On Tuesday I finished the annual Toys For Tots toy build sponsored by the Triangle Woodworkers Association. Most of the build was a group effort but I did the final assembly of the 100 bulldozers by myself. It’s finicky work and I had run out of time and assistants. The Hillsborough Orange Woodworkers meet on Monday nights and had done most of the work during those meetings.


See the Hillsborough Orange Woodworkers woodworking!


And then they’re gone.


And so is the food. We up the snacks a bit during the toy builds.

On the last Monday night, instead of putting them to work, we had the annual HOW Seasonal Party. We had 19 attendees with seating for 18. We squoze a bit. Knowing what Tuesday foretold, I left the table early to start on the dishes, depriving many of my charm, humor and dazzling personality. Somehow they survived.

Dishes, it’s what I do. My wife cooks and I do dishes. It might be gender stereotyping but it plays to our strengths. We are both well suited for our appointed tasks. However, she enjoys cooking more than I enjoy doing dishes. I hope.

We had a similar situation earlier this year. A group of friends, local and imported, came to dinner. I bailed early to do the dishes since the drywall artiste was coming at 8:30 AM to repair our long, high seams. The house needed to be stripped down a bit to allow safe access. The glass collection needed to be stashed in the spare bedroom after the guests left.  The glass survived the move but around 1:30 AM I did lose 4 of 5 glass shelves left atop the 10-foot ladder when I moved it. They mostly missed me on their way to the floor. Band-Aids but no stitches were required. It did wake my wife. She has a day job and had gone to bed at a reasonable hour.

But, I digress…

This year we provided 385 toys for the TFT campaign. 50 hippos, 50 trucks, 50 tankers, 35 bear/pigs and 100 bulldozers were built.


Returning toys are the bulldozer, hippo, bear/pig and truck. The tanker is new.

There could have been 50 bear/pigs as well but pattern routing Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) did not go as well as I had hoped. I tried a straight bit, up spiral, down spiral an up/down spiral bit. 18 bear/pigs are on their way to the recycling center. The good news is that no fingers were lost and I kept the newly liberated blood off of the toys.

The previous Monday we finished all toys but the bulldozers. The bodies were complete  but the blades needed to be assembled and installed.


Another night…


Two hours later they left…


well fed.


94 of the 100 bulldozers.

I used a stopwatch while assembling the bulldozers as a tool to keep me focused on the task at hand. I suffer from some level of ADD and being aware of the time helps. Quickest was 1:54 and the slowest was around 4 minutes. Typical time was 2:30 depending on what I dropped and what adjustments were necessary. In that time I:

  1. Slightly beveled the ends of the rear axle and blade pins with my trusty yellow plastic pencil sharpener. Cleans up the fuzz and aids assembly.
  2. Glue the right rear wheel to the rear axle.
  3. Insert the rear axle into the body and glue the left rear wheel onto the rear axel matching alignment of the blade pin holes in the rear wheels.
  4. Check rear wheel clearances and adjust as necessary with my trusty Slyod knife. Note: when using the knife to adjust the clearances, the sharpened edge points DOWN and is inserted between the body and the wheel. Up doesn’t work nearly as well.
  5. Glue and insert the right blade pin.
  6. Glue and insert the left blade pin.
  7. Check alignment and clearances.
  8. Check that the blade moves freely.
  9. Repeat.

When I finished, I did a final quality control check on all the toys. This completed, I loaded all the toys into my car and headed over to Cary, NC for the annual TWA Seasonal Dinner. At this dinner, the toys are displayed, discussed and presented to the US Marines for transport and distribution. As it has been for the past twenty years, Roy Underhill was the guest speaker. He did a short humorous presentation after we ate and before we loaded the truck.

The last two years, we filled the Marine van and two large SUV’s. This year, the Marines sent one of their five ton trucks. We loaded it and with that, we were done for another year.


Saint Roy finishes loading the Marines’ five ton. For some Roy assumed being the guest speaker negated the need to pay $15 for dinner and hall rental. His choices were bussing the tables or loading the truck.


A less flattering angle.

I would like to thank the following for all their efforts in building the toys and not all coming to the party:

TWA Members
Jeff Leimberger
Ed Mastin
Ken Serdar

HOW Members (Hillsborough Orange Woodworkers)
Ed Brant
James Campbell
Matt Holway
Paul Leslie
Mike Matthews
Dan Rocigno
Dan Snyder
Dave Tarney
Steve Wedge