PUNXSUTAWNEY — Alvin Knarr has dedicated about 30 years to making wooden toys as a hobby after he started making them for his son, and found he loved the work that went into the toys.
Many of his projects are toys with wheels, but he also makes wooden plaques and other objects. Knarr said most of his projects start out as a request from someone for something specific.
“What happened at that time, it just started to grow because people saw what I had, and started asking ‘can you make me this, can you make me that?’ and it just kept growing and growing. About half of the stuff setting here is because somebody asked,” Knarr said.
Once someone asks for something, Knarr starts to tinker with wood and tools to find the best way to construct it. Most of his toys are entirely his own creation, as he does not use a pattern for them.
He makes tractors, covered wagons, police cars, school buses, train cars, and many more toys. Knarr will also customize any of the plaques he makes, adding names and specific sports or achievements to them.
Knarr lives in the house he was born in, and when he took over the farm he added a pavilion on the property. His family had their family reunions in this pavilion for several years. When the reunions changed locations, he decided to close in the pavilion and use it as a woodshop.
“I had some tools, I didn’t have everything right off the bat, but as things progressed here and what I needed to have, I started picking out tools,” Knarr said. “I actually couldn’t buy another piece of machinery and get in it, it’s getting crowded.
He does a lot of the work on his creations by hand. He tries to make everything as close to scale as possible. He also stamps all of his toys with his initials and the month and year the toy was made in.
“A lot of people have hobbies. I’m not here to make a living on it. It’s just something to put in time.
He made Punxsutawney school buses, and even a Stello Food truck to represent his local area. The first Stello Food Truck was made because his wife started working there.
Knarr said he doesn’t get many customers for the customized plaques because of the cost of them. He has trouble finding a place to buy the letters in bulk, which makes the cost a lot higher. He tries to keep his prices low, but said a lot of work goes into each of his toys.
“If there are a bunch of people calling me to have stuff made for Christmas, they’ve got to give me time. I can’t have everything made right now,” Knarr said.
He has spent more time recently traveling around to vendor fairs with his creations. He said the best time he’s had in all his years of vendor markets was the Festival in the Park this year in Punxsutawney. Knarr said he sold about 37 units, the most he’s ever sold at one time.
Knarr has found a hobby that has kept him busy and happy for 30 years, and will continue to keep him busy for as long as people are bringing him requests.