Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


NOT TO sound like an old guy—which, of course, I am—but today’s play for kids seems a bit artificial, if not downright electronically weird. By contrast, one of the books in my collection offers a decidedly different concept of toys.


Toys Every Child Can Make, by Harry B. Wright, Bruce Publishing, 1927. An link: Toys Every Child Can Make

From the Preface: “Who cares if it is raining or too stormy to go outdoors! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a messenger straight from the North Pole suddenly appeared before you, and told you that you have been made chief assistant to Santa himself!”

After a brief description of materials and tools, each page consists of a line drawing of the toy, 53 in total. A trace is made of the toy’s pieces and then transferred to the chosen material.  Easy assembly instructions are offered, as are paint suggestions.


The Cat. The head and tail can be made movable for special poses. This and other images from Toys Every Child Can Make.

The suggested material is 3/8-in. basswood, cut with a coping saw, sanded to a smooth finish and painted with enamels. Today, I believe foamcore makes a fine alternative, with a modeling knife replacing the coping saw (which, the author warns, always seems to snap blades midway through a cut). Cocktail toothpicks are a substitute for brads and nails.


Above, a Trapeze. Below, its Performing Clowns.


“Read the directions carefully, especially the tracing, cutting, and the sandpapering. Then you are all ready for the painting which is the most fun of all. Just follow the directions, and you will be delighted at the results. Try it and see for yourselves.”


The Juggling Clown; its rotating disc makes a good illusion of the performance.

The book notes that any of the objects could be made into a pull- or push-toy by attaching wheels to the base. Two of my favorites are perfect for this, The Racer and The Sport Roadster.


Above, The Racer; below, The Sport Roadster.


Also, with appropriate hanging hardware, any would make a charming holiday ornament.


Here’s my racer. Its Brooklands exhaust is an ad-lib.

Other projects include Garden Sticks, mounted on 1/2-in. posts of suitable length driven into the ground, and a Garden Trellis with Jack the Giant Killer at its base—and the Giant at the top.

My copy of Toys Every Child Can Make is a Sixth Printing, 1945, with a notation, “This book is produced in complete accord with the Government rules & regulations for the conservation of paper and other essential materials.”

I note as well that its use requires neither batteries nor electricity; only simple hand tools and lots of creative endeavor.

How refreshing. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014

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