Toymaker continues old traditions

Wooden toymaker

KINGSPORT, Tenn. - There are now a couple of generations of children who have never gotten something for Christmas that wasn't either plastic or electronic.

There was a time when toys were made from wood. It's a lost art of sorts, but not it's lost on a Kingsport Senior Center hobbyist who has been making wooden toys for some special gifts this Christmas.

You'll find all sorts of projects underway in the wood shop of Kingsport's Senior Center. Some are gifts and others are just projects that interest their creator. "Bowls, furniture, tables, whatever thoughts I get I just do. Boxes, I've made a lot of tables," woodworker John Wallen says.

But when the call went out for toys made from wood, he stepped up with a book and anything he found laying around. "[I use] mainly scrap wood and glued together [pieces], shaped it and so on, like this tanker you turn on the lathe," he pointed out while showing a piece of his work.

"Whatever kind of wood you got. That one over there that I painted, that's pine. That's the only one I painted. The rest I just sprayed, what came out, came out," he says. What came out was an assortment of airplanes, trucks, trains and bulldozers.

The craftsmanship looks difficult but their creator says it just takes time. "[It's] tedious," he laughs. "Not difficult, but tedious, that's all. It took time, you make mistakes. You just throw the wood away and start all over again," John said.

And chances are in this shop it will become something else.

His toys are a special project as a gift to some special children that can't be revealed or ruin the surprise. And the fact is these toys will someday be heirlooms as fragile plastics and electronics dominate the toy world these days.

"Well what's nice about these, if something falls apart put some glue on it and put it right back together again," he added.

And who knows, it may inspire a new generation of wooden toymakers.

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