Focus on our makers: Bill Bradley, toymaker

Bill Bradley’s workshop, Enjoy Wooden Toys, is a cleverly compact artisan’s haven complete with table saw, scroll saw, work bench, drill press, sanders…. and about 10,000 clamps.

Sometimes it’s the roadblocks in life that actually lead us to new discoveries and opportunities. Bill Bradley, the toy maker who created our fun “help build it” model makerspace for our Market Days debut, was wintering in an RV park in Arizona and needed to stay out of the sun for his health. The community had a woodshop, which offered a change of scene and something to do indoors. While he began with whittling, the power tools exerted their siren call and he was soon using them to make irresistible little vehicles instead. As cars, buses and trucks began to accumulate, he began donating them to children’s hospitals in Phoenix and Mesa. Years later in New Hampshire, he jumped at the chance to put together a compact shop of his own and share his love of toys with a much larger audience.

Visitors to the factory floor of Enjoy Wooden Toys are greeted by a cheerful traffic jam of both private passenger autos and work trucks lining the shelves. The smaller and simpler are the most popular, but Bill’s creativity extends to logging trucks and plows and even a fire engine or two with extending ladders. His medium of choice is poplar from a local New Hampshire mill and he does NOT use screws, nails, or staples. The urge to pick one up and roll it is very strong (Bill kindly gave me a roadster to take home and play with.). And while an adult might be inclined to put a craft so much time went into on a high shelf, they are very much meant to be played with and loved. Bill uses non-toxic finishes and is firm that all his toys have to pass a “drop test” to be sold.

Asked if he could recommend any easy projects for a novice woodworker, Bill demurred and said it was more important to follow your passion into your new hobby. He also notes that networking with fellow makers at craft shows was extremely helpful to him, perhaps even more than the sales he made, because he learned so much about how to turn a hobby into a successful business.

While he does have some stock available at local businesses like Marketplace New England and The Olde Poste Restaurant in Chester, he has taken advantage of available online markets. You can find his toys at Amazon and at Etsy.

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