About this project
Hi there friendly potential backer and thank you for taking the time to read about my project! The Cliff's Notes version is that with your help I am going to build really cool, really sturdy wooden castles. These will be the kinds of toys worthy of "Greatest (belated) Christmas Ever" to kids and "coolest way to display the collection" status to adults who refuse to grow up. If you are intrigued, please read on!
This project is about two ideals: that imagination is the most powerful force in a child's development, and that the best toys are timeless. I grew up during the transition from G.I. Joes and Barbies to video games and electronic gadgets. I had plenty of both, yet my fondest memories aren't of high scores and beaten levels. They are of the worlds I created with green army men, Legos, and my imagination. I'm not the only person my age that feels this way. There's a strange phenomenon going on in the world of playtime. More and more I hear of children casting aside their iGizmos in favor of their parent's old toys; rediscovered in the attic or rescued from Grandma's basement. In fact that's sort of the story behind this project.
This project is inspired by the memory of my grandfather Ed Fromm. Ed was a carpenter, designer, and tinkerer. From the doors of his workshop emerged beautiful furniture, game tables, cabinets, and ingenious widgets. The scrap corner served as stock for the imaginations of his grandchildren. With his guiding hands we learned to turn leftover pieces into everything from bird houses to battleships. Going through some old things I stumbled upon some plans for a project we never got around to; a wooden fortress for toy soldiers...
...Flash forward a few years. My girlfriend's 10 year old was whining that he had nothing to do because the Xbox controller was out of batteries. It was a beautiful sunny day and I was trying to get some work done. I ran down a mental list of all of the flashy toys and games he had to play with, but there was no interest in any of them. In a fit of desperation I handed him a shopping bag filled with old green army men and pointed to a rocky part of the yard. Three hours later the backyard general returned grinning ear to ear. "Jon these things are awesome! But you need to build a base for the bad guys!" In the coming days I discovered many people had similar stories. The final "ah-ha!" moment came when a five year old told me his new flashy store bought castle wasn't "real and mean looking enough." Within a few weeks pencil sketches had become CAD models had become prototypes. Grandpa Ed's Workshop was born.
That's enough of a history lesson, time to hear about the castles. First of all my castles are big; big enough that 1:32 scale and 54 mm figures (green army men size) will fit in them and 3" figurines (action figure sized) won't look like giants next to them. The castles are made up of freestanding pieces that can be rearranged. I'm offering full castles and standalone pieces. The basic pieces are the Guard Tower, Corner Tower, Grand Tower, Gatehouse, and Wall Sections. All pieces are handmade to the highest level of quality and craftsmanship.
Each piece is constructed out of furniture grade 1/4" and 3/8" Baltic Birch plywood with solid wood accents. The pieces are painted with a textured stone color of your choosing and sealed with a matte clear coat. The finish and durability is second to none. For comparison, most commercially available wooden castles are made of thin 6 mm plywood and finished with decals.
Fabricating large numbers of these castles wouldn't be possible without careful planning and engineering. The various pieces are designed with common features and interchangeable parts. I use patterns, jigs, and templates to maintain consistency. Careful tracking of material usage helps me to minimize waste. The prototyping effort allowed me to develop a process flow that greatly reduces production time. I've also developed a range of customization options. These include accentuating the base designs with special decor, paint schemes, and accessories.
This project is starting from the ground up. I've outfitted the workshop and built the prototypes out of my own pocket. Your Kickstarter pledge will help me recoup some of those costs and fund initial production. Besides financial support, I'm eager to crowd-source design ideas and solicit feedback. This is going to be quite an adventure and I'd like my backers to share in the joy of the ride. I sincerely hope you enjoy exploring the castles and thank you in advance for your pledge. In a few months you'll be the excited owner of a castle that would make Grandpa Ed proud!
Risks and challenges
All of the equipment to make the castles is on hand. The enthusiasm of Kickstarters like you will drive how quickly production can get rolling! Time is the biggest risk to this project. I will be doing most of the fabricating and will do my best to not keep you waiting. My schedule is conducive to this, and I thoroughly enjoy my workshop time. Thankfully there is a wonderful group of people who believe in my vision and are eager to help where they can. It will be a wild ride and we can't wait!!!!
I have big plans for developing new products and expanding production. Of course growth depends on a supportive market. A successful Kickstarter campaign will prove that the interest is there. In my wildest dreams I would love to take this project and grow a full time business out of it.
Special thanks to Dan Pryzgoda for producing the video, Dan Miller for camera work and moral support, Matt Fromm for design input, and Melisa Miles for encouraging me to take the big step.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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