Dale Toman headed out the door of his Vaughn home and followed the beaten path to his workshop, just like he’s done hundreds of times before.
Toman, 69, is a toy maker, a lover of wood and glue who turns pine into intricate working art –– soothing his mind, heart and soul at the same time.
He grew up in South Dakota and spent most of his life working civil service jobs. In 1997 he retired as a Veterans Administration warehouse worker.
Toman’s fancy for wood started when his wife, Sherrill, handed him a woodcrafters catalog back in the early ‘80s.
He found a train set he wanted to build to help him relieve stress. For his first project, he followed a detailed blueprint. “I made it and it looked real nice. It was just taking wood and making something out of it and when I was done, it was a toy,” he said, smiling.
Toman was soon hooked on a life hobby.
The couple moved to Vaughn in 2007, and he’s been building toys in his backyard shop ever since.
He’s made a variety of different toys over the years, but has a hankering for making construction equipment like tractors, dump trucks and the likes.
“It’s just pine wood and Elmer’s wood glue. That is all I use,” he said.
He picks his projects at random, with each one taking between one and two months to build.
Toman is methodical and meticulous. His toys have many small working parts he builds from scratch. He often goes on location to take photos so his toys can be as realistic as possible.
“It takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of finesse. It’s something that you can’t just take a bandsaw and cut out,” Toman said.
He still uses blue prints, but said they generally just show the basic elements of each project.
“It’s precision work. I use small files, do plenty of sanding and make all the toys from scratch,” he said, holding up and rotating the pistons inside a small truck motor.
Toman is a diabetic, and says his labor of love is also good for his health.
“I go down to the shop and it seems like I am in my own world. It keeps my mind active and I’m always getting around and never sitting. It’s a joy,” he added.
He doesn’t consider his hobby a business, but he does sell some pieces and others he gives away to sick children.
His next big project is going to be building a fire engine, complete with a working water pump.
“I got some ideas how I’m going to do it, but I want to go down to the fire station in Key Center and see if they’ll let me go inside one of these fire trucks,” he said, with a boyish grin.
Toman can be reached at (253) 884-3547.