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Ostheimer wooden animals and figures [An introduction]

Ostheimer wooden animals and figures [An introduction]

Sep 19, 2020 • 7 min read

To modern consumers, Ostheimer toys might look almost too simple - their figures and buildings are pared right back and painted in muted, natural tones.

Ostheimer make some of the most special toys we offer. The company was founded by Walter and Adeline Ostheimer in Germany in the 1930s Germany, and the ethos behind their products remains the same almost a century later. The child’s imagination is at the heart of every toy they make.

Ostheimer Animals on Parade

Ostheimer Wild Animals on Parade

 

Ostheimer Owl and Squirrel

Ostheimer figures are at home with natural materials

To modern consumers, Ostheimer toys might look almost too simple - their figures and buildings are pared right back and painted in muted, natural tones. Shapes are basic, themes are broad. But it’s the simplicity of these exquisite, hand-crafted toys that makes them such perennial favourites.

 

Ostheimer Children and Dogs

Ostheimer Children and Dogs

 

Being so neutral means the child can bring their own meaning to each piece, and that meaning can change every time they engage with the toy. Children love the toy because of the fantasy they attach to it, not the toy itself. They want to play with it because of what it enables them to do, not because of what it can do on its own. And you don't need many figures to create a compelling story. Read this post to see how easy it is to create a whole universe with just a handful of figures.

Ostheimer Wild Boar

The characterful Wild Boar

 

We also like that each toy goes through many hands on its way to becoming a finished product - something which shines through in each item, no matter how large or small. Every one is designed, sawed out, sanded, rubbed down, painted, and oiled by a highly-skilled craftsperson. Because they are made with such love, we find that children love them too.

 

Ostheimer Canada Goose

Ostheimer Canada Goose

 

How Ostheimer toys are made

Have you ever wondered how Ostheimer wooden figures get to be so characterful and unique? They’ve been handmade in the same slow and steady tradition for almost a century. Thanks to a wonderful display at the recent Nuremberg toy fair, we are able to show you how an Ostheimer figure comes to life.

Ostheimer stand at Nuremberg toy fair

Design

Template for an ostheimer camel

A stamp is created, and is fixed to the underside of a wooden blank (see image below). This is then inked and pressed onto a board, giving an outline that can then be cut out.

Drawing outline of Ostheimer camel blank using template

The stamp is positioned in such a way that the shade and grain of the wood is sympathetic to the type of animal or person it will come to represent. The camel pictured below would have a very different feel if the grain ran horizontally.

Sawing

The blank is cut out for the Ostheimer camel

The correct profile is meticulously sawed out, creating a blank for the figure. At this stage the edges are extremely rough.

Sanding

The Ostheimer camel is sanded

The figure is sanded to remove sawdust and smooth the surface of the wood. Then the figure is brought to life with greater detail on the main body, depicting muscles or limbs, smiles or hands. A soft final touch of the contours finishes the process prepares the surface for painting.

Oiling

The ostheimer camels are dipped in oil

The figure is immersed in high-quality organic oil, which helps maintain colours and protects the surface of the toy.

Painting

The Ostheimer camel is painted

The figure is delicately painted with a steady hand and a fine paintbrush. Transparent colour-stains allow the texture of the wood to shine through and enhance the natural warmth of each figure.

 

String is cut for the tail

String is cut for the tail.

 

The finshed piece - an Ostheimer camel

After a final quality-check, Ostheimer figures are carefully packed and delivered to children all over the world.

Ready for fewer toys and more fun?

Sign up for our Guide to Fewer, Better Toys and begin your 100 Toys journey. Help your become a creative self-starter who makes their own fun.

Ready for fewer toys and more fun?

Sign up for our Guide to Fewer, Better Toys and begin your 100 Toys journey. Help your become a creative self-starter who makes their own fun.

Alexis

I'm Alexis, father of four and founder of One Hundred Toys. I taught in London primary schools for thirteen years, specialising in the early years. Now I write about all things play here on the blog. Read more

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