Crafting Christmas: Local man makes wooden cars for Christmas | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | December 22, 2017 5:00 pm
Last Updated: December 20, 2017 at 1:57 pm
By GEORGE SALSBERRY
The end of an aisle of merchandise at Westbury’s Ace Hardware at 1050 Bells Highway has been transported back in time — a time when cherished Christmas toys were handcrafted from wood.
The display of wooden cars and trucks are the result of Noel Ison’s long hours in Pappy’s Bunker,his version of a man cave.
Woodworking and Ison are well acquainted. “I’ve been playing around with it for 15 years,” he said. “Sometimes I go away from it for a year, but I always come back.
He first got interested in woodworking as a visit from his grandson was approaching. His grandson, like the boy’s father, was enamored with computers.
Ison’s daughter asked Ison “to teach him how to play in the dirt, to play with toys little boys play with.”
As he pondered how to entice his grandson outdoors, Ison was working his way through a toy magazine and found a rail dragster powered by a rubber band.
“I had a hacksaw,” Ison said. He manufactured the dragster’s body from wood and bought the wheels.
“I couldn’t wait to test it,” Ison said. He took it outside and wound the rubber band up. “It went down the driveway and across the cul-de-sac.”
When his grandson arrived for the visit, Ison took him out to the driveway and handed him wind-up the dragster to try out.
“It raised up the front end and took off,” Ison said. “He looked up and said, ‘So?’”
“He’s in college now and he is still a computer nerd. But, he is a nice young man and that is all that counts.”
Although grandpa’s bid to introduce his grandson to playing in the dirt was unsuccessful, making that first wooden toy sparked something in Ison.
“I started adding tools. I made a lot of different things, but the toys are the most fun for me,” Ison said.
“They are fun to do and make nice gifts for family and friends.”
“Some of the designs are in my head, some come from photos. I’ve only built one or two things from a plan.”
One of his most ambitious projects was making a wooden replica of a 1935 Auburn boattail car with spoke wheels for his wife Bettye. He used seven different kinds of wood in it — constructing it took 60 hours.
When Ison’s at work in workshop, the neighbors usually know it. The woodworking tools fill one side of the workshop, while the other end is filled with stereo equipment.
“I like to play music when I am working,” Ison said. He leans towards beach music and tunes from the 50s. “I have a 300-watt amplifier and 27 speakers blasting out,” he said.
“My next door neighbor will call if she is going to be out working in the yard and wants to listen to the music,” he said.
Ison said woodworking “is relaxing, it keeps my mind busy and it keeps my hands busy. I have the ability to do most any toy. The fun part is giving it away.”
Building the inventory for his first bid to sell the items marked “the first time that I built more than one of something. Usually I only build one and move on. That is the challenge.”
“I was out there from 9 in the morning to 9 at night, seven days a week, trying to get 43 toys made for the display,” Ison said.
“I’m satisfied with the sales,” Ison said. The first thing to go out the door was a little toy airplane; the second was a batmobile.
“I’m not in the habit of going into retail,” Ison said.” “My granddaughter gets her driver’s license in February, and the money is going towards her car.”
Ison estimates that recycled wood makes up 80 percent of his cars and trucks. “I adapt what I am making to the wood that I have.”
“Several things are made out of the fence my neighbor tore down,” Ison said. He used a hand planer to get rid of the weathered exterior of the fencing.
“There are no nails, no metal in my cars,” Ison said. The paint is all child friendly. “If kids will be playing with it, I do everything I can to make it safe.”