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Finding joy making wooden toys

David Myrvik has always enjoyed working with wood. He used to purchase a woodworking magazine and construct some of the projects he found inside.

David Myrvik, of Minneota, with some of the wooden toys he has created over the years. Myrvik usually gives away his toys to grandchildren and charitable causes. Photo by Scott Thoma

“But some of the things in the woodworking magazines were so complicated that I started designing my own things,” said the 79-year-old retired construction worker/carpenter/electrician who lives in Minneota. “And as I made them, I would improve some angles to make them better.”

When his wife, Joanne, took a photo of a wooden toy truck she came across at a vendor show a few years ago, he jumped at the chance to see what things he could come up with.

“I made one from the picture Joanne took and it actually turned our pretty good,” said Myrvik, who has been delivering Senior Perspectives in an around the Minneota area for the past three years. “And that’s how it all started.”

Myrvik’s wooden toys would make any child, and most adults, smile. Piece by piece, it all comes together like a puzzle. The end results are quality hand-crafted wooden toy vehicles that appear as though they just came off an assembly line at a manufacturing company.

Myrvik usually gives the toys he makes to his grandchildren or donates them to silent auctions or benefits. He and Joanne have four children, 12 grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

Myrvik will also make a mental note of a certain vehicle he might pass by on a road and use the image later to make a toy version of it.

A close inspection of the doors on the wood-crafted semi-trailer trucks he makes reveals small wooden designs. Myrvik points out two different ones.

Myrvik drills a hole in one of his toy trucks. Woodworking has been a fun hobby for Mryvik in his retirement years. Photo by Scott Thoma

“This one is Haagen Dazs and this one is Schwan’s,” he says, pointing to the trademark logos of each company imprinted into thin pieces of light-colored wood. “Do you know where these are from? They are actually cut out from ice cream sticks and I glued them on the door of my (toy) trucks.”

Myrvik also puts a small Star of David on the vehicles he makes in reference to his first name.

“I use walnut, purpleheart, cherry, oak, fir and some ash,” Myrvik replies when asked about the various colors of the toys.

Purpleheart wood comes from South and Central America, as well as Africa. It can be quite costly and is only available from a limited number of locations in the United States. It’s also an extremely dense and water-resistant wood, and is ranked as one of the hardest woods in the world.

Myrvik was able to purchase a piece of purpleheart in Washington.

“(Purpleheart) is even harder than walnut,” he noted. “But it’s a pretty wood and I like using it on my wood trucks and some other things I make.”

The wood toys he constructs are approximately 1/32 scale and include train engines with accompanying oil-tanker cars, semi-trailer trucks, tractors, fork lifts, car carriers, skid loaders, bulldozers, logging trucks, and side dumpers.

David Myrvik, of Minneota, has made several wood trucks and trains and other toys over the years. Above is one of his favorites, a double-decker car carrier. Photo by Scott Thoma

One of the more impressive vehicles in Myrvik’s toy arsenal is the double-decker car carrier that he designed.

“That’s my personal favorite,” he said.

The carrier holds six cars that Myrvik also made. The top level of the car carrier folds flat like a real one and the cars can be driven on or off the carrier.

“Everyone asks me how long it takes to make one of these toys,” he said. “I’ve never really cared to know how long it takes to make them. I don’t work on them from start to finish. I’ll make a bunch of the same parts and then eventually put them together.”

A finishing coat of tung oil is applied to a completed vehicle, giving each one a luxurious shine while also allowing the natural beauty of the wood to emerge.

The logging trucks Myrvik makes are realistic looking with small branches cut from trees at his residence acting as the mammoth logs seen on the real logging trucks used at lumber camps.

The forklift he made is also finely detailed and includes a driver made out of wood. The forks move up and down and can actually slide into scale-sized pallets that Mryvik also makes.

One of David’s toys, a wooden forklift. Photo by Scott Thoma

What’s unique about Myrvik’s hand-crafted items is that he is making them despite being without two fingers on his dominant right hand. A portion of his middle finger is now acting as his thumb.

“I lost half of my middle finger on my right hand in the service in 1963,” he explained. “Then I lost my (index) finger and thumb in an industrial accident at work in 1983.”

A surgeon in Sioux Falls removed the remaining portion of Myrvik’s middle finger and attached it to the area where his thumb once was, giving him a makeshift thumb in order to better grip and carry things.

“I have feelings in all of them,” he said, while simultaneously wiggling the two remaining fingers and makeshift thumb on his right hand for emphasis.

Myrvik estimates that he has made “around 75” toy vehicles so far.

It’s hard to tell just how much time and effort goes into the making of one of Myrvik’s wooden toy vehicles. But you sure can appreciate the beauty and fine craftsmanship that has gone into each of them.

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