I spent last weekend making helicopters; no, it wasn’t what I expected to be doing either. I was at Dalkeith Country Fair, a new event just outside Edinburgh, as part of Gavin Phillips’ Shed Therapy stand. Gavin had asked me to join his team of greenwood demonstrators and makers who provide demonstrations, have-a-go session and items for sale at a number of shows through the summer. The team also included Tom Dillon (one of Mike Abbott’s assistants), Rolf Buwert a professional turner and Digger Gardiner who’s new to woodworking and was getting his first taste of being at a show.
I had brought my kitchenware, chairs and fan birds and we arranged our marquee with polelathes, shavehorses signage designed to tempt people over to have a look and have a go. As I unpacked, I casually showed Gavin the toy helicopters I sometimes make. He was immediately taken by them and set me to making some more. Well, I pretty much spent the rest of the weekend carving ‘copters to try and keep up with Gavin’s amazing ability to sell them. Simple in a way; walk up to someone, offer to show them how it works and then wait for a break in their enjoyment to ask if they’d like to buy it to take home and continue the fun. By Sunday we had established the ‘Dalkeith Flying School’ and families, as well as buying a helicopter each for competitions, wanted their photo taken by the sign.
But hang on, I’m a craftsman and these are just gimmicks aren’t they; why am wasting my time on them? The simplest answer is that they gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people and meant I went home with some cash in my pocket when other things weren’t selling. From a larger viewpoint I think that anything which engages the public with natural materials and the idea that they can make their own toys or whatever from local materials is a good thing.
While I’m talking about helicopters, make sure you have a look at Toy Making Dad. When I was first learning to make them I was having stability issues and, after searching a few aeronautical forums I happened upon Dan’s site which solved all my problems, as well as making me laugh out loud.