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Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel made for Bob’s nephew, Tim, shiny red and gloss black with white lettering and eyes!

This month, Bob Rummer, who has written several articles about the joys of generational woodworking within his family, wanted to share a short fairytale, The Toymaker Finds Vorstellun, to inspire your woodworking for the holiday season. You can find his story below the poll.

In turn, Bob’s story inspired us for this month’s poll and we want to know what kind’s of toys you have made for your own children and grandchildren as holiday gifts? If what you typically make isn’t listed, feel free to add it in as an answer to inspire other woodworkers this holiday season.

The Toymaker Finds Vorstellungskraft

Once upon a time, in a small village at the edge of the forest, there lived a Toymaker. His shop was filled with all kinds of wonderful toys—smiling dolls, brightly painted boats, wagons, tops and spinners, toy soldiers, wooden animals, trains, planes, and of course dollhouses. The children in the village would come to his shop to watch him work and they would ask, “Opa,” (that is what der Kinder called him), “can you make me a special toy?”

The Toymaker wanted to make the perfect toy. But he knew that all he used was ordinary wood and paint. He puzzled over what would make a truly special toy. Should the toy jump? Or should it be bright and shiny? Maybe it needed to be soft and cuddly. Or maybe it needed to sing or whistle. One day he was working hard in his shop and thinking on this when little Eleonora came in.

“Opa, can you make me a special toy?” she asked.

The busy toymaker did not have time to be bothered so he reached into his scrap bin and pulled out a piece of wood and quickly handed it to the girl.

“What is it?” Eleonora asked.

“What do you think it is?” the Toymaker replied.

She turned the block of wood over and around and upside down, and thought a bit, then exclaimed, “Why, it is ein Känguru!” Taking her new toy, she happily skipped out of the shop. The Toymaker shook his head in amusement and went back to trying to figure out how to make the perfect toy.

“Maybe I can learn something from the clockmaker,” he thought. The village clockmaker made all kinds of amazing mechanical things. Clocks and music boxes. Wind-up figures that danced and bowed. Cuckoo birds that could whistle a tune. The Toymaker went to the clockshop to see if he could learn how to make mechanical toys.

While he was looking around the shop, Frau Brehm came in with her daughter Matilda. The little girl was entranced by a tiny ballerina spinning around on a beautiful music box. She started to reach for the music box, but her mother quickly grabbed her hand and said, “Careful meine Leibchen. We don’t want to break the ballerina.” The Toymaker shook his head. This would never do; toys are supposed to be played with.

“Maybe I can learn something from the woodcarver,” he thought. The village woodcarver could shape a piece of wood into lots of useful things. He carved spoons and bowls and springerle cookie stamps. He carved panels of knights and dragons to hang on the wall and he carved the signs for all the shops in the village. The woodcarver also carved and painted wooden puppets that you could move around with sticks and strings. The Toymaker came into the carver’s shop just as Herr Ackermann and his son, Heinrich, were shopping. “What do you think of this puppet, mein Junge?”

“Well Papa, it is nice, but the smile never moves, and it never blinks”

Looking at the puppet the Toymaker thought the boy was right, the painted face seemed kind of stuck. This wasn’t the perfect toy either.

The Toymaker was discouraged, and he wandered into the village square. Frau Volk, the Storyteller, was sitting on a bench and enjoying the fall sunshine. Maybe the storyteller could help him.

“Why so downcast on this beautiful day, Herr Toymaker?” she asked. The Toymaker explained how he was seeking the one special thing to make the perfect toy that all the children would love and that he hadn’t found at the clockmaker’s or at the woodcarver’s.

“Tell me, Frau Volk, why do the children sit and listen to your stories for hours? I wish I could make a toy that would keep them happy like that.”

She looked thoughtfully at the Toymaker and saw that he truly wanted to make the children happy. “Ach, perhaps this is what you seek” and she reached into her pocket and pulled out a small leather sack. The sack felt full of something, but when he looked into it, he saw nothing.

“What is it?” the Toymaker asked.

“What do you think it is?” replied Frau Volk.

The Toymaker frowned and thought hard. Suddenly he remembered Eleonora’s känguru and he understood. Bursting into a wide grin he jumped up. “Vielen Dank Frau Volk!” (which means ‘Thank you very much!’) and he ran back to his toyshop as fast as he could.

In his shop, he quickly got to work on a new batch of toys. He made boats and wagons and wooden animals and toy soldiers and balloons and riding horses and games and puzzles. With a big smile, he shook the small bag over all of them, knowing that these would be perfect toys.

He put the small bag in a special box and wrote on it, “Die Kindheit Vorstellungskraft” (Childhood Imagination) and put it up on the shelf with his paints. From then on, he was always careful to sprinkle some Vorstellungskraft on the things he made because a child’s imagination is the magic that can turn a block of wood into a Känguru!

  4 Responses to “November 2020 Woodworking Poll: Making Toys for the Holidays”

  1. brilliant crisp story

  2. i would love to see others plans

  3. What I like making most is…………Bank deposits.

  4. We draw names each year and mak a Christmas present for that person. These presents are opened after our Christmas eve dinner. This has been a tradition for several decades.

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