Twin brothers Logan and Sam Leppo have been woodworking since they were little – they’re now high school juniors – and are now in the process of using this passion to make and donate wooden toys for homeless children.
Starting in September 2014, the brothers created 50 wooden toys which they donated to Homefront, an organization in the New Jersey area working to end homelessness, during its Christmas in July event. Now, they’ve set a bigger goal: involving other students for a donation of 5,000 toys in July 2016.
The toys come from two designs created by the brothers: a toy dachshund dog and a toy car. “We wanted the designs to be something fun and playful that children would enjoy,” Sam said, while Logan added that the design incorporates wheels on each design so that children can move the toys. “The cars can have races or they can walk the dog, fun activities like that.”
Each of those wheels so far has been cut out individually on a wheel press. “We made 50 toys over the past year, so that’s over 300 wheels,” Sam said.
The brothers are using resources both at the woodworking shop of their school, Hun School in Princeton, New Jersey, and at home, where their grandfather’s recent move to a smaller apartment brought tools like his table saw, band saw, spindle sander and more into the boys’ garage. It was at the grandfather’s workshop where Logan and Sam first got into woodworking, making “little projects like spears, swords, shields; fun stuff like that,” Logan said. “When we were younger, my brother and I were always interested in Greek and Roman mythology,” Sam said.
They’ve also started a club at their school, Toys for Smiles, to involve other students in building the toys for next year’s projected larger donation. “It’s got 40 or 50 members, and every week, we’ll meet, go into the school’s woodshop and create these toys,” Logan said.
Logan has taken a previous class in woodworking, where he made a breadboard and a mirror frame, and is signed up for a class this year which will include building tables and an Adirondack chair. Sam hasn’t yet taken the intro to woodworking class; when he tried to sign up, it was full.
And, the brothers say, they are getting a good response from other schools they’ve contacted. “We’re finding plenty of schools in the area still have woodshops,” Logan said, while Sam added, in regard to the 5,000 toys goal, “I think we can reach it based on the response we’re getting.”
If another school or organization wants to get involved, the brothers supply the designs and an instructional manual. “The most challenging part of building it I would say is sanding,” Sam said. “We have to make them splinter-free, so after every single step, it’s 500-grit sandpaper. We’re constantly making sure there’s no splinters, no rough edges.”
Part of the instructions to others, Logan said, include that each piece needs to be “checked by three classmates and a teacher to ensure there’s no splinters and it’s safe.”
After the main shape of the design is cut out, Sam said, the next step is to cut a hole in the bottom of each toy to put dowels through for the wheels. The wheels are fastened onto the dowels with wood glue.
Pine is the wood of choice for the toys, Logan said, because it’s an acceptable color, doesn’t burn, and is usually inexpensive.
Both brothers, Logan said, have been involved in community service projects both through school and otherwise for a long time, including serving at a soup kitchen, assisting with the Special Olympics, and more. “Both my mom and my grandmother are big contributors to Homefront, so it has been in my family going to Homefront and giving back,” he said.
“When we got to high school,” he said, “we wanted to see where we could take this passion of ours, and how we could use woodworking to help our community.” Making toys for homeless children, Sam said, “is a great way to use one of our hobbies we like to do to help people.”