Saturday, December 22, 2007

Vermont Wooden Toys Popular Due To Toxic Concerns

Mr. Voake, the owner of Vermont Wooden Toys, has been deluged with orders from customers leery of buying toys made in China after millions of toys manufactured there were recalled this year because they have lead paint.

“Every time there was a story about a toy recall, I got flooded with orders,” Mr. Voake said. “This year stacks up as preposterous. I’ve never had a year like this, and I hope I don’t have another one.”

Makers of wooden toys say they can barely keep up with demand and are hiring extra employees.

“A lot of people are just generally concerned with the whole lead paint issue, the recall issue, the safety issue, all of that,” said Mike Rainville, the owner of Maple Landmark Woodcraft in Middlebury, Vt. “We’re used to a Christmas rush, but not for three months and not to the level that it’s been. We’re all tired.”

Mr. Rainville said that he and his holiday staff of 45 were working 16-hour days, and that toy orders were up about 60 percent this quarter.

Mr. Voake said he had made more toys this season than at any other time in his 34 years in the industry. Some holiday orders will not be ready until March.

“There’s so much — too much — business,” he said. “I can only make so many things.”

Mr. Voake, 61, who works alone in a basement shop with a springer spaniel named Snifflefarg, never thought there would be such a clamor for his products, which include arks, doll carriages, blocks, trains and other toys made from hard maple.

All his wood is bought from dealers in Massachusetts and Maine, and he finishes his products with linseed oil and a nontoxic stain.

Mr. Voake started woodworking in the early 1970s, when he and his wife were teachers in Southern California. He had little experience — he took wood shop in junior high school, but had to wear a mask because he was allergic to sawdust.

He started making toys for his wife’s classroom anyway. When the couple moved east in 1973, Mr. Voake’s wife took a teaching job, and he decided to make toys full time.

“I wanted to see if I could get away with doing it because I liked doing it,” Mr. Voake said. “Vermont was the right place. There was a hangover from the ’60s, a lot of the back-to-the-earth stuff.”

Mr. Voake said the crisp air here also cured his sawdust allergy, and he no longer wears a mask.

He first sold his wares at the Vermont State Craft Center, and branched out to phone and Internet orders. He taught himself how to make more complicated pieces by experimenting and adding details. He also had three sounding boards — his daughters, who are now in their 20s, and were never shy about telling Mr. Voake which toys worked and which did not.

Business has not always been great, and there have been a few bumps — like when Mr. Voake sliced off the top part of his right middle finger with a saw.

Source: NYTimes

Vermont Wooden Toys offers 125 varieties of fine wooden toys. They feature wooden toy trucks, wooden toy trains, rocking horses, wooden building blocks, riding toys, wooden toy boats & airplanes, wooden pull toys, doll furniture, doll cradles & doll carriages, wooden Noah's arks, unit block sets, and much more.

The wooden toys are constructed of the finest quality Vermont hard rock maple accented with occasional contrasting tones of Pennsylvania cherry, birch, oak, and mahogany. They are finished with our own special nontoxic blend of hard-drying stains and sealers which protect and enhance the natural beauty of the woodgrain. Our toys are displayed both in toy shops and in galleries, and recommended by respected books and periodicals which site our creations' furniture-quality craftsmanship and durability within the playspace. Our toys have been acclaimed both in museum exhibitions and art festivals for their originality and integrity of design. Many of our toys are designed to be ridden and all are created to endure the rugged play of several generations of children.

Related Post: Are Your Child’s Toys Safe? Report High Toxic Levels

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