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Barclay Blocks
Barclay Blocks
American Hard Maple - The Real Deal
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      They say that Joseph was a carpenter.  If so, he surely knew what every other carpenter knows: kids love to play with cut-offs and other fall.  Welcome to our web site.  This page is about Unit Blocks and is directed to those who find it better to read about some things than to merely study the pictures. We manufacture and sell classic, school size wooden unit blocks for children made of premium American Hard Maple in 54 different kits.  We sell Open Stock in 95 individual shapes.  We sell alphabet blocks in 31 languages and variations, we sell craft cubes and parts for hobbyists, and we sell block stock for those who want to make their own.  Our blocks are completely free of noxious chemicals and are tested by an independent laboratory to conform to CPSIA and CPSC rules in regard to chemical and mechanical safety.  These children's blocks and other blocks toys provide a lifetime of pleasure for youngsters who like to build things.  You can buy a whole set, you can add to a set you already have, or you can buy one piece at a time.  We sell superior wooden blocks of the finest material in an exceptional range of shapes and sizes and we sell economy blocks for those who are seeking a more economical product.   Cathedral in Blocks 
       Unit blocks are the best educational toy ever made - a once in a lifetime investment. If you are shopping for blocks or thinking about buying some of them, you might want to consider the following check list - this has been the standard for quality unit blocks for over 100 years:
1.  Are they the standard size for school size blocks? (a full 1-3/8 thick with a unit block 1-3/8 by 2-3/4 by 5-1/2 inches)
2.  Are they made of Hard Maple? (not some vague "hardwood")
3.  Are a wide range of shapes available in open stock to add later? In any quantity?  In any shape?  At any time?
4.  Are they independently, lab tested for safety?
5.  Are they made in the USA?
Airport in Wooden Blocks         If you are seeking premium, American made wooden building blocks, our domestic toy blocks made of Rock Maple will last for generations. Like good pots, good tires, and good tools - blocks withstand a lifetime of abuse.  When that computer is gone, and the next computer is gone, and the computer after that is gone, four phones, six cameras, and four cars later . . . you'll still have the blocks. "Cost" is how much play you get for a dollar, and this is one ot the cheapest toys money can buy because children will play with these blocks for years and years and years. We know that we can't persuade everyone, but we've known too many people who still have their blocks after thirty or forty years to be convinced that you save money by buying lots of cheap plastic toys. 
      Wooden building blocks are the premier educational toy.  Few playthings have aged so well.  Their long pedigree, according to Witold Rybczynski, can be dated to (at least) the end of the 18th century:

  "The earliest mention of building bricks for children that I have come across is in Maria and R.L. Edgeworth's 'Practical Education', published in 1798.  It is no coincidence that this is a pedagogical text, since building toys were, from the beginning, not merely for fun. Building bricks were called "rational" toys, and they were intended to teach children about assembling many small different parts into a whole, about gravity and physics, and about how buildings were made. John Ruskin, referring to the Edgeworths, wrote that thanks to his wooden toy bricks - 'my constant companions' - by the time he was seven or eight years old he had mastered 'the laws of practical stability in towers and arches". That would have been about 1825. Twenty years later, Henry Cole's famous series of Victorian children's books, 'The Home Treasury', included a box of terra-cotta toy bricks that was accompanied by actual building plans contained in a pamphlet titled 'Architectural Pastime'.                    
                                (Witold Rybczynski in "Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture," Penguin (1992) with permission)

        Simon Schama also mentions Henry Cole, the inventor of the Christmas Card, as an early promoter of building blocks made of ceramic.  Americans credit Caroline Pratt, who encouraged the development of kindergarten in the early part of the 20th century.  Ms. Pratt's wooden blocks set the standard for those in current use in Kindergartens and Preschools all over the US.  There is also a loose connection to Fredrick Froebel, a mid 19th century German educator who developed simple sets of wooden blocks for research purposes.  But personallly, I think The evolution of Unit Blocks is probably more prosaic, the true inventor a nameless zimmerman.  And I harken back to Joseph and children who love to play with cut-offs and other fall.  There is little doubt that children have been playing with these hunks of wood since time immemorial.  ( In years past parents told us their children were stacking up  and making houses out of VHS cases - blocks as ephemera!)
      The "unit" concept continued to evolve into such famous offshoots as Erector Sets, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, Legos, and K'NEX.  These are the survivors among hundreds of other innovative, though less successful unit construction toys that have passed from the scene.  This scaling idea is ubiquitous: addition and multiplication objectified, and the term "building blocks" has become a cliché for the modular concept in general . . . there are "building blocks" for computer programs, mental health, school programs, lesson plans, nutrition, . . . whenever someone wishes to impart the idea of an organizational structure, the "building blocks" concept is invoked. Aec de Triumph 
      The best wooden blocks are hard and stout and made to the customary scale for school size blocks from a heavy, fine-grained hardwood.  But the term hardwood isn't very informative - it refers to the tree being an angiosperm. Many hardwoods are soft (like Aspen or Balsa) and many softwoods (gymnosperms - like Fir and Pine) are quite hard. It isn't a question of blocks being made of hardwood, but of a hard hardwood. The premium choice is the American Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) which has been used for years for floors, bowling alleys, and countertops. The downside is that Hard Maple is a premium hardwood and this kind of quality comes at a price.  Other "hardwoods" are much cheaper.  The term hardwood by itself is meaningless and does not mean that the wood is "hard."
      An additional virtue of Rock Maple is that the blocks are fine grained. For example, Oak and Walnut are very hard hardwoods, but they tend to have large pores which result in very rough blocks. The Soft Maples (Red Maple, Silver Maple, Big leaf Maple. Western Maple) have a similar color and texture to Hard Maple, but these woods are materially lighter and softer than Hard maple.  Wood blocks take a terrible pounding over a lifetime and there is no substitute for quality. Hard Maple is the best. Hard Maple blocks get the job done and they last.  That's why Rock Maple has been the woodworker's choice for Unit Blocks for 100 years.
synagogue in Blocks       Sugar Maple (Hard maple) is a uniquely North American tree - it only grows in the eastern US and Canada.  It is noted for its spectacular colors in the fall so familiar to the residents of Vermont and New Hampshire.  The Canadians put it on their flag.  Europeans substitute European Beech which is a little lighter and a little softer.  The best blocks are completely uncoated. In times past, manufacturers painted their "seconds" bright colors and made a virtue out of necessity, but these days painted and colored blocks are viewed by many people with suspicion.  Most of these painted toys come with little assurance that the paint is safe, and under the best of circumstances this means only that they are absent lead or heavy metals - not that the paint is edible.
     The best storage for wooden blocks is a small bookcase.  Simple bookshelves from Wal-Mart and elsewhere are excellent for storage and your blocks won't become mixed with other toys.  Even the smallest bookcase will store a lot of blocks as they stack together tightly.  Rolling plastic carts from Wal-Mart and elsewhere will also serve, but there are important lessons to be learned in putting the blocks away by shape, it is far easier to use the blocks when they don't all have to be dumped out on the floor, and a simple bookcase is the right solution.  We hope you enjoy our blocks and spend some time exploring this and other pages.
     
 
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Copyright 2003 Barclay Wood Toys and Blocks, Inc.
207 N. Main St., PO Box 819
Hebron, Indiana 46341
1-877-606-4374 (ph)
1-877-249-3624 (fx)