Bob Leber of East Greenville gives a demonstration of a wooden top he made which was for sale at the Hereford Elementary School Bazaar earlier this month.
In his basement workshop, piled high with wood of all varieties, paints and varnishes, Bob Leber can lose track of time.
Leber, a retired custodian for Upper Perkiomen School District, spends his free time making a variety of wood toys and decorative items. Each piece is molded by his steady hands into items like trucks, puzzles, farm sets and shelves that kids and adults alike have been appreciating for years.
For Leber, woodworking started as a hobby he learned from his dad, where he worked side by side fashioning clocks and magazine racks.
“My dad did this stuff after he retired,” the East Greenville resident explained. “He made more adult things, bigger things that people custom ordered from him. But I enjoy making toys. It’s a fun hobby.”
Leber’s aptitude for toys came early as he made animal puzzles, some of his first creations, and cars first for his son, Steven, and later grandsons Michael, Zach and Shawn. He also shared his creations with students at Red Hill Elementary and then Hereford Elementary, some of whom became like family to him over the years.
Each piece begins with a block of wood which is then measured or has a shape traced or sketched onto it. It is later cut with a table, scroll or band saw and is sanded and painted or finished.
Over the years Leber has made trains, tractors, paper towel holders, all kinds of shelving units, Christmas ornaments and lettering, cars and trucks, light switch covers, puzzles and a duck push toy, just to name a few. His most popular items, which he sells at holiday bazaars at places like Hereford and Marlborough elementary schools, remain an old-fashioned rope spinner toy and puzzles.
“At the shows I just love the way the kids get so excited about the toys. It’s neat; year after year they come back to my table. When they really get the knack of something their eyes just light up,” he noted.
“Dad loves kids so most of his stuff gravitates towards toys and things they’d like,” said son, Steven.
While Leber’s grandson, Shawn said his favorite handmade item his “Pop-Pop” made him was a train bank, and brother Zach, said his favorite remains a NASCAR clock, the boys have also gotten in on the crafting. They have spent time with their grandfather learning how to use various saws and other equipment to make a simple block of wood into something fun or useful.
“It’s really enjoyable to me that my son and grandsons enjoy the stuff as well. And they’re good at the artwork part,” Leber said motioning to eyes painted on a pig puzzle. “I’m not.”
“Woodwork is our way of spending family time together,” Steven noted. It’s been going on for generations. We like to work with our hands and create things.”
Leber said he is getting new ideas for toys all the time, some on a recent trip to Wisconsin, and also does custom orders. He made an ornate fretwork piece for his wife’s daughter’s wedding gift depicting an Amish man in a horse-drawn buggy with a landscaped background.
“Those are so involved,” he said of that type of woodworking. “Sometimes you have to put it down for a while and come back later. But I really enjoy how the fretwork comes out.”
To see Leber’s and 50 other local crafters’ work, visit the Christmas bazaar at Marlborough Elementary Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.