Playful Plans's blog

A free-range discussion of wooden playthings, their design, fabrication, history, and dissemination.

Women in Woodworking

In today’s world of woodworking women are some of the most captivating, masterful and inspired woodworkers. In American history women have always been advocates of handcrafts like woodworking, but in recent years the number of women creating as artists has increased, along with their and visibility in the marketplace, media, and online.

woman woodworker

Build Your Own Handmade Wood Wagon

Everyone remembers a little red wagon rolling around the neighborhood, with kids piling on and off at stops along the way. From my Playful Plans online store and designed for craftsmen equipped with basic abilities and tools, here's my heirloom-quality handmade wooden toy plan for building the all-time greatest “pull toy!”

Are Wooden Toys Still Popular?

Absolutely! In fact, they have never been MORE popular. With modern production techniques- and many amateur woodworkers who recall (and enjoy building) the toys they grew up with- the interest in handmade wooden pull toys is undergoing a modern renaissance. There are many plans available, but my plans are always unique to the market.

Tips for Woodworking Beginners Making Wood Toys

Building your first wood toys from a step-by-step plan should be a safe, enjoyable and comfortable process. It should challenge your abilities, even as a beginner- but always with the attainable goal of creating a fun (and functional!) toy. The best woodworking plans have clear instructions, complete materials and suggested tools lists, and quality photos. My Playful Plans also include a variety of other helpful "ingredients" for cooking up some basic, heirloom-quality toys in your spare time, no matter your level of experience. Here are a few tips on getting started!

My Top 3 Favorite Vintage Toys of All Time

Vintage Toys You Can't Forget

Vintage toys are part of what inspires many wooden toy makers. There are some toys that are simply timeless and their appeal to kids and adults of all ages proves their value. Many vintage toys are a part of arts and crafts history.

Toy 1

vintage toys

Small Lathe in the Workshop

A new/old tool for the Playful Plans workshop is my tiny vintage (ca: 1940's Dunlap?) lathe with it's terrific cast details. It's miniscule 22-1/2" length weighs in at a whopping 11 pounds of cast iron.

Family Treasure

Here is a child's bedframe built by my maternal great-great-grandfather Thomas MacDonald in the late nineteenth century and passed down through the family.



My History with Wooden Toys - Interview with Kevin McGuire

How Long Have You Been Building Wooden Toys?

Since the mid-70's.

What Inspired You to Start Making Toys?

Having wooden building toys around the house growing up, a fascination with all things mechanical, and in particular watching carpenters frame new homes in my neighborhood- from nothing, it seemed!- when I was a child.

The Process of Making New Wooden Toy Plans

Step 1: Brainstorming Ideas for New Toy Plans

My wooden toy plans are inspired by (never copied from) my own vintage toys collection, my research into vintage toys (their materials and mechanisms) and exploring the culture (the "play history") of toys. I ask myself: will this be a unique and fresh addition to the market? Is it age-appropriate and safe for kids? If so, away we go.

Flips and Flops & Flying Clowns

From the collection, two closely-related catapult games 1920's-30's.

The game's object is to shoot a clown figure from a flexible steel launcher onto a rotating wooden spinner. The clown's wire arms catch the spinner's wires; the launcher's action is adjustable using a wingnut and bolt.

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