Toy Blocks from Scraps

I just completed a project to make 50 rug loom frames from 15/16" thick kiln dried soft maple. I ripped a bunch of 6 foot long boards to 1 1/2" wide, then cut 43 1/2" and 24" long slats from them. As I selected out knots, etc., I ended up with a 5 gallon pail of scraps that were less than about 8" long and a pail of scraps that were about one foot long to 2 feet long. All of these scraps are 15/16" X 1 1/2". Four kids, ages 5 to 13, visited us the other day and I brought out those scraps to see if modern kids would still be interested in something as mundane as the blocks that I had when I was a kid. Wow! In no time at all they were totally immersed in the blocks. They built buildings and a race track. They were disappointed when mom said it was time to go. One lesson learned, though: The two oldest were boys and pretty soon they were using the longer scraps as swords. subsequently, when our own 2 great grandchildren (boys, ages 5 and 4) arrived, I did not offer any pieces longer than about 8". They, too dug right in without any urging at all.
So, since all woodworkers must face similar issues with scraps, what do you do with yours?
Pete Stanaitis ---------------
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On 2/13/2012 11:26 AM, Pete S wrote:

Yep, and put a light of some sort on the end of the longer scraps and Star Wars will be re-enacted all over again, guaranteed. :)
Good post!
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Yep, those babies like all that kind of play. Their imaginations do the rest.
When my girlfriends 2 boys were young, they not only played with the scraps, but I roughly cut out shapes of rifles, from 3' - 4' scrap. They and neighbor's kids played with those for more than a year. Prior to the cutouts, they used sticks/limbs, for rifles. I don't think Star Wars was out, yet.... another good idea. *One year, my brother bought his boys some $100+ outdoor Christmas gifts. He went outside to find them playing with sticks. He was pissed! LOL.
Leftover cherry scraps ended up as these, also: http://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@N04/6180702389/in/photostream
Leftover log and limb scraps ended up as this (one of several, as well as other odd bench & small table pieces): http://www.flickr.com/photos/43836144@N04/5323317669/in/photostream
Sonny
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SNIP

I have made about 10 sets of blocks, each with over 60 pieces (66 typical) and their own individual boxes. To make them stack (and pack) well, the basic block should be twice as wide as it is thick and twice as long as it is wide. You get to half blocks, double long, ramps, pillars, half pillars, wedges, arches, etc. Round columns, too.
I started out (before I had a planer and jointer) with 5/4 stock. At the time, that was 1-1/8" thick. So, my basic blocks were 1-1/8 X 2-1/4 X 4-1/2. I made jigs to help cut them, especially the ramps because your fingers get too close to the TS blade when cutting without a jig. I got into trouble when the home center started to stock 5/4 that was only 1-1/16 thick. My jigs then were NG and I wound up throwing away a bunch of blocks before I caught on. Now-a- days, I use 2X material. Construction site cut-offs are great. I plane down to 1-1/8 and they clean up nice. If I was starting over, I would probably only plane down to 1-1/4. But since I already have the jigs, I go to 1-1/8.
I made 4 sets this year, one for a grandson and three for Toys-4- Tots. All the sets I have made have been construction lumber save one I made from leftover maple. My oldest set has been "in the field" for 14 years and is none too worse for the wear. Don't let anybody tell you they "need" to be hardwood. And yes, these are very popular. In two cases I had to make a second set for families where the oldest wouldn't give up the blocks to his younger sibling.
Making the blocks isn't particularly challanging, but I did learn some "mass production" tricks along the way. And, since they are so well received, it does feel rewarding.
Bill Leonhardt
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*snip*

The larger stuff gets saved for another project, while the smaller stuff and the dangerous or hopelessly warped stuff gets put in the fire bin. I've done a bit of lumber making with a bandsaw, so the fire bin does tend to fill reasonably quickly as the rough edges get trimmed.
Jointer shavings often make a good fire starter.
Puckdropper
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You're lucky... my kids mine my cherry and walnut inventory, cut it up themselves, and make things out of it. That leaves me with less stock for my projects... Of course I help them select the right rough cut boards for what they want to make. I also supervise their use of the stationary tools (at least that is what I tell my wife). They've been using tools since they where in diapers, literally. We haven't had a single mishap that involved blood despite the razor sharp hand and power tools. Careful instruction and care go a long ways... Then again, this kind of wood inventory problem I like to have... I can live with it. ;~)
Doug Stowe and his Wisdom of the Hands has it right! Keep up the good work!
John
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Thank you for this article. That's all I can say. You most surely have created this blog into some thing specific. You clearly know what that you are performing, you have covered so many bases.Thanks!
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On 2/13/2012 12:26 PM, Pete S wrote: .

Firewood. If the scraps are too small, the kids might swallow them and choke to death. Too big and they might hurl them at one another, and put out and eye. Until there are some clear gov't guidelines, I prefer to sit the kids in front of the tube to watch old Oprah and Law and Order re-runs...
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Jack
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Better use fresh cut firewood so they don't get splinters...
John
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