The Self's Wooden Toys and Cookies, Local Treasures

Thursday, December 17, 2015
Danny Self with some of his unique wooden toy creations.(TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

Retired Piggott mathematics teacher Danny Self enjoys making toys, but not just any toys -- one-of-a-kind handcrafted wooden toys.

Homemade toys are a rare commodity many will travel to buy. However, Self said his toys are a hobby and are in no way a job, which only adds to the beauty of his craft. Each toy is different and no two are ever quite the same.

"I prefer to just start from an idea, no pattern, and see where it goes," Self said. "It's fun to make it up as you go; if it doesn't work you take it apart and try again." As any good algebra student knows, trial and error is the way of mathematics.

Pat Self with a batch of her famous sugar cookies.(TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

Self has followed in his father J.D. Self's footsteps. "I started with a pocket knife and a hand saw like my dad," Self said. "My first project with my dad was a toy gun that shot darts." As the years went by his woodwork skills have advanced, and he even built the shop he works in from a tree he cut in his own backyard.

His favorite items to shape are guns, small rifles, pistols and slugs. His next favorites are cars, trucks, boats and airplanes. The larger pieces are shaped using different kinds of saws and the more intricate pieces he adds, such as in the bed of the truck shown in the picture, a small shovel, gas can and fishing pole; all of these small pieces he's whittled with his pocket knife.

The wood itself is striped with different varieties as he doesn't want anything to go to waste. He uses every piece of scrap he can make work by gluing pieces of wood together until they are the size he wants, which gives his pieces a specific look that adds to their charm.

The toys are a labor of love. It took Self 40 hours to model the 1928 Chevrolet in the picture and it costs customers only $100. Each rifle is made intricately and each one is marked with a penny in the stock, so the new owner knows it came from Self. The guns are priced starting at $30.

Self also makes stools he calls "Doc Johnson stools" after D.R. Johnson, who taught shop at Piggott, because he had his students make the same kind of stool each year.

Self's wife Pat, who worked for the Piggott School District for 17 years (nine of which she was over study hall), also enjoys baking and, much to the delight of Piggott residents, the pair sell their wares at the farmers market in town when it's open.

Pieces that Self has already made can be purchased from him, but during the market he takes orders from people interested in his creations. Pat loves to bake and there's no way she and Danny could possibly eat it all. Most students attending Piggott schools while the Selfs were employed already know how wonderful her cookies taste. "It all began when my daughter wanted Halloween cookies for her class and it grew from there," Pat said.

Self is originally from Holly Grove and moved to Piggott in 1973 after a short stint teaching in Pocahontas. He earned his master's degree from Arkansas State University in 1968. Self also preaches at Calvary Baptist, where he has been for 35 of the 48 years in his ministry. Pat is originally from Wisconsin and moved to Piggott in 1977.

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