Clog-dancer Jig Doll Limberjack

“In these days when everybody is talking about doing his thing, here’s the story of a boy that not only talks about it, but does it.”
~My Side of the Mountain movie trailer

jchismar clog dancer jig doll limberjack

I’m learning, as I continue to build A. Neely Hall toys for the Newark Maker Faire, I grossly underestimate the time required to produce each project. Some blame can be placed on keeping true to the 1915 materials and instructions. For instance, the instructions describe the arms and legs as whittled sticks, so the extremities are whittled wood instead of pre-made wooden dowels. The body was cut from a discarded broom-handle found in a storm drain while walking Fleur. The head, hat and shoulders are made from wooden spools; the hands and feet are carved from basswood.

Tacks are inserted at each joint to attach the limbs with heavy linen thread. Tying tiny knots closely together onto mini metal tacks proved more challenging than anticipated. Smaller and more plentiful hands would accomplish the task more quickly. Even the not-so-professional paint job required a surprising amount of patience and time. Does the finished project reflect the work behind its folksy finish?

Tapping the “stage” reproduces a perfect Michael Flatley so, heck yeah the payoff is worth the effort. I can entertain myself for a long spell while simultaneously irritating everyone within earshot of the tapping and clacking. Win. Win.

Constructing a Vintage Cricket-Rattle : 2016 Greater Newark Maker Faire

A Neely Hall Cricket Rattle

I submitted my application to the 2016 Greater Newark, NJ Maker Faire a few days go for my exhibit titled Home-Made Toys for Girls and Boys. This year I am constructing many of the projects described in A. Neely Hall’s 1915 book Home-Made Toys for Girls and Boys. Anticipating the acceptance of my application I began building several of the toys. In the book Mr. Hall explains, “A Cricket-rattle is about the liveliest form of rattle ever devised. After constructing one for your sister or brother, you probably will decide to make one for yourself.”

john p chismar cricket rattleBecause of his bold statement I decided to make three cricket-rattles to sell or share. The first time I tried the rattle I expected a chirping sound, instead loud cracks shot straight into my ears leaving them ringing. More awesome than I anticipated! Before painting the rattles red or blue, as the instructions asserted, I decided to add tramp art carved embellishment around the fringe which I painted yellow.

I have a few other projects already completed for the faire and many more on the drawing board. With any luck my application will be accepted permitting me to proceed full speed into the past opening doorways to forgotten pastimes. I hope to see you there.

Thanks bartender, may I have another?

john chismar bartender tin toy

I enjoy browsing estate sales every now and then. A few weeks ago the sale of a local artist’s estate caught my attention. I picked through the rubble during the last hours of the last day seeking bargains. I filled a shopping bag with some hand tools, brass cabinet hardware and a disheveled tin bartender for under fifteen bucks. The major winter storm this past weekend provided a perfect time to stay inside and play with my new toy!

john chismar bartender tin toyNot surprisingly, activating the power switch on the base did nothing. Examining the bottom of the toy for a battery compartment I found a printed disclaimer cautioning, “If the bartender ceases to emit smoke, it means that the batteries are weak.” Wait, the toy is incorrectly functioning if it isn’t emitting smoke? Awesome! It was evident the batteries were bad when the compartment was opened. I put on a dust mask, pulled out the old corroded batteries with needle-nose pliers and carefully vacuumed up the remains. Then the clothes, torso and head parts were removed systematically.

I snipped the power chord near the battery compartment and connected it to 3 volts supplied from my variable voltage ac to dc transformer. Before turning the power on I set the video recorder on a tripod. I wasn’t expecting much to happen, but to my surprise the robot bartender came to life!

Everything worked as it should! Without his jacket, however, there was nothing restricting the motion of his drink shaking arm. When he the shaking action initiated the arm would flip completely backwards, my fingers are preventing the flip in the video. Excited and inspired I loosely wrapped a wire tie around his arm to restrict the motion. Doing this was a mistake, however I’m not sure why. The bartenders sequence of actions became sporadic and stuck.

john chismar bartender tin toyCuriosity got the best of me and I disassembled the gearbox beyond repair. I come across these bartenders at flea markets and estate sales every once in a while. I never knew how delighted I’d be watching the display in person. I regret busting this one and when I find another for under ten bucks I’ll try again.

Butternut Butterflies

butternut butterflies

This weekend I dodged the humidity and stayed indoors. I continue to organize and clean the workshop, usually leaving a larger mess than when I started. In the process I find lost tools, forgotten projects and inspiration to keep me distracted from the task at hand. A while ago I was asked to make a butterfly toy. For a year the subject stewed finally boiling over to motivate creative action.

The result, butternut butterflies. The design of the butterfly is much like that of a hinge. The two wings are connected by a pin inserted through a knuckle with the appearance of a butterfly body. The wings rotate 270° around the knuckle mimicking the fluttering of butterfly wings.

Butternut wood, also known as White Walnut, grows in the eastern states and is a popular wood for woodcarvers and furniture makers. Butternut works easily with sharp tools and the grain is attractive with finish applied.

Night Light Made From Recycled Solar LED Path Light

night light made from recycled solar led path light

Every Christmas I create a custom made wooden toy for my great-nephew. This year I decided to create a unique night light using parts from a discarded solar path light. Lawn mowers and snow throwers often mistreat these hidden treasures. Also people are unaware these solar path lights work through recharging a battery. As the battery ages it is unable to recharge to its youthful glory; this is when the homeowner chucks the entire thing to the curb.

When I find these orphans I bring them home and remove all the useful parts: solar panel, circuit board and battery holder.  The circuit is simple. With light the solar panel charges the battery, with no light the circuit switches to illuminate a LED by battery power. These are such fun to play with; the technology is so basic yet amazingly complicated. I can spend a good deal of time pointing the solar panel to and fro a light source to watch the light turn on and off.