Meet Dale Rousseau of Greenbush Woods, Moorhead’s Local Toy Maker
Although woodworking has always been a part of his life, Dale Rosseau was a builder of a different kind; from California to Oklahoma to Pennslyvania and even Wyoming, he has traveled (and built) many roads across the US, having worked many years in both construction and engineering.
Even though those days have passed, his life in construction and engineering still takes shape in a new endeavor: Greenbush Woods. From bulldozers and cranes to trucks and loaders, Dale’s life on the road comes to life through his work today.
Behind The Name
Greenbush Woods was named after Greenbush, MN, where Dale grew up. He chose the names as a nod to his family roots and heritage.
However, his first wooden toys—or apparel, rather— were elastic wooden ties that he began making when his woodworking endeavor began about 15 years ago. “I started making these [first], and I went to a couple of craft fairs with just these ties,” he laughed. “I sold a few, but not a lot.”
At the time, wooden toymaking was simply a pastime hobby for Dale, who would enjoy bringing his work to craft shows periodically and working on other wood projects with his brother, who specializes in building furniture. Dale’s only goal then was to sell enough toys so that he could buy more wood to make more.
And although he too enjoys building other wood projects like shelving, toys are what interest Dale the most, especially anything with wheels.
The Process of Building a Toy
The first step to making a toy is selecting your wood. Dale likes to use mostly pine, as it’s light and cost-efficient—but also enjoys using hardwoods like walnut and cherry for other special projects.
Next, it’s time for cutting the blocks of wood and shaping them with a router. Dale uses templates to follow, so he can achieve consistent cuts, shapes and results each time—and create a more efficient workflow; after all, Santa doesn’t build all his toys overnight!
To stay inspired, Dale utilizes magazines like WOOD Magazine and Fine Woodworking Magazine, and also enjoys browsing for ideas on Pinterest.
For assembly, he opts to use wood glue and sometimes pin nailers for a clean, seamless look.
Efficiency and smooth workflow is the name of the game for Dale; he uses a custom set-up of three Craftsman table saws bolted together, which for some of his best-selling toys, allows him to produce as many as 250 in a week—it’s the perfect balance of high production without compromising quality.
He brought me over to his storage shed where he keeps all his cut-out pieces neatly organized in large plastic bins, all of them ready to be pieced together like “a big jigsaw puzzle,” as he describes. Some of his favorite pieces were stored here, which he lifted out of their bins as he proudly showed me the diversity of his work—yet these particular items should have been no surprise.
“I’m very construction-oriented, so I make a lot of construction [toys],” Dale said, holding up a couple of his favorite pieces, all made of hardwoods. He categorizes these as bookshelf toys, made to be adult collectibles rather than toys for children.
The bestseller of his hardwood collectibles is his bulldozer, which is unlike any hardwood machinery collectible you’ve seen before. Every detail is finely considered, and the hardwood tones really make for a classic look—no doubt a great conversation piece for any collector.
The best-sellers of his toys are the dump truck and the loaders, though all of his toys are equally as detailed and finely constructed, perfect for any youngster’s Christmas.
The tractor/trailer combo is a great option for kids who like to connect pieces and haul things around in—imagination is limitless. Some of my personal favorites were the airplanes and helicopters, further illustrating Dale’s expansive skillset for building just about anything that interests him.
The Perfect Christmas Gift
By now you’re probably thinking, “I love these, where can I purchase his toys?” Greenbush Woods can be found primarily at craft shows across Fargo-Moorhead and the Red River Valley, especially right now leading up to the holidays.
Many of the cars, trucks and trains you see in this story are a part of his high-production lineup of toys. However, if you have a special request for a toy, you can contact Dale at [email protected] or by visiting greenbushwoods.com