Toiling on toys a labour of love

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Rob Sterling, right, works with Brandon Crow to restore a scale-model John Deere tractor. Sterling and his father, Carl, are leaders for the 4-H Farm Toy Club, which operates out of Carl Sterling’s shop just north of Pain Court. The Sterlings are also the driving force behind the annual Chatham-Kent Toy Show & Sale, which takes place Jan. 19 at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.
Rob Sterling, right, works with Brandon Crow to restore a scale-model John Deere tractor. Sterling and his father, Carl, are leaders for the 4-H Farm Toy Club, which operates out of Carl Sterling’s shop just north of Pain Court. The Sterlings are also the driving force behind the annual Chatham-Kent Toy Show & Sale, which takes place Jan. 19 at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.

 

With the 13th annual Chatham-Kent Toy Show & Sale less than two weeks away, a group of local folks are working feverishly away on toys that will be on display at the show.

In fact, the blowing snow and at times near-whiteout conditions of Jan. 2 didn’t even slow them down, as members of the 4-H Farm Toy Club showed up at a rural workshop just north of Pain Court to work on their restoration projects.

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Rob and Carl Sterling lead the club, and are the driving force behind the annual toy show.

The father and son team got into toy restoration in recent years, and tied it into 4-H by starting the Farm Toy Club. Now, the club’s work is displayed at the show.

The club members work with die-cast, 1/16th-scale model tractors.

Rob Sterling, who started out as a member of the club three years ago when it first materialized, said the members gather at the shop about half a dozen times during the restoration process. Most of that is done on a one-on-one basis with a leader.

 

“We work on older toys, most are at least 10 years old,” Rob said. “Some are 50 years old that might belong to a member’s parent or grandparent.”

He added the restoration process is quite intricate. Members use a sandblaster to remove all the paint. Parts are repainted with tractor-quality paint.

“We use real tractor paint, John Deere green, International red,” he said. “The paint we put on is better than the original.”

Member Brandon Crow is in his third year with the club. He loves the detail work.

“We also get to work with tools we normally wouldn’t use,” he said, referring to the cabinet sandblaster. “I like working with different stuff and seeing what I can create.”

Rob said the members do most of the work, with he and his father providing oversight.

“I think the thing that attracts members is they get to keep the toy,” he said.

The replacement parts, many of which come from a supplier in South Dakota, aren’t cheap. The proceeds from the toy show help keep the restorations affordable for the members, Sterling said.

Outreach for Hunger also benefits from the proceeds, he added.

As for the toy show itself, the event runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the convention centre. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for students. Kids six and under are free.

Rob said there are already about 100 tables booked for the show and are comprised of a mix of displays and selling tables.

With the tie-in with the Farm Toy Club, there will be a lot of farm toys on display, he added.

“People will bring in a whole farm layout to display,” he said.

But the toys don’t stop at the farm level. The Chatham Aeronauts will be on hand, as will the Chatham Model Railroad Club. As well, Rob said there will be a model ship display that showcases “incredible detail.”

Model cars and sports cards and collectibles will also be on display.

The show attracts buyers and curious onlookers. Some people wind up being a little of both.

“Some people come in just to look and then leave with something after it catches their eye,” Rob said.

 

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