April 6, 2009

The Toys Our Grandfathers Built Are Now Antiques

homemade pedal biplane from the 50s

On the way to get a haircut this weekend [in DC, Georgetown], I was stopped by this awesome, homemade pedal plane in the window of Metro Interiors, one of the few clean 20th century vintage shops I've found in that town.

According to the shopkeep, the plane was built in the 50's by an engineer for his grandkids to play with. It's in vintage condition, which is to say, "worn in spots," but the general coolness of the workmanship comes through nicely. It's all shaped wood and plywood and metal.

pedal_biplane_metro2.jpg

From the top, you can see the markings [similar to a Pitts aerobatic plane like this one] and the authentic control stick where the steering wheel would be. There are slick retro-style pedal biplanes out there now for $580, but I can say without hesitation that if I were in the pedal biplane market, I'd spend the extra $1620 for the homebrewed classic.

homemade steam shovel sandbox toy

Similar story for this sweet, homemade sandbox digger inside. The Metro guy thought the well-cut metal and the turned handles meant it might have been adapted from a kit, but all that lumber on the base makes me think it's built from scratch, probably from plans in a spring issue of Popular Mechanics or something. [Google magazine search turns up several ads for a "child operated backhoe", in 1979 and 1985, but no picture. Meanwhile, holy crap, 1966 Pedal Plane of Death in Popular Mechanics: "My three-year-old often 'solos' at speeds up to 15 mph."]

As Mister Jalopy said on Studio 360 this weekend, there was an era where every house had at least a basic workbench, and where there was always at least one guy on the block with a lathe in his garage. The retail of not having your own lathe: $650.

1 Comment

I miss those DC shops. So much fun to poke around and you never know what may turn up.

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