Thursday, June 30, 2016

An Ultimate Toy Maker

Maker Faires have been described as "part science fair, part county fair, and part entirely something new". You can add to that description, "part toy fair". The Faires are "gatherings of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, authors, artists, students and commercial exhibitors of all ages". Add mass marketers and trade buyers to that demographic mix and a Faire rivals Javits or Nuremberg. These well attended Maker Faires can be found globally with over 100 affiliated events around the world each year. A recent Faire in San Mateo, CA, now in its tenth year running, drew over 150,000 makers and kids over a weekend!

Bob Knetzger, a professional toy designer and inventor for over forty years saw the connection between his creative skills and interests to those of many hobbyists and toy lovers in the Maker Faire audiences. In his career, Bob built many prototypes and models to demonstrate his and partner Rick Gurolnick's ideas at Neotoy in their attempts to license new toy concepts. Among those many concepts was the wildly popular line of Dr. Dreadful toys. His experiences were more than enough to get Maker Media to publish his fascinating book: MAKE:FUN! Create Your Own Toys, Games, and Amusements.

In MAKE:FUN!, Bob lays out the tools and step by step plans for turning everyday materials into clever toys, games, and amusements; some of which have recognizable relationships to successful commercial originals. The book contains 40 highly illustrated projects that show how to use simple electronics, mold and sculpt plastics, and assemble toys that demonstrate scientific principles and  how many popular playthings work.

Among my favorites is the Mad Monster Candy Snatch Game. Perhaps the attraction to Mad Monster is that Knetzger uses the principles of the classic Operation Game to make a clever candy dispenser. Rather than withdrawing plastic pieces from Cavity Sam, a steady hand with the forceps earns a candy treat! Touch the Mad Monster in an attempt to extricate a piece of candy and he flashes, crackles, and says: "You make the Monster mad--You lose!" There is no candy treat for a shaky hand.

Hobbyists with a love of toys and desires to make them will find MAKE:FUN! a must have publication. Perhaps some budding inventor in search of a creative spark will springboard Bob's meticulous plans for the forty projects into a totally new toy. For Bob Knetzger, that would validate his long held contention that original ideas occur "when two old things bump into each other to make something new". It's a book that fits neatly into any toy inventor's library.


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