OLYMPIA - Kyle Flynn has turned his woodworker attention to wooden toys, after 20 years as a carpenter and cabinet maker.
Whittle, a new business and woodshop in downtown Olympia, is home to his product line of nine heirloom wooden toys and a place where customers of all ages can design their own woodcrafts for Flynn to build.
Once assembled, the custom wooden items – everything from toys and bookends to picture frames and mobiles – are turned over to the customers to paint in the woodshop at 116 Capitol Way N.
Flynn, 40, said the genesis of the business he opened last summer is fairly simple.
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“I couldn’t find what I was looking for in terms of wooden toys made in the United States,” said Flynn, whose son, Huckleberry, just turned 2.
And, he said, many toys are manufactured in ways that aren’t environmentally sustainable and coated with finishes that include toxic chemicals.
By contrast, all of the wood Flynn uses is either salvaged or harvested in a sustainable way. In addition, he uses nontoxic finishes made from organic materials, including Real Milk Paint and Chinawood oil, which is derived from the seeds or nuts of the tung tree.
“I searched high and low for coatings that kids can chew on,” he said.
Flynn’s product line includes a truck, three cars, a waddling duck, a push toy, a rolling ball turtle and a leap frog. His son serves as the official Whittle toy tester.
“He loves it down here,” said Rachel Smith, Huckleberry’s mother. “He thinks they are all his toys.”
“If they don’t sell, he’ll have 600 toys for Christmas,” Flynn said with a chuckle.
About 60 percent of Whittle’s business is generated by walk-in customers, including Olympia chiropractor John Tanesse, his wife and three children, ages 6 to 13.
The family has built wooden toys for the office, crafted school projects, taken woodworking classes and scheduled a birthday party.
“Our family likes to spend time down there,” Tanesse said. “It’s one of our favorite pastimes.”
Customers are welcome to take as much time as they want, designing and painting their woodcrafts. However, Flynn’s array of power tools, including a table saw, planer, joiner, band saw, router table, drill saw, scroll saw and sander, are off-limits to the customers.
“I do all the cut-outs,” Flynn said. “The only thing requested so far that I haven’t been able to make is an airplane.”
The most intricate project under way is a castle, he said.
His clientele ranges from toddlers who have never wielded a paint brush before to grandparents who come to work on a project with their grandkids.
Flynn also offers beginner woodworking classes for ages 6 and up. There is also space at the woodshop for group events such as birthdays and other celebrations.
For more on Whittle, visit www.whittleoly.com.
John Dodge: 360-754-5444