Who made these cool wood toys?
May 13, 2011 11:55 AM   Subscribe

I found some lovely wooden toys at Goodwill last week. Please help me identify them.

I bought this great racecar and this cute tractor. They have beautiful workmanship.

They are similar enough that I think they are made by the same company.

I want to identify the maker so I can consider buying more in the same set. Also I would like to know how much they cost new so I can pat myself on the back for finding a great bargain.

Here is a closeup of the nut on the wheels on the tractor.

Google searches have turned up nothing.
posted by bq to Shopping (17 answers total)
Not sure if it helps but I've seen similar toys in stores that carry a lot of Amish and Mennonite crafts. Goods comes to mind, specifically.
posted by Loto at 12:03 PM on May 13, 2011

My guess is they were handmade by a woodworker, and probably the same one if they are similar in design.

We've purchased similar wood toys for our kids years ago at a tourist-trap-type shop in Idaho, but I've seen those types of simple wood toys all over. Unless the maker burned their name/logo into the bottom, you might not be able to find out who made them (ours were marked). I would guess they probably cost around $5-$10 each originally.

Also, the markings on the bolt are just standard bolt grading markings:

posted by JibberJabber at 12:05 PM on May 13, 2011

I had a toy train set that was very startlingly like that that my grandfather, a carpenter and builder, made by hand in the 1970s. Perhaps there was a woodworking pattern for that set published around that time?
posted by frobozz at 12:06 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, my first thought was Amish, too.
posted by Sal and Richard at 12:29 PM on May 13, 2011

Best guess is that they were made by a toy company in Vermont, based on both the finish and the mixed wood (looks like maple to me). Not Amish. (And Loto, you'd be surprised at how many made-in-China toys Goods is carrying these days.) Do the bolts look original? Like something a parent added when the axle broke? This is a good list of American toymakers.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:29 PM on May 13, 2011

Holy shit, I had these as a kid! :D
posted by symbioid at 1:36 PM on May 13, 2011

I live in Wisconsin, btw. So I don't know if it'd be a vermont thing per se... But who knows?
posted by symbioid at 1:37 PM on May 13, 2011

If there isn't any sort of maker's mark on it, I'd assume it was handcrafted from a standard template. These are commonly published in magazines or sold [e.g.], and there are e.g. 4H or Boy Scout programs that create them as woodworking projects.

One of the better-known brands of wooden train sets was Skanetales (from the NY city), later a division of Playskool and then Habermas GmbH. I think it's an offshoot of what is left of that company that operates in the US as Maukilo, an importer of European toys, including wooden toys, if you want to take this interest further.
posted by dhartung at 2:05 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am pretty sure they are not handcrafted due to some of the detailing. There is some very nice inlay work on the front of the tractor, and on both pieces, the nails on the bottom of the piece are covered with a circle of the original wood that was punched out, then glued back in.
posted by bq at 4:22 PM on May 13, 2011

Response by poster: You really had these exact ones?
posted by bq at 4:22 PM on May 13, 2011

I have purchased similar toys from woodworkers at craft fairs. The inlay and other detailing are actually giveaways that they are handcrafted, rather than proof that they weren't. There's also clearly some pattern sets out there, since woodworkers often have the same/similar toys out as the woodworker a few stalls away.
posted by donnagirl at 8:37 PM on May 13, 2011

Here are some handmade toys with a look similar to yours.
posted by donnagirl at 8:44 PM on May 13, 2011

I'm actually really certain we had something quite similar in my kindergarten class. That was 30 years ago, so I can't imagine that my memory is super accurate or how that helps, but, there it is.
posted by pixiecrinkle at 8:45 PM on May 13, 2011

Those would actually not be hard at all to do "by hand". For example, the plugs over the screw holes are usually cut from scrap using one on these. For bonus points you cut about twice as many as you need, then try to match the grain of the plug with the grain of the piece of wood you're driving it into. Then plane the whole thing flush.

Pattern following router bits
and a jig sort of like this one would make the body of the rail dragster a breeze. Cut and smooth a basic angled block, then use the jig to shape each side. You'd have to make two mirror image ones, but that's easy enough - stack two pieces of your pattern material and cut them out on the band saw.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:27 PM on May 13, 2011

Actually, bq, that makes it even more likely that they are handmade. You must not know any woodworkers, but I've got two within a block who could come close to this quality. Getting it all perfectly fitted is part of the ethos of pride. Learning how to do all these things is the objective of a lifetime. Believe me -- I think you're barking up the wrong tree here.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 AM on May 14, 2011

Very, very similar toys are handcrafted all the time, and to a much higher degree of detail and a finer level of finish than that. My brother had something similar to that tractor, but it was just one piece of a logging truck and his was much nicer. An uncle made it for him.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:03 AM on May 14, 2011

Response by poster: In that case I will just pat myself on the back for finding beautiful hand made items. I can't believe someone donated them to Goodwill! These could be heirlooms.
posted by bq at 2:56 PM on May 14, 2011

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