Men in Sheds

Many of the toys you will find in the shops in the High Street, and indeed in online shops as well, are mass produced in China. The good thing about this for the customer is that mass produced toys tend to be cheap. Partly because they are mass produced, and partly because wages in China are low by European standards. And of course some of the toys that we sell in the Grand Illusions Toy Shop are made in China.

However our real passion is for toys made by "men in sheds". These will be hand made, and also only made in small quantities. Of course men in sheds do not attend the trade shows and often do not advertise at all. So as our toy collector and resident expert Tim Rowett travels around the world, he is always on the lookout for these elusive men in sheds that might have a new product that we could help bring to a wider audience. We are always pleased when customers e-mail or telephone us to say that we have items in the Toy Shop that they have not seen anywhere else. We are also really pleased to be able to support the "shed economy".

Of course handmade items created in small quantities will always be more expensive than mass produced items. And sometimes the shed economy works in a completely different way to the mainstream. We were amused to hear the story from one of our men in sheds who was visited by a foreign business man, who wanted initially to know how much it would cost for 100 pieces of a particular item. Via the interpreter he was quoted a price. He then asked how much it would cost if he ordered 1,000 pieces, hoping to get a good bargain, and was amazed to discover that the price for each piece had now gone up, and not down as he was expecting. When he asked why this was, the reply came back simply "boredom". Making 100 pieces is ok, but it will be really boring to have to make 1,000 pieces, and so the price of each item will have to go up, to compensate for the "boredom factor".

In 2009, we were very pleased to discover Rainer Popp (pictured above) who spends some of his spare time making a small range of beautifully engineered "Impossible Locks".

If you know of any "men in sheds" or even "women in sheds" - although they seem to be ever rarer! - or if you yourself are a "man or woman in the shed" who makes an unusual educational, scientific or puzzling item, we would love to hear from you. If they/you produce items that are a good fit with the Grand Illusions Toy Shop, then we would be delighted to add these items to our range.

We are also looking for small companies that make interesting and unusual items that are not widely known. In addition, if you have ideas for items that you would like to see created, please let us know. Recently one of our regular customers, Bernard Gisin - a teacher from Switzerland - sent us a suggested design for a new puzzle. I am pleased to say that we have been able to get the puzzle made (by some men in sheds here in the UK) and it went up on the Grand Illusions web site.

So, if you have a suggestion for an item you think we should have in the Toy Shop, or an idea for something you think that we could make, please contact me at hendrik.ball (at)

Hendrik Ball