Even though many of our toys look simple, you may be surprised at how much goes into their construction to ensure they have great play value, look fantastic, and are safe.
For example, the build process sheet for our popular Play Pal Vroom cars has over 30 stages to it, from initially tracing out the outline body shapes on a new plank of wood … through to final inspection and roll testing.
Even the humble axle – a mere 42mm wooden dowel – goes through 3 process before it even gets glued to a wheel! The axle is first cut from a longer length, then the ends are sanded round, and finally the ends are crimped to provide a stronger glue joint in the wheel.
… and when we fit them to the car we wax them for faster rolling, and use washers between the wheels and the car body to keep them tracking straight – and to prevent little fingers getting nipped in the gap. Details, details.
We use templates for tracing body outlines, and for routing to final shape. Hand sanding and any necessary adjustments mean that no two cars are exactly the same, but this process ensures they are consistent enough that we know our safety testing applies to each toy.
Every toy is sanded 3 times, typically with 120 grit abrasives to smooth the final shape and round all the sharp edges … and finally with 300 or 400 grit between the colour paint coats.
We tend to spray the Milk Paint finish we use (compressor driven airbrush – no aerosols!) to give a consistent finish that really bonds with the wood … and hand apply our secret beeswax-based sealant. The ‘tyres’ on our wheels are hand painted on columns of wheels spun up on the pillar drill.
Yes, it’s labour intensive, which is part of justifying why our toys cost what they cost, but it also creates unique toys that have long lasting play value, are very resilient, and can be pulled out of a toy box in 5,10,20 years time with the same appeal as today.
A lot goes into the choice of material in our toys to ensure they are fit for purpose, effective, and safe.
Using pine for our PlayPal Vroom bodies for example isn’t only because it is a common sustainable wood that is available from FSC certified suppliers. It’s also perfect for the rounded shapes of these cars because it is easy to work, and although it can seem light to our adult hands, it’s a great weight for the small hands the cars are designed for. And as a softwood, it is more erm, forgiving let’s say if it happens to come in violent contact with furniture etc. Axles and wheels on the other hand need to be more wear-resistant so we use hardwoods such as birch or maple for these.
We paint the bodies in a fantastic traditional finish called Milk Paint that has been around for thousands of years in various forms. The all-natural modern version we use is more expensive than other paints, has to be mixed in small quantities before use, and has no shelf life when mixed, but we love it because it allows us to provide wooden toys that are completely safe, and with a range of classic – and classy – colours that are bright without being gaudy. And tough; Milk Paint really bonds with the wood, providing a very resilient finish.
After painting, the body and wheels get a coat or two of a secret formula of natural ingredients with beeswax as the main ingredient. This brings out a deep lustre in the body colour and in the wood of the wheels, and provides yet more protection.