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Inspiring Imaginations - Patrick Slater of Vermont Wooden Toy Factory engineers fun for children and adults

12/09/2022 01:36PM ● By TAY GREENLEAF
“MY MAIN GOAL IS TO CREATE toys that will take kids away from their screens,” says Patrick Slater, owner and builder of Vermont Wooden Toy Factory. “I want to get them to think and imagine.” It’s not just children that Patrick wants to inspire either, adults also have been awed by the craftsmanship and engineering that Patrick has poured into each and every toy he has produced. Based out of his shop in Charlotte, VT, Patrick has created a wonderland of toys that allow his love for mechanical engineering to run free.





Since childhood, Patrick always had a keen eye for toy-making and their creation.Although his hobby of making boats and planes was inspiring enough, it was a family heirloom that really put him on his path. “ As a kid I spent hours looking at a book that was published in 1913 which was passed down from my grandfather, titled: “The Boy Mechanic: 700.Things for Boys To Do,” says Patrick. “ I loved to figure out how things work.”



This love for engineering and construction followed Patrick into his adult life, where after 30 years working in IT, in 2016 he decided to change his life by going into woodworking. Despite a change towards the better, he continued to have haunting dreams of new creations. “ I spent many sleepless nights designing a jig in my head that would utilize a router to carve a spiral in a wooden dowel,” explains Patrick. “It became a challenge when a fellow woodworker told me he didn’t think it was possible.”

Driven, Patrick made the first prototype for “Marblelous Spiral,”a simple marble run which he placed on Etsy and found that it was beginning to sell. This inspired him to create more complex designs, resulting in “The Crank” and“Mother-in-Law”--all three of which continue to be top sellers for Patrick today due to their engineering, craftsmanship, and of course, fun.


While the original drive towards toy-making was to hone his engineering spirit, Patrick says his new motivation is to inspire children and adults just like himself. “I always desire to create unique toys that hopefully inspire kids to think about how things work,” says Patrick. “Most of my toy designs can’t be found anywhere else.” His first creation, “ Marblelous Spiral” has especially become a beloved favorite to educators and therapists due to its grounding sensory experience that can’t be achieved by other toys made from plastic. Patrick also gets an outpouring of admiration at craft fairs from adults who are keen to quality craftsmanship and engineering, and of course from children who just love to play. “ Our table [at craft fairs] is always full of kids,” says Patrick. “We joke that there will be a babysitting fee if they leave their kids at our booth.




It isn’t just the concept of the toys that Patrick uses a personal touch on either. Most of the wood used to create each toy is harvested from local maple or cherry hardwood trees. “My first series of prototypes were made from hardwood I had purchased from a retail supplier, but I quickly found it to be too expensive,” explains Patrick. “Just before the pandemic, wood prices rose sharply so I decided to invest in a bandsaw mill. Now most of the wood we use is harvested from our 20-acre wooded lot. It’s truly a timber to toy production.” Using quality wood with quality craftsmanship isn’t just for show either, Patrick tells us that from the beginning, his goal was to create a product that would last for generations.


Now in 2022, Patrick says he is facing a happy problem: whether to remain a small business or begin expanding production. “ I get requests from people who want me to recreate a long-lost childhood toy, and even educators and therapists as far as UK and Australia who want specialty toys for their work,” says Patrick. “These requests alone mean I need to start looking at scaling up production.” Despite his popular demand, Patrick admits he would be just as happy remaining a smallVermont business. Like the art put into all of his work, Patrick finds he works best close to home.


Vermont Wooden Toy Factory
142 Oak Hill Road
Charlotte, VT

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