Unique handmade wooden toys donated to Rancho Santa Fe Library


By Karen Billing

The Rancho Santa Fe Library was recently the recipient of 100 handmade wooden toys from the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association, according to member Jim Vitale, who personally delivered the trains, cars, baby doll cradles and high chairs. A group of 50 retired craftsmen make and build the toys to donate to local organizations.

This year they are donating toys to all of the county and city libraries. They also recently made donations to the Del Mar Library and plan to visit the Carmel Valley Library. They also hope to donate to local Head Start programs, a program that provides preschool for children of low-income families.

The Woodworkers Association currently has 1,500 members, both hobbyists and wood professionals. Vitale himself is a hobbyist, working as a life insurance agent in La Jolla and recently taking up his woodworking again. He has been in charge of selecting toy recipients and delivering the toy haul like a spring Santa Claus.

The group of 50 toymakers work with donated wood. The scraps of quality wood come from a variety of sources, from local cabinet carpenters to guitar makers.

The toymakers take great care to make sure that the toys are safe — they use non-toxic paint on the wood and they ensure all of the pieces are big enough so they can’t be swallowed.

The toy that the toymakers make the most of are race cars — last year they sent 100 race cars to children in Afghanistan. They have also delivered toys to Tijuana but place an emphasis on gifting to local nonprofits.

“This is one of the neater toys they make,” said Vitale of a train with an engine carefully constructed to link four train cars.

“You cannot find craftsmanship like this.”

To learn more about the San Diego Fine Woodworking Association,