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Dennis trades trains for toys becoming Santa’s latest elf

Dennis with toys in his workshop.JPEG

The art of hand chiseling wooden toys isn’t very common nowadays, but Bolton Clarke Westhaven, Toowoomba retirement village resident Dennis Law is doing his bit to keep craftsmanship alive this Christmas.

Dennis, a former engineer whose steel industry career included making trains for Queensland Rail and locomotives for the coalmines, has traded trains for toys and is busy making them for children ahead of Christmas – the old-fashioned way, just like Santa’s elves.

He’s made dinosaurs, train sets, trucks, see-saws and even a Batmobile. Many of his toys have moving parts.

“I’ve always worked in steel and worked with my hands,” Dennis said.

“When I retired, I started going to the men’s shed and began working with timber.”

He takes inspiration from diverse sources, including modelling a recreation of a mate’s antique toy.

“It was about 77 years old at the time,” he said. 

Dennis’ wife Deslyn is incredibly proud of his work.

“The quality of it is incredible!” she said. “He gets a pattern for each toy online, but the detail he adds to them is just amazing.”

Dennis says because toy-making isn’t very common, reading some of the plans can be like reading a foreign language – even with his extensive experience.

“Some of them aren’t the best of plans - I keep finding mistakes in the ones we find online and having to adjust them,” he says. “But it keeps me and my brain active.”

The passion Dennis has for his work is evident, and his workshop has taken over their garage.

“We’ve had to start parking the car outside,” laughs Deslyn. “He’s never got any time spare for sitting around!”

Dennis donates the toys to the Glenvale Men’s Shed, where he attends once a week. The shed sells them and uses the money for maintenance, tools and materials for the workshop.

Bolton Clarke Retirement Village Manager Vanessa Nugent said his work has made many children happy, including her own grandkids.

“I’ve got my orders in for Christmas!” she said. “Dennis is the Westhaven elf.”

Bolton Clarke also donated a kitchenette to the men’s shed following renovations at the Westhaven village.