remember ever having discussed hosting a toy build. I was not opposed to hosting but I don’t remember ever volunteering. I decided it would be a worthwhile thing to do, recovered and said I was willing. Fred suggested we build pencil boxes. I said I would get back to him.

For some reason, pencil boxes just didn’t excite me as much as they should have. I have built some toys before and I decided I could do better. I looked what I had built and some notes for what I thought I might build in the future. It was decided we could build 100 hippos and 50 bulldozers with animated blade.

100 Hippos and 50 Bulldozers.

100 Hippos and 50 Bulldozers.

After a few misses, I ran my prototypes past Fred and he approved. I scheduled a few workshops for early October after we returned from our vacation to the Galapagos Islands. (I think it was a vacation, I didn’t get a check and there was no per diem.) Toys are due Dec. 9th but I wanted to be finished before Thanksgiving. This gives me time to finish in case we weren’t.

We were close. Most of the work was done before Thanksgiving. I had some final assembly and rework to do but most of the work was done in the workshops. We only had a yield of 98 hippos of the initial 103 made. Some had large ugly knots and some died in production. I made another 15.

The final products.

The final products.

We ended up with over 110 hippos and 60 bulldozers. The Hardwood Store of North Carolina donated the white oak for the bulldozers. I wanted to use soft maple for the hippos but there was no budget for it. Although I did end up buying parts, I didn’t want to buy the soft maple. The yellow pine was expensive enough.

TWA members did supply some volunteer labor but the majority of the effort came from members of the Hillsborough Orange Woodworkers (HOW). They meet at my shop often for the weekly Monday night meeting. I guess they just enjoy woodworking. Three of us are members of both.

I would like to thank the TWA/HOW members who participated in one or more workshops.

Manuel Astilla
Ed Brant
Jim Campbell
Paul Leslie
Jeff Leimberger*
Ed Mastin*
Mac McCarson
Dan Roscigno
Steve Wedge

* Members of TWA and HOW

You should see what I am planning for next year…