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"Assembly Required" For Wooden Tractor Toys
When Clay Friis ships his model trucks, cars and tractors, they're in pieces so the buyer has to put them together. Each wooden model consists of individually wrapped pieces, ranging from 30 pieces for a Model A to 76 pieces for a 9300 series Deere tractor.

††††"Only one guy called to tell me he couldn't put it together," says Friis, who makes the wooden toy puzzles in his Omaha, Neb., shop. "Part of the fun is taking it apart and putting it back together."

††††He strives to please two senses Ż sight and touch. Each piece is sanded five times before he rubs in Danish oil for the final finish.

††††"I don't use any stain," Friis says. "They are made with black walnut and exotic woods Ż bubinga, ebony, purple heart and tulip wood, for example."

††††A jack of many trades, Friis says working with wood was always a passion, but he wasn't born with a talent for it. Based on his high school shop projects his teacher would never have predicted that Friis would make wooden puzzles for people such as Ronald Reagan, Roger Penske and the Gatlin Brothers. The head coach of the Nebraska University football team has one of Friis's trucks with a drop deck trailer that holds a football.

††††Friis worked with a car toy maker to learn the craft. He applied it to his love for big trucks and started making 1/10th scale toys in 1980. He includes plenty of detail with floating axles, bucket seats and dashboards. He has signed and dated more than 1,000 models over the years that have been shipped all over the U.S. and to Japan, Australia and Germany. Most of his customers are business people who purchase them as gifts for clients, Christmas gifts and as rewards for safe driving and retirement.

††††Friis creates his own patterns, working from photos, brochures or models.

††††"As I progress, they get more difficult," Friis says. Pieces interlock, and some models require putting pieces together in a specific order.

††††His tractor model is his latest. He started making them once he figured out how to make the tires.

††††"I've had good reviews on it," Friis says. The tractor is 20 in. long and 11 in. wide. It is articulated and heavy, made of Brazilian cherry wood.

††††He includes photos of his work on his Facebook pages, "Clay Sfc Friis".

††††At 65, these days Friis gives most of his puzzle models to people who have made an impact in his life. But he also teaches the craft in the Omaha area and takes orders. Prices range from $275 for a Model A to $400 to $500 for semis and $200 to $1,000 for trailers. He hires someone with a laser to add company logos.

††††His largest semi weighs 110 lbs., is 5 ft. long, and is part of his personal collection. He believes that the pieces are a testament to passion and that people can really do anything they decide to do.

††††"This is a gift I had inside me, but I didn't know it," Friis says. "Anybody can do this if they have a desire."

††††Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Clay Friis, 11025 N. Post Road, Omaha, Neb. 68112 (ph 402 598-7245; Rhynrail@msn.com).

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2011 - Volume #35, Issue #4