By JEROD CLAPP
They’re on holiday for now, but his workers will be back in the shop first thing Monday to make as many toys as they can before Christmas rolls around.
It’s not quite Santa’s workshop, but it’s close. Hanging over the woodshop door of Borden Junior-Senior high school is a wooden saw engraved with “Hank’s Workshop II.”
Students are making old-fashioned wooden toys for the New Albany Salvation Army just like Hank Klein used to every year.
Klein died in August of last year, but not before he donated all of his woodworking materials to the school, where students make wooden planes, cars and other toys from patterns Hank used.
Hank’s wife, Wilma Klein, said though it was hard for Hank to give up the tools he loved, they were both glad to see them continue to get use.
“Those machines and tools are in wonderful use,” Wilma said. “Had this not happened, it meant I would have the heartache of trying to sell them or dispose of them in some way. It doesn’t bother me to go in the basement and see the empty room because I know where his tools are and what they’re being used for.”
Hank gave the school his Shopsmith tool system — which serves as a lathe and runs other accessories such as a bandsaw — as well as an assortment of hand tools to the woodshop.
Students have already made boxes full of toys and handmade puzzles, but Anthony Harper, laser engraving technology teacher, said he hopes they’ll complete about 100 toys by the time they’re ready to deliver them.
But he said his students enjoy working on the toys because of the cause behind them.
“I think we’re teaching them philanthropy and I think they get enjoyment out of giving,” Harper said. “Plus, they’re getting more skills because we have to train them on Hank’s equipment, too.”
Gavin Tipker, a sophomore at the school, used a combination of tools donated by Hank and the school’s laser engraving equipment to make a toy steamboat.
He said though the cutting-edge technology is cool, he likes learning how to use tools he can find in any woodshop.
“I never really made anything outside of this class, so I’ve learned to use the saws and everything,” Tipker said. “Most of what I know about tools I learned from school and using this stuff.”
Michael Lynch, a senior, made a wooden train from a new pattern he found. He said he’s still working on making cars for the train, but he thinks whoever receives the toy will enjoy it more than something small and plastic.
But he also said he and the rest of the students take their projects seriously because of who they ultimately end up with.
“It’s going to go for little kids and they’ll actually be able to use these toys,” Lynch said. “It’s not just for one person, multiple people will get to use them. We’re not trying to make these toys for the grade, we’re trying to make them as good as we can so people will want to use them and enjoy them.”
Wilma said though children get more elaborate and often electronic toys these days, kids and parents still like the old-fashioned wooden toys.
“I think part of it is the indestructibility of them,” Wilma said. “And as a rule, they move in some way. They can be pulled, they’re animated even though they’re old, but there’s also a fascination with something that’s different. There are so many kids who have the electronic toys and things that are modern, these are different.”
Major Stephen Kiger, corp officer at the Salvation Army of New Albany, said he’s glad to hear more of Hank’s wooden toys will come to the organization this year because of Borden’s students.
“I think its just a neat thing,” Kiger said. “He really invested himself over a lot of years in this hobby of helping and giving to kids. Just realizing there are other people out there who recognize the significance of giving back is always wonderful.”
Harper said as the next round of second and third year students move into his classes, they’ll also learn where those woodshop tools came from and what they’ll use them for.
“We know Wilma out here, she meets a lot of our students,” Harper said. “At the beginning of the year, we talk about Hank, what he did and why we’re doing this. Hank will not be forgotten.”