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Retiree toys with passion
David Tyler of Buckley has worked with wood most of his life.
He worked in construction until the age of 59. Between jobs and approaching Christmas with no disposable income for gifts, he decided to make use of his power tools to create a set of wooden toys for his grandkids. When the neighbors caught glimpses of Tyler’s creations, they asked how they could get their own.
Now Tyler has his own one-man operation making intricately crafted toys, models and small furniture. He calls it Tyler Toys and Crafts. His specialty is realistic models of trucks and automobiles, but he also makes items like motorcycle baby rockers and carousel horses. His products are detailed – some of his trucks have opening hoods with engines – and are made entirely of wood and glue. He doesn’t use nails to hold his crafts together.
Tyler doesn’t work on a schedule or keep track of the time put into a piece; he goes into the shop each morning and works into the evening, taking breaks for meals.
“I’ll start the day and go into my shop,” he said. “At some time, my wife will call me for lunch and then afterward I’ll get back to work until dinner. And then if I have nothing else to do after dinner, I’ll spend two to three more hours in the shop.
“I enjoy doing it that way because everything in the day is completely out of my mind while I’m in my shop.”
As a result, Tyler doesn’t operate his business in a way that puts his focus on expansion or the bottom line. His steady income comes from working maintenance part-time on McDonald’s restaurants in Bonney Lake and Enumclaw. He prices his toys several hundred dollars below similar works of art by other craftsmen, he said. After crafting a model of a cement mixer truck, Tyler found an almost identical piece online selling for $435. Tyler later sold his for $115.
Part of the reason he can sell his pieces inexpensively is that he receives alder wood, his primary material, from the scraps of an Alaskan wood mill. He buys his other woods, including pre-made wheels for his vehicle models.
Tyler has sold models to customers as far south as California and as far east as Virginia. He has some staples – his golf carts are becoming popular around Seattle area courses – but he also crafts custom toys on request if provided with a photograph.
Despite his deliberate work schedule – or perhaps because of it – Tyler has plans for his work that extend months into the future. He is already figuring out logistics for the October Holiday Food And Gift Show at the Tacoma Dome.
Craft shows are Tyler’s bread and butter, what gives him exposure to potential customers. This fall, his booth will be directly across from Santa Claus and he will be demonstrating how he assembles his toys. He will have to spend time in the coming months crafting separate parts to compress his assembly time on the show floor. At one point, Tyler will select a child to help him assemble a toy and then reward the youngster with the finished toy.
To bring in more online business, Tyler plans to change his Web URL to www.woodncrafts.com. In the meantime, his products can be found at www.tylertoysncrafts.com.