Note: This feature is in the April TT&C 2012 issue.
Don Graber showing the blueprint for the gasoline truck that he built.
The realistic fire truck ladder slides in and out. Cutting and gluing the many small pieces then making the ladders slide in and out of one another took many hours of work.
Graber’s wife, Nancy, wanted a meat cannery truck for a church display, so Don designed and built this semi.
Walking into Don Graber’s toy factory totally astounded me. Toys were made down to the last intricate detail. The tracks on the backhoe were made out of many matching pieces of wood and were put together with wooden dowel pins. The smallest difference in the pieces would cause them not to work properly.
The ladders on the fire truck extend and match each other perfectly. Hydraulic cylinders, which appeared as real, lift the ladder boom. These were made by drilling out a larger rod and inserting a smaller one just to match the hole size, making the appearance of the piston sliding in and out of the cylinder.
“Each piece must be individually cut and formed,” said Graber. “This is not like a model airplane with precut parts.”
Graber, who has been a carpenter for years, lives in Geneva, Ind., and is not exactly sure of how long he has been making these wooden toys, “About 10 years, I think.”
He buys the toy blueprints and some of the specialty parts from a magazine called Toys and Joys, which are continually updated with new types of toy blueprints.
The toy pieces range from about 1/16 inch thick for the thinner pieces. “I cut them out on a table saw as close as I can then finish getting the bigger pieces to the right thickness by running them through the planer where I used to work,” he said. “This makes the wood uniform and nice.”
Graber uses his belt sander for the smaller pieces. All of his toys are made from poplar wood because it is so easy to work with and make into a finished product.
“I plan to just keep working on these small projects as I can,” said Graber. “My shop is heated in the wintertime, so I can come out here and work.”
With new plans coming out every year, Graber feels that he will always have something to build. He also comes up with ideas of his own.
“My wife was setting up a display at church, and the meat canner came in so she asked me if I could build a semitruck for her, so I came up with that.”
He said, “The Geneva City Chamber, in their annual meeting, have requested different things for displays.” Geneva was an oil town, so one year, the Chamber wondered if he could come up with an oil well; he made one with a derrick and then made an oil pump.
Want to read rest of story? It's available in the April TT&C 2012 magazine!
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