Doug Premo has been in woodworking for more than 30 years. He's an architect and general contractor, but he says his penchant for making wooden toys began all those years ago when cash flow was slow. So he had to think of creative ways to make Christmas gifts for family and friends.
"That's where it started," he says. "But it's been off and on because the construction industry is cyclical. You can't be guaranteed that when you finish one job, another job starts up, so you have to fill in the gap."
Premo filled that gap by creating a line of creating a line of wooden toys and wooden rocking horses. Things really kicked in to gear after his wife received a job in Salt Lake City and they moved from Los Angeles to Utah.
Premo says that he looked online to find as many arts and craft festivals as he could to sell his toys -- he had often visited similar festivals and swap meets when he lived in Los Angeles. "I decided to go ahead and use some of my saving to buy materials to get going," he explains. "Every since then that's all I've been doing for the past 1-1/2 years."
About 20 years ago, Premo says he made a generic wooden motorcycle rocking horse. "But it was very simplistic. This time around instead of building a generic motorcycle, I decide d to make it look like the real thing," he adds. The new motorcycle design is loosely based on the popular television show, "Orange County Choppers."
Premo makes two different types of motorcycles as well as a dirt bike, a street bike and a Harley-Davidson sporster. After showcasing his products at a local Farmers Market, KJAZZ, a local television station, decided to run a human-interest piece on him. It was a 15-minute segment with video of him working in his shop. At the same time UtahStories.com also featured him. From all of this publicity, the marketing director of one of the largest Harley-Davidson dealerships, which is located in Linden, UT, and bought five wooden motorcycles. "They are now sitting on the dealership floor right along with real motorcycles," Premo laughs. "I've been getting orders from them every since."
The rocking motorcycles are made from either yellow or Ponderosa pine, which is inexpensive and easy to machine. According to Premo, the added bonus of working with pine is not only is do his customers like it and it is sturdy, but if he were working with hardwoods he would have to charge more money for the toys, which now range between $350 to $450.
The motorcycles are constructed mostly with screws, glue, dowels and some pegs. As for the finish, a water-based Min Wax stain and a water-based Min Wax polyurethane are used on the wooden motorcycles. The other wooden toys do not have a finish.
Premo says that it takes approximately two days to make a motorcycle, although some models may take three days. He makes approximately one motorcycle a week. The equipment in home work shop are basic power tools: a 14-inch band saw, a 12-inch chop saw, a 6 x 48 belt sander, an oscillating sand, drill presses, routers and table saws.
Premo's line also features 12 different sets of toys. Four vehicles go into a set and they are all somewhat related. For instance, one set includes a lumber truck, a Bob Cat, a dump truck and a cement truck.
For more information about Premo and his wooden toys, visit wasatchworkshop.etsy.com.
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