Like Santa in his North Pole workshop, Sisters’ Ren Broomhead is hard at work this season crafting handmade wooden toys for curious children and adults with a playful heart.
Broomhead moved to Sisters three years ago from Washington, where he worked for Weyerhaeuser for 34 years and retired in 1997. He and his wife, Sue, relocated to Central Oregon for three things: the weather, the quilting and the abundant area hiking trails.
“After a while you get tired of the grey rainy days,” he said. “My wife is an avid quilter and I’m a big backpacker and hiker. We have a lot of special friends here and been to Sisters so many times for quilt show and to visit good friends.”
Broomhead’s wordworking is just a hobby but he values his time piecing together the various creations.
“When we had young grandchildren I decided to build a small rocking horse for them and that’s where it began. One’s called a Mini Mare and the other a Baby Bessie rocking cow. I just enjoy working with wood and thought I’d try it out. My grandkids are all too old now so I thought I’d make them for other grandparents. Then I made a buckboard bench from recycled barnwood. I started creating them out of red oak then saw all this leftover wood I had and that’s how I got going doing the toys.”
These wood remnants lying around the garage gave Broomhead the inspiration to deliver his toy fleet of tractors, cranes, bulldozers, diesel trucks and flatbed trailers.
“I have a contact at the Toys And Joys catalog that provide the blueprints and some of the accessories like wheels and dowels and that’s about it. Everything else is cut and built by hand.“
Each miniature vehicle is extensively sanded and assembled one at a time according to the complicated master plans.
“Our son, John, is in the Army and I made him a Humvee vehicle. He’s a lieutenant colonel stationed in Germany but now deployed to Afghanistan. We packed up and brought this 19-inch solid wood hummer back with us to his change of command ceremony in Virginia Beach last June. He took it with him to his office in Germany. It’s made out of pine, red oak and black walnut for contrast and weighs about ten pounds. It’s a lot of sanding and fitting, then finished with a spray varnish to maintain colors. The hummer alone had nine pages of plans and over a hundred pieces.”
Next up for Broomhead is a bulldozer to sit on his lowboy trailer.
“It has black walnut tracks and a lot of detail,” he explained. “I think the challenge is the best part of making all these toys and improving the skills that I have. I’ve not a cabinetmaker by any means but I enjoy doing it and it’s a relaxing activity.”
Broomhead wishes to credit the folks at Donterra Artworks for making space available for the rocking horses, buckboard chairs and barnwood bench.
“They’re good people and have been really helpful,” he said.
Broomhead’s line of toy trucks can be seen and purchased at the Three Sisters Lions Club Holiday Faire in the Three Winds Shopping Center and at Donterra Artworks on Hood Avenue.
Anyone interested in prices and availability can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 435-714-0327.