Sustainability

Sustainable Wooden Toy Car Production

Maurice’s Studios produce beautifully hand-craftedwooden toy cars, buses and tractors, depictions of 1930s classic vehicles. Wooden toys are not new – previous generations enjoyed this artform as children and now our generation is enjoying them again as valuable antiques and home décor pieces.

These days, we have all seen how children have stacks of plastic toys which become brittle, break easily and present environmental problems at every stage of raw material production and then again when they are disposed of.

Let us consider various aspects of sustainability in our wooden toy manufacture:

Sustainability of Timber
Wooden toys are very sustainable – at Maurice’s Studios,many of our toy cars are manufactured from factory off-cuts. Where we use virgin wood, we buy from sustainable timber harvesters with an FSC* (Forest Stewardship Council) rating of 100%.

*Forest Stewardship Council
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit, multi-stakeholder organisation established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC does this by setting standards on forest products, along with certifying and labelling them as eco-friendly.

We all know the basis of wood sustainability, if this precious and beautiful raw material is grown and managed sustainably. The trees absorb harmful greenhouse gas emissions during their growing phase in the forests which are then locked away. Additional benefits of forestry to the eco-system in general are many and varied, and include water drainage, and the prevention of soil erosion, as well as contributing to biodiversity (plants, animals, birds and insects all call the forest home) – and not least the social benefits to the public of walking in or living near a landscape dotted with forestry.Employment in forestry management and the down-chain timber industries is a skilled and very rewarding vocation. The Forestry Commission alone supports over 3,000 employees and it is reckoned that the combined forestry, timber and woodcraft industry is the 18th largest industry in the UK.

What is sustainability in wooden toy manufacturing then?

  • Supporting managed forestry industry.
  • Use the whole tree –just as our friends in the restaurant business speak of using the whole pig from nose-to-tail, we do not waste any wood. Rather,we use every piece of timber possible.
  • Vastly more sustainable than plastic or metal alternatives.
  • Limited waste.

Why do we use Beech timber?
Beech wood (Fagus sylvatica or Fagus grandiflora) is grown sustainably in many parts of the world. Beech wood is widely used in veneer format and in timber format for flooring, boat building, cabinetry and furniture in general. Beech wood is particularly suitable for our coloured toy car production because it is pale in colour, it is dense and has a tight and generally straight grain structure which means it can take pigmentation stains very well. Our toy cars especially the heritage coaches and buses need a lot of drilling and machining and although beech wood is hard and can blunt our tools significantly, the end-result is what matters and beech timber yields a strong toy with a fine finish.

Beech timber is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.

Why do we use Oak Timber?
For the purest Oak king (Quercus roburis orQuercus petraea). Our range of unstained oak wood toy racing cars, buses, coaches, tractors and gangster’s cars really show off the beauty of natural wood. Oak has medium to large pores and a coarse grain structure it is hard and tough on our tools but the smell given-off when working with oak is adorable. Commonly used for cabinetry, furniture, cooperage, flooring and exterior building work, oak accepts our oil & wax finish wonderfully and really make our wooden toys stand out. Another secret of Oak is that it reacts to acid & alkali and dependant on the pH of a solution put on the raw oak depends on what shade of staining can be obtained. We use a secret blend of vinegar and iron filing to achieve a really deep black finish for our oak toy car wheels (tyres) and the whole car particularly the gangster’s toy car.

Oak timber is not listed in the CITES Appendices and is reported by the IUCN as being a species of least concern.

Why do some of our Toy Cars contain Purple Heart wood?
Some years ago, we imported for our News Gripper gavel production, a small quantity of purple heart wood from Jamaica. It was wood that was used in colonial time to make railway sleepers. It seems incredible now that such a beautiful wood could be used for this mundane purpose. These sleepers were then cut down and turned into the most charming gavel sets we ever sold. To cut a long story short, we have used a few off-cuts from the purple heart wood to make depict headlights and tail lights for our wooden toys cars.

What other species of wood do we use in our wooden toy production?
We have made a commitment to only use recycled wood for our more exotic species such as walnut and mahogany. Our wooden toy cars can look marvellous in these naturally dark wood species. Our one-off YHA 462 Le Mans Racing Car – Mahogany Body Wheels and Hubs- Ebonised Tyres is probably our all-time favourite of all of the toy cars we have made. Unfortunately, the YHA 447 Le Mans Style racing car – Walnut Body – Oak Wheels – Oak Hubs is expensive because walnut timber is an incredibly expensive timber and we only have sufficient timber in stock to make three of these racing cars. We do not buy ash timber anymore because of the ash die back crisis and don’t let us forget our plywood range where we have many off-cuts which we can form into toy cars – they look great and are trendy for modern homes.

Sustainability of our Toy Cars
Maurice’s Studios manufactures the cars to a very robust standard. The axles are made from 15mm dowel – that is a strong piece of wood to support the whole wheel turning mechanism! Chassis are at least 40mm thick supporting the down force that may be placed on them when a child or adult leans on the toy. The wheels are formed from dense 25mm or 32mm thick timber which again adds to the robustness and longevity of the finished toy racing car, bus or tractor. Building heritage wooden toy cars and buses from the Edwardian era to Victorian standards of robustness for an anticipated life cycle of many generations is surely a much better gift option than a “just for Christmas” present.

Building heritage toy cars from the Edwardian era to Victorian standards in Queen Elisabeth II’s reign sounds like a reasonable summary of what we do.

Sustainability of Finish & Finishing Materials
In the finishing of our wooden toy cars, we do not use any hydrocarbon-based polymers in paint or lacquer formulations. Our finishing process is similar to French polishing: we buildup layers of vegetable oils (we do not know the exact formulation of the finishing oil we use but it is probably something like linseed oil or soya bean oil). Although drying time between coats of finishing oil is quite time consuming in an industrial sense, it is plant-based and sustainable. The final stage in the finishing process when the oil coats are fully hardened is to polish with a wax polish and buff to a beautiful satin patina.

Sustainable Packing

One of our toy racing cars being packed for transport in 100% recyclable packaging.
It is pointless being sustainable in the manufacture of our wooden toy cars if mountains of plasticsare used in the wrapping and despatch of the toy. We use simple cardboard boxes, cardboard protectors, paper bubble wrap and Kraft paper strapping tape – all 100% recyclable.

We don’t pretend there is not work to do – on buying our last lot of 100% recyclable packing materials, it was delivered in quite a lot of plastic shrink-wrapping. We took this up with the supplier and they answered as follows:

Hello Maurice

Thank you for getting in touch with us and for taking the time to bring your concerns to our attention. We appreciate your feedback and your comments will be passed to our relevant team, to be brought up in the next operations meeting and taken into account when we next review our packaging methods and solutions.

We can confirm that the outer packaging in which your products were wrapped is standard polythene that is fully recyclable and can be disposed of in the waste bin (depending on your local council’s regulations or particular restrictions).

We hope this helps and addresses the concerns you have raised below.

We would like to apologise again if this matter has created any hassle for you and reassure you we will address this accordingly.

Kind Regards

Industry nationwide is constantly looking for more and innovative ways of reducing the use of harmful materials – and it is encouraging to see people such as our packaging suppliers taking this matter seriously and looking to devise more creative ways of using fewer hydrocarbon-based materials in their manufacturing processes.

This picture shows our delivery of paper bubble wrap and Kraft paper strapping tape but unfortunately it was wrapped in standard polythene which although is fully recyclable is against the spirit of buying sustainable paper and carboard packaging materials.

Energy use
Of course, in the production of our wooden toy cars we have to use electricity to power our drilling and sawing machinery. However, 32% (see chart below) of the electricity we use is derived from renewable sources such as wind and solar. In 2017 we over-clad the roof of our factory unit and incorporated a high level of insulation to keep our heating requirements to a minimum. Following an energy audit in 2018, we changed our lighting to LED and reconfigured our heating systems. This year we received certification from Low Carbon Workspace confirming a saving of 1.4 tonnes CO2e for the year.

Electricity supplied by Total Gas & Power
has been sourced from the following fuels
Percentage of electricity supplied by
Total Gas & Power
Average for the UK
(for comparison)
Coal6%5.20%
Natural Gas38%41.4%
Nuclear11%18.7%
Renewable43%32.80%
Other2%1.90%

Source: Total Gas & Power

Waste
In general, in the production of our wooden toy cars we generate very little waste. We re-use incoming packaging wherever possible. We even mix our sawdust and wood shavings with pulp wastepaper generated from our business and other businesses to form briquettes for burning on open fires and wood-burners. We very carefully design our production processes so as to maximise the yield from virgin wooden boards or planks, ensuring that there is the very minimum of scrap wood left over from our toy car production.

Wood chip and paper briquettes formed and drying for use as fuel.

How are our classic wooden toy cars Sustainable?
Our wooden toy car designs are generally inspired by the classic racing cars, buses and gangsters’ cars of the 1930s and as we approach the centenary of that era, we find many of these cars in great shape. Through the generosity of private collectors such as Wayne Carini, Lord Montague and Jay Leno, we get glimpses of these classic cars,now worth millions of dollars, such as the early Bentleys (celebrating their centenary 1919 to 2019). Bentley achieved 1st and 2nd at the 1930 Le Mans 24-hour race, with first place going to the infamous Woolf Barnato and second place to Frank Clement. We know the dominance of the Bentleys in the late 1920s and early 1930s soon came to an end with Alfa Romeo taking first place in 1931, 1932 and 1933 Le Mans 24 hour endurance race at Circuit de la Sathe but Bugatti , Mercedes were all coming through as top performers on the motor car racing circuits of the 1930s.

The British winner of the 1935 Le Mans race is interesting because driver Johnny Hindmarsh was in a Lagonda M45R Rapide which was powered by a Meadows 4.5 litre engine. Of course, the Lagonda marque established in 1906 was later owned by Aston Martin but the Henry Meadows company of Wolverhampton was a major supplier of engines and transmissions to the smaller companies in the British motor industry. Founded in 1920 in Park Lane, Wolverhampton as a car gearbox maker, they expanded into petrol engines in 1922 and in the 1930s built a large factory in Fallings Park, Wolverhampton. Our factory unit is on that very site – Henry Meadows contributed greatly to the war effort producing all sorts of engines, gearboxes and parts for our tanks and fighter aircraft. Closing in the 1960s, the Henry Meadows site was later bulldozed and our 29-unit Industrial Estate was built in the 1970s. Local people of a certain age still refer to our Estate as “The Meadows Plant.” We now manufacture our heritage wooden toy racing cars on the very same parcel of ground where some 85-90 years ago, the engine of the winner of the 1935 Le Mans race was built – Park Lane Wolverhampton.

The point we are trying to make in relation to sustainability, is that those 1930s racing cars and Routemaster buses were built to the most robust engineering standards and many of them are still around today. Similarly, our wooden toy cars are manufactured to robust high standards and we hope that they will be used by children and adults for a lifetime and still be around in 100 years too.

Sustainabe Wooden Toy Car Production

Many children have mountains of plastics toys, stacking up environmental problems for years to come. Sustainable wooden toys can last for generations and do not present a disposal problem.

Toys for boys yes, but these depictions of heritage vehicles are more than toys – they are genuine art as well as being highly unusual and rare home décor pieces. Handmade in our Wolverhampton workshop, each classic vehicle is individual. Over 24 models of classic cars, busses, coaches, tractors and lorries can be purchased straight away or commissioned to be specially manufactured for you.

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