Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Grimm's Spiel & Holz Wooden Rainbow (and how to finish wood with a non-toxic sealer)

Grimm's Spiel & Holz Wooden Rainbow
****4 stars****

Ok, so we just got this in the medium size (best price $28.95 at threesisterstoys.com) and I have to say I am loving this toy almost as much as the kids are.

But. BUT.
When it arrived (just before Easter, an Easter basket present for the 14 month old) it was SOOOO rough, I could NOT believe it. The inside curve of each rainbow was nearly splintery!

I wish I had taken pictures. I had my husband feel it, and he thought I should return it.
However, this toy gets such great reviews online, that I decided it might just be an anomaly...anyhow, I decided to 're-finish' it.

Yup. I'm crazy.

But it was not really hard, I just sanded it (rather lightly, afraid I was sanding off the color, but as you can see it still is quite colorful) especially the inner sides of the curves and then oiled each piece with mineral oil on a rag and then waxed each piece with a mix of beeswax and mineral oil, about 2 parts oil to 5 parts beeswax.

How? Just melt grated beeswax in a puddle of mineral oil in a double boiler (be careful not to do this directly in a saucepan, as beeswax can catch fire!) and apply while warm to your wood with a rag. Allow to cool and then buff off excess with the same rag. (I used a cloth diaper.) You can even get a little shine if you repeat the process. (I did it just the once.)

The result is what you see in my pictures, and is exactly what I wanted and thought I was going to get when I opened the box. (Are you familiar with Plan Toys? They feel GREAT, and are less expensive. But they are usually less of an 'open-ended' sort of toy.)
Now, to be fair, this toy arrives sealed in a plastic wrapper, so there is no way the people at threesisterstoys.com could have known that this rainbow felt splintery and 'dried out', but it did. Dried out is a good way to describe it. Just not great. Like it would snap in half if a kid stood on it. But now it really feels great. Really.
When I was looking online for a good non-toxic finish to apply to these, I read that wood likes oil, needs oil, or it becomes brittle, and that beeswax has been used for centuries as a wood 'sealer' but has such a large molecule that it needs to be mixed with oil so that it can penetrate the wood.
So this finish was pleasant to work with, smelled great, and is considered food-safe, although some people have a beef with the mineral oil aspect.

I even like it well enough now that I would be willing to 'fix' their nesting boxes and bowls, if those arrived in the same condition. I'm considering ordering them even as I write this.

Has anyone puchased these and found them to be smooth?
Was my shipment just a deviation from the norm?

I did read a review that said 'because Spiel & Holz does not finish their wood with a shiny finish, these are 'easy to stack' (Haba's blocks are a tad on the shiny/slippery side) but I really received such a rough and splintery-feeling toy that I did not want to give it to my kids at all. Especially not the baby.

Anyhow, I would have given it 5 stars had I not had to work to get the finish 'right'.

Because really, it is a great open-ended toy and has been played with every single day by every single one of my kids, plus the grown-ups like it too.

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About Me

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Mamazakka is Mommy blogger Autumn Sousanis; also-known-as Autumn Dunbar; and also-known-as "Mama" to six little ones, ages 9, 7.5, 5, 3.5 2 and a 3 month old! :) Busy,yes. A graduate of C.C.S. (Center for Creative Studies, School of Art and Design in Detroit) with my bachelor's degree in Fine Arts, I have finally found my calling as 'Mamazakka', maker of everything and anything that might improve your home, life and outlook. :) It's my goal to create things that truly meet Wikipedia's definition for 'zakka'; (here's an excerpt)..."cute, corny, kitschy is not enough. To qualify, a product must be attractive, sensitive and laden with subtext." Oh yeah! You betcha! Well, that's my goal, anyhow! I'm also known as an over-user of exclamation marks(!) and parentheses (can't help it) though I do try to keep my smileys to a minimum :)