Workshop

Work area

I have a very small studio where I do all the toys. It is about 7 square meters (~75 square feet) out of which half is with shelves for storage and more than a quarter with the "bench" and the band saw. This gives me 1 square meter (10 square feet) working space.

Sometimes I use the space outside, especially for sanding operations.

It is small and cosy and I like working in it.

Tools

I always prefer hand tools over the electrical tools. The reason is simple: they are quiet, allowing you to know and feel the wood, don't make a lot of dust and best of all, they are all wireless. But that does not mean I do not have electrical tools.

My electrical tools are the band saw and a drill. Band saw is mostly used for cutting wood and bringing it closer to the final size and the drill is used for making holes and sometimes for sanding. At one moment I hope I can buy a sanding machine.

My hand tools consist of the following: few planes, some hand drills, saws, chisels, squares, marking gauge, levels, etc. Pretty much the tools found in any woodworker workshop. Only few of them are new. Some of them were gifts from family and a very good friend (Terry E.) and some were bought from flea market in Brasov and eBay UK.

Finishes

For all my toys I prefer a clear natural finish of the wood. I do not like staining or varnishing the wood unless the customer wants it this way or I really have to for durability purposes.

The finish is an important factor in showing off the work. Because these are toys that will most likely be used by children I use only natural and non-toxic finishes.

Natural Finishes

The most common natural finishes are:

  • Oils - walnut, jojoba, tung, linseed, olive
  • Wax - bees wax or carnauba (vegetal) wax
  • Oil & Wax in various proporsions gives you a paste that can be easily applied on wood and polished.

My toys are finished with Walnut oil or a combination of 25% Jojoba oil and 75% bees wax. The latter is safe for toys given to people who have nut allergies.

Non-toxic finishes

In order for a finishing product to be considered non-toxic it has to comply with one of the two standards: EN71 (European standard) or ASTM D 4236 (American standard).

To easily identify these products look for the following icons on the tins / bottles.

EN-71 compliance icon ASTM D 4236 compliance icon

I use this type of finish for collectable toys and jewellery boxes, give the fact that is it harder to wear.

Other finishes

The other type of finishes are alkyd varnishes or lacquer. These products give a very good finish but they are a health hazard without proper equipment. Their VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) are very high and thus they pose a real health threat to the person using them. Once they are dry they are safe. Probably most of your furniture is finished with products from this category.

Normally, water based finishes are safer than alkyd finishes, because of their very low VOC.

Because of very high alkyd varnish VOCs I tend not to use these products at all. I prefer water based finishes which I currently use.