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By Katie Hayes
Over the last three years, Don Powell has built hundreds of wooden toys for Oakville children. In the workshop attached to his house, Powell builds wooden cars, trucks, semi-trucks, fire trucks and tractors. This year, he’s donating about 170 toys to the Les Schwab Tire Center Toy Drive.
“I enjoy the woodshop,” said Powell, modestly. “This was actually an excuse for me to work in my woodshop. Then I decided to make toys and give them away at Christmas.”
During the final days of production last week, two of Powell’s grandsons painted cars at a table. For the past several weekends, Daniel and Kendall Green have made the trek to their grandfather’s house in Oakville. The three have worked on the toys until midnight, or 1 a.m. most nights.
After Powell sliced his thumb on a table saw recently, the two pitched in to help.
“I got bummed up and it slowed me up, here,” Powell said. “I could see where I wasn’t gonna make it, and they offered to help.”
With a sock wrapped around his thumb and a cigar stuck between the fingers of his good hand, Powell conducted a tour of his workshop Friday. Dozens of wooden toys, in various stages of construction, lined any available surface in the shop.
“It’s kind of like adult arts and craft,” Daniel Green said. “He cut out pretty much all the wood parts, minus the wheels. But the fenders, the cars, the trucks themselves — he cut all those out. He painted mostly everything by the time we started helping him.”
This is the grandkids’ first year building toys.
“For us, it was mostly assembling it, so not terribly difficult,” Daniel Green said. “The hardest part is glueing and when you go to glue it, you have to do it in steps because you can’t just throw both the fenders on and then glue them. You have to glue one first and then let that set and throw on the other fender and then clamp it down.”
Originally, Powell began making the toys for his grandchildren. When they outgrew the wooden cars and trucks, he moved onto the great-grandchildren. Now that they too are outgrowing the toys, he builds them for local children.
“I can remember from many Christmases in the past how happy they will be, and that’s all I want out of it,” Powell said. “Just helping them out and making them happy — that’s where I get my satisfaction and happiness.”
When asked if he considers himself a real-life Santa, Powell responded with, “A who? Nah.” Daniel Green said his family actually does call him Santa, though. Powell has never kept track of the money he has spent on supplies.
“Have no idea and I don’t care,” Powell said. “I haven’t kept track, don’t intend to keep track. Whatever I spent, I spent. The kids get it.”
Powell plans to continue making and donating toys for future Christmases and both grandsons said they will most likely assist again next year.
“This is more of an excuse to hang out with my grandpa,” Daniel Green said.
Don Powell holds a toy tractor that he was in the porcess of constructing last week in his Oakville shop (Katie Hayes | The Chronicle)
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