Q: Who is Luke?
A: Luke is our toy designer and one of four co-founders of Luke's Toy Factory. We were founded by two father-son pairs: Luke and his father, Jim; and Evan and his father Mitch. Luke and Jim take care of the toy design, production, and day-to-day operations. Evan and Mitch are responsible for the packaging, marketing, website and social media!
Q: Why did you start Luke's Toy Factory?
A: We saw a need for toy companies to get back to basics.
- First, they should be Made in America. By 2010, 88% of US toys were made in China. We felt that everyone involved in making the toys should be paid a living wage and work in an ethical environment.
Toys should be safe. Product recalls for lead paint, small part choking hazards and dangerous magnets, to name only a few, made it clear that toy companies were putting profits over safety.
- The toy industry needs to take the lead on using sustainable and recycled materials whenever possible. We've only got one planet, and it needs our help to protect it. By making toys with recycled materials, kids can experience the ideals that we hope they will live by.
- Toys need to be more than just " Push a button and watch it play". A toy should engage the child in active play, and encourage imagination. Toys should develop fine motor skills and problem solving abilities. And the cynical use of a licensed cartoon characters to sell a toy is not part of Luke's Toy Factory. It never will be.
- We thought it would be fun. It turns out that meeting and working with America's small retailers is rewarding and interesting. They are the heart of American commerce, and deserve your business.
Wood shavings and sawdust replace 30% of the plastic in our toys.
Q: What are these toys made out of?
A: Our toys are made out of an innovative material called Wood Plastic Composite (WPC). The material combines sawdust or other organic material like flax, rice hulls or coconut shells, with safe, certified plastic. The result is a product which is more substantial, durable and wood-like than 100% plastic toys. In fact, WPC is so durable that it is now commonly used in backyard decks and outdoor construction, with the look and feel of real lumber. The bottom line is we are replacing 30% of the plastic with organic fillers. The plastic we use is Polypropylene, which is one of the safest plastics in existence. The wood fiber is mixed in with the plastic , so that when the part is finished, the outer surface is the plastic, with the wood fiber inside. This gives the part a silky smooth finish and durability inside.
The sawdust we use is recovered from U.S. furniture manufacturers. Instead of being incinerated and contributing to CO2 emissions, we're giving it new life in our toys!
We have partnered with a plastic injection molding manufacturer in Connecticut with over 40 years of experience producing high quality, precision parts for the Healthcare, Automotive and Aerospace industries. With their help, we are bringing the best qualities of WPC to toys and your kids!
Q: How are your toys colored? Do you use paint?
A: No- we NEVER use paint. We derive our color through the use of strictly tested and certified colorants that are molded in during the production process. The colorant is a very small part of the product, usually about 2% by volume. We try to use as little colorant as possible. Our colors are NOT sprayed or painted on to the material, so they will never flake, peel or smudge.
Q: Are these toys safe?
A: Yes! Our toys are tested by a U.S. based independent testing lab. They meet or exceed the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards and the American Society for Testing and Materials requirements (ASTM-F963). We carefully monitor production during injection molding and each toy is examined one by one as it is made. In addition to designing the toys, Luke is in charge of assembling the wheels to the axles and checking the final product. Here at Luke's Toy Factory, we are very careful to make the best product we can, because safety is one of the reasons we started the company in the first place.
Q: They come apart!
A: That's the idea. First, your child solves the puzzle of assembling the toy. Don't worry, they can do it. The toys are designed with a little "wiggle room" so that the fit does not have to be perfect. This eliminates the frustration with building toys meant for older kids. After the toy is assembled, it's time to use your imagination. Ask your kid - they'll help with that!
It's like a 3d puzzle that becomes a truck!
Q: I only see four toys on your site. Are you going to make any more toys?
A: Yes! Since we are using a new material and process to make toys we needed to make sure it worked before going into production with a full line. The Fire Truck represents our proof of concept - a concept that was three years in the making! Then we made the Dump Truck and the Cargo Truck. Our newest truck is the Tipper Truck. All use the same chassis as the fire truck. This will allow kids to mix and match types of trucks and colors to come up with their very own! But that's just the beginning. We have more trucks in the works! Plus we are working on other colors for some of the trucks so there's even more variety.
Q: Okay, so you're making trucks. Anything else? What about girls' toys?
A: These are girl’s toys! In our experience, it's up to the imagination as to how you play with these toys, and girls have just as much imagination as boys. We've seen it over and over in our testing. Girls have a great time playing with the same toys that boys like. As we grow we will certainly be adding to our product offerings, expanding our line according to our plan as well as to feedback we receive from you!
Q: How do I clean these toys?
A: These toys are sink washable in warm water with ordinary dish soap. We do not recommend putting them in the dishwasher, because the heat cycle may warp the shapes.
Q: Are these toys recyclable?
A: WPC can be recycled with other WPC's and re-used, but because it's so new, most localities have not set up a recycling stream for this material. As more WPC decking and building supplies come on the market, this will change, but for right now, the best way to recycle this, and any toy, is to give it a second life by donating it to someone who can use it. Many localities have organizations like Toys for Tots or Goodwill that will be happy to give your toys a new home. That's part of getting back to basics.
Q: Is this toy made out of 100% recycled material?
A: Not Yet. Sustainability is a journey, and we are only at the beginning. When we ran our Kickstarter campaign, we had to use a WPC that was made with virgin (new) plastic and recycled sawdust. We have tested a fully recycled WPC formulation, but there are manufacturing issues with it that make it impossible to use in full production. We are working with various suppliers to solve these problems, but in the meantime we need to go with the safest, cleanest product we can buy. New types of recycled materials are coming out all the time, as more consumers demand sustainable products. We expect to find new ways to take advantage of the innovations that are already in the pipeline.
Q: What about the packaging?
A: Our new packaging is made using 100% recycled paperboard and 100% recycled plastic. It is also recyclable.
Q: My package is a (tube) (box). I was expecting a (box) (tube).
A: When we started Luke's Toy Factory, we only had the Fire Truck, and we needed a package. We went to a package trade show and found a vendor who made tubes out of a bioplastic which fit the Fire Truck. The good news was we only had to buy 1000, whereas to get a good price on the paperboard packaging we had to buy 20,000. We did the math. Many store owners loved the package, and consumers liked it because it could be used as a storage container. But toy store owners began telling us that the toy was getting lost on the shelf because you couldn't see the truck horizontally on the shelf. So we went back to the drawing board and came up with the paperboard package that we mostly use today. By then we had 4 trucks, so we were able to make a package that worked for all four trucks and could be stacked on the shelf. We still sell the tube package to those vendors who like it better. Either way, it's the same toy!
Q: Why is Made in the USA so important?
A: 88% of the world's toys are made in China where myriad safety issues have plagued multiple industries, including the Toy Industry. We set out create a better toy. A fun toy. A safe toy. The only way to ensure safety is to use the highest quality materials available, and manufacture in the USA, where production is monitored and tested every step of the way. Because of that, we know the material content of our products down to the smallest detail. The end results are toys that exceed industry safety standards.
Furthermore, manufacturing jobs are important to the basic health of our economy. By employing Americans at fair wages, we can harness the superior productivity and quality that Americans bring to a job, and make high quality products at a competitive price. Designers, toolmakers, injection molders, testing labs, packaging manufacturers- it's a big list. Everyone involved is paid a living wage and works in an ethical environment. Quality/Safety & American jobs... sounds like a win-win to us!
The crew at G&W Precision who make our molds. It's these guys and many others that bring our toys to life!