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Handmade magic

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by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
Sequim Gazette

 

Once upon a time, children all over the world looked forward to finding hand-crafted wooden toys under the Christmas tree. Now all the elves are busy building things that beep and flash, and have no room in their software for imagination.

 

Except for one little elf, Erwin Bahr, who at 82 is still hard at work creating wooden trucks and cars and boats for good little peninsula children.

 

Bahr's toys are available every Saturday from the back of his truck, which he parks at Flipper's Restaurant next to Sunny Farms Country Store on U.S. Highway 101. (Except when it's raining.)

 

In addition to the small toys, Bahr produces doll- houses and even tea party dining sets for the younger crowd. The quality of his craftsmanship is apparent in the dollhouses, which utilize hemlock or fir for the roof, cedar logs and plywood floors. They're available for just $70 - a real bargain.

 

So, too, are his elaborate, very cool fire engines, which go for $20. "I really should charge more for those," Bahr says with a laugh.

 

If you're looking for gifts for grown-ups, look no further. Bahr also makes bird feeders and decorative items.

 

Bahr's companion Doris Ferdig sells her own handicrafts at Flipper's, including sets of six hand-stitched tea towels for $20.

 

Working with wood

Bahr grew up on the peninsula and spent most of his life as a carpenter. His handiwork is found in many of the peninsula's most prominent structures. But when he retired 20 years ago, Bahr still had a lot of energy. "I just started making stuff," he says, "and they said I should sell it at the farmers market."

 

So he did, for 17 years, including a long stint at Gertie's in Port Angeles. "I was there 'til she quit."

 

The rules at the farmers markets in Sequim and Port Angeles require Bahr to unload his inventory, but his age makes that difficult. So he's set up at Flipper's, and "we're doing real good," he says.

 

Bahr's workshop is found behind his Sequim home. The shed is stuffed with tools, including a radial arm saw, a table saw, scroll saw, a 10-inch planer and a router. It all comes in handy.

 

He retrieves most of the wood from construction sites. "A lot of 'em give it to me," he said. "Maybe they're remodeling a house and they have scraps left over." He has to buy all the plywood, glue and hinges.

 

To save time, Bahr builds four to six of the same item at a time. "With small toys, maybe 10," he said.

 

"I set my saws to do all of them."

 

Ferdig explains the business plan: "He has to have something to do," she says with a smile.

 

Drop by Flipper's or call anytime "and come get it," Bahr said. The number is 683-3767.

 

Reach Mark Couhig at mcouhig@sequimgazette.com.

 

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