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Upon retiring from the United States Merchant Marine in 1998, John became a self-taught woodworker. He joined Made in Chenango in 2002, and then established Knapp Knoll Woodworks in 2004. While Knapp does many custom orders for a variety of interests, he specializes in heirloom quality toys. These toys are solidly built with hardwoods harvested right in his backyard. John does not use any stains, allowing the full beauty of the wood to shine through. Durable, clear, non-toxic finishes allow children to play with their toys worry-free.
John lives on his 268 acre woodlot in Oxford, NY, with his wife Stacie. "I consider myself a steward of the land more than a property owner. The cornerstones of his forestry plan are sustainability and diversity. "We have all got to do our part to take care of our corner of the planet." John is in complete control of the process, from forest management, to the harvesting of the trees, milling of the logs, and final transformation of lumber into toys. "The tree has already done most of the work, and I hope my toys help keep that appreciation for trees intact into the next generation."
By keeping his operation "in-house" John has significantly reduced the carbon footprint of his toys. There is hardly any fuel used in the transport of the logs, as he brings his small band-saw mill to the trees. Air-drying of the lumber instead of kiln-drying is another energy saver. The footprint became smaller yet, as the homestead's primary power source was converted to solar energy in April 2015.
The toys are made primarily from wood grown on John's woodlot. The most commonly used woods are Cherry, Maple and Oak. These prized hardwoods produce strong and beautiful toys, that can withstand the antics of more than one generation of children. The different species all have unique colors, that when laminated together help create delightful color combinations, further enhancing the play value. "When I see people play with my toys, they smile. That's what keeps me building."