Marvelous Transforming Toys

Marvelous Transforming Toys

SKU# 070508

Complete Instructions for Making Toys with Interchangeable Parts

Jim Makowicki


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Other Formats
  • Product # 070508
  • Type Paperback
  • ISBN 978-1-56158-381-2
  • Dimensions 9 x 10-7/8
  • Pages 224
  • Photos color photos
  • Drawings and drawings

Fine craftsmanship is child's play in the hands of lifelong woodworker Jim Makowicki. In this, his second book, the author lends his design and woodworking skills to a different kind of toy -- one that is sure to delight children of all ages -- the toy that transforms.

You'll find plans for six inventive toy systems with interchangeable components, including boats, ships, trucks, and houses. There's no end to the possibilities for assembly and imagination with these clever systems. The toys all call for select hardwoods and top-grade finishing materials which enhance the wood's beauty and provide a safe surface for children's hands. And with 218 illustrations and almost 200 photos, the projects are clearly explained. There is no book like this one anywhere.

Table of Contents








Ive been a lifelong woodworker, and as a father of three (and now a grandfather of three, too), Ive been making wooden toys for more than a few years. As my skills and designs evolved, what had begun as a family-oriented hobby began to attract outside attention, and three of my toys were eventually chosen by a manufacturer for a limited production run. One of the three, an earlier version of the Houses system detailed in this book, won a Parents Choice Award, given by Parents Choice, a magazine dedicated to the promotion of toys with high educational value.

Around the same time, some friends at a Connecticut library who had seen my work suggested that I start teaching toy making to children. The classes were a great success with the kids and ultimately caught the notice of the folks at nearby Taunton Press. The result was Making Heirloom Toys (published in 1996), which featured 22 of my individual toys -- various trains, trucks, animal pull toys, and others, most with a traditional accent.

Making Heirloom Toys was a great success, and Ive received many appreciative letters that Ill keep always. Ive certainly felt encouraged to do a second book. At the same time, this book is a real departure for me, focusing as it does on the system-based toys that have fascinated me in recent years. Although system toys like Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and Lego have been around for years, mine are different in that each system part is an identifiable component of the finished item. A child recognizes what hes assembling right away, without having to go through a long process. And he can easily change the image by just moving a couple of pieces.

Each of the six systems -- Boats, Trucks, Houses, Planes, Vehicles, and Ships -- focuses on a specific theme, with components that are assembled in a variety of ways. Friction-fittings, nut-and-bolt assemblies, stacking dowels, locking rods, and lugged nesting parts are all used, sometimes in combination with each other.

Its also been my goal in writing this book to engage the creativity of both the child who plays with the toys and the craftsman who makes them. Ive watched a lot of children (and adults, too!) encounter these toys for the first time, and the process is always the same: Initial curiosity leads quickly to complete absorption in the multiple possibilities of each system. For the younger children, theres also the benefit of developing hand-eye coordination through assembling the parts. But its also my hope that craftsmen will share my experience -- that in the course of building the various systems, new variations will begin to suggest themselves with growing speed and clarity.

My toys are made with select hardwoods and finished with top-grade materials that enhance the woods natural beauty while providing a protective surface not usually found on commercial toys. Theres nothing precious about them -- theyre built to be played with for years.

These toys are small, but that doesnt mean theyre simple. The projects in this book, which are presented roughly in order of complexity, can take as long to build as a major piece of furniture. Patience and precision are essential. Cutting and drilling small parts can also pose serious safety hazards, and Ive detailed several jigs, fixtures, and techniques throughout that will both facilitate awkward maneuvers and minimize the risk of injury.

Building Safe Toys
The craftsmans safety is only half of the story; the safety of the child playing with the toy is equally important and should be a prime consideration in toy design and construction. I avoid the use of potentially hazardous hardware such as hooks, and I round over all edges and corners. And since younger children are in the habit of putting playthings in their mouths, its essential that you use the nontoxic finishes I recommend. Theyll also be easier on your lungs -- and on the environment, too.

Its a good idea to inspect the toys periodically; parts like the lugs glued to the cabin of the Ships system may loosen in time. Safety regulations and guidelines can help us in the design and construction of toys for young children, but ultimately nothing can replace parental watchfulness and common sense.

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