When Roy Dennison died in the 1960s, the future looked bleak for the wooden toy business he had been building in East Machias since the 1930s. His children were grown and had careers of their own, and plastic had overtaken wood as the material of choice for toys. So the family disabled the equipment Dennison had used to manufacture his log building sets and stored it in their various attics and basements around town. The old inventory was split among the family as well.

Fast-forward to 1992, when Dennison’s grandson Bruce decided to revive the business. He went on scavenger hunt to relatives’ houses but soon discovered pieces of the old equipment were missing or no longer worked. Gradually, by consulting old photos and packaging, listening to family members who were familiar with the older operation, and hunting down lost pieces, Dennison put the puzzle together and re-launched Roy Toy Manufacturing. The process took more than a year.

Today the Dennison family is once again making log building sets out of local pine – the logs are still hand-cut – that children use to construct cabins, forts and barns with red gables and green roofs. The colored parts are stained with nontoxic, food-grade dyes. It appears that in the era of news reports about toxic toys manufactured overseas, the wood-vs.-plastic pendulum has swung back in the other direction. Parents and grandparents buy the sets out of a sense of nostalgia, says Sue Dennison, wife of Bruce Dennison, who helps run the company.

“With the kids having iPads in their face all the time, sometimes the parents just think their kids need a break,” she said. “They want to go back to basics and be a little creative and use their hands – a little simple play.”

The log building sets are appropriate for ages 3 and up; sets vary in number of pieces and complexity. All of the sets work together, so presumably a more ambitious builder could construct an entire town.

“One of our sets has 550 pieces,” Dennison said. “That would not be appropriate for a 3-year-old. That would be too overwhelming and frustrating.”

The most popular set is a 37-piece miniature log cabin set from the “Original” line that sells for $11.95 and comes in a white box copied from the original 1930s packaging. A new Wood-Links line comes with more brightly colored pieces. There’s also a Paul Bunyan line, a Classic line and an Earth Friendly line that contains no colored logs. The “Build & Paint” line comes with a set of paints so the child can paint the buildings themselves. Prices range from $11.95 to $75.95.

The building sets are available online at roytoy.com.

— MEREDITH GOAD

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