The first toy I made was the typical Cowboy’s Gun, or ‘Revolver', drawn out on a thickish piece of wood, then carefully cut to shape with a fretsaw.
My first memories of making toys for Christmas started when I was about 16 or 17 years old at the Albion Cinema in North Shields. I was a rewind boy looking after the reels of film that had already been through the film projector. Once shown on the screen, the film on the spool was back to front and could not be shown again until it had been rewound – hence the need of a rewind boy to do the job – and that was my job. I mention this because this is where I did some of the toys I made for people in the cinema, namely usherettes working in the cinema. How could I be doing that as well as doing my proper job as a rewind boy? Well it was easy.
Once my rewinding work was finished I had free time until the next reel came off the second projector. This was when I could set to and do some of my woodworking. No-one complained and the Chief Projectionist never said otherwise.
My tools were a coping saw (rather like a fretsaw, only smaller) and a clamp to hold the timber to hold it still until I finished cutting the wood pattern. My first toy was the typical cowboy’s gun, or ‘revolver’. I would draw it out on a thickish piece of wood, then carefully cut the outline with the saw. When cut out, I carefully gave it shape to look like a real gun, and that was it. Then start another one.
After that, I decided to make small military tanks from pictures I had seen in newspapers. My models were made simply by using the outline contour of the tank in question e.g. two sides and then support them with bridging struts to hold the sides together and then cover the whole frame with thick card and that was it; and with a spot of green paint it was finished.
At my Mother’s suggestion, I helped make small toy doll’s prams. I made the body and undercarriage with my Mother making the folding hoods. Amazing!!
Footnote: The Chief Projectionist was so interested in what I was doing that he bought a second-hand ‘hobbies’ fretsaw machine. This made cutting thin wood a very quick operation. Another one converted to the cause of making your own.