Their grandchildren inspired Jim and Sherry Hedges to start making old-fashioned wooden toys.
The Horse Lake couple - he is a retired school janitor and truck driver and she a former dental assistant - found themselves in the woodworking business when COVID-19 hit.
“I’ve always done woodworking. I’ve built houses so it just kind of came naturally and I (made toys) for the grandchildren,” Jim said. “I had a few pattern books and it just went from there.”
Using those patterns and now his own designs Jim does the majority of the wood-shaping with a bandsaw and a variety of hand tools in his shop. He’s been able to create toy planes, trucks, hedgehogs, monster trucks and trains, all adding to a growing collection of toys.
Sherry, meanwhile, jokes that she’s “his little sidekick.” Jim doesn’t quite have the patience to finish the toys, she said, so she sands them down and seals the wood with a mixture of orange oil and beeswax to preserve the wood without using toxic chemicals. She has even used a scroll saw now and then to make the couple’s simple wooden puzzles.
“I think I’m kind of more of a perfectionist so if he sanded a piece and I saw there was a little spot he missed, I’d take over and finish it,” Sherry said.
When the travel restrictions hit, the couple weren’t able to get to Kamloops to visit their grandchildren so a lot of the toys they were making started to pile up. Their children suggested they start selling them to give other children the joy of a wooden toy and set them up with a website - even choosing a name: “Tiny Timber Toy Company.” The couple uses a hedgehog as a logo to match their last name.
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The couple, who were at the South Cariboo Farmers’ Market last Friday, said they love meeting people and getting ideas for future toys. They have even had a few special commissions, including a replica wooden logging truck.
Sherry said they recently got a request for a truck like the one in the storybook Little Blue Truck. With no blue wood available to them, Jim said they had to resort to staining the wood.
“Young families, it seems, that this is what they want right now. Wooden toys rather than plastic toys,” Sherry said. “We always get requests for something different. Today we had a lady ask us if we could do a squirrel so we’re going to look for a pattern and see if we can do a wooden squirrel.”
Added Jim: “It’s fun, we enjoy doing what we do. It’s great that you can create something out of a piece of wood people actually enjoy. Everything we do is made with natural wood, so all the colours are natural.”