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I had a plastic welding kit when I was a kid — one very much like the one (pictured above) that I ran across on Gizmodo last week. It’s a pretty simply toy: a motor in the “welder” spins plastic “welding rods.” The friction between the soft plastic “rod” and other plastic items creates enough heat to melt the rod, which then hardens and attaches things together.

(I know, since it’s almost always the rod that melts instead of the items kids are hooking together, this is technically brazing. But try writing kid-friendly packaging with “brazing” on it.)

As the Giz points out, this kind of toy is probably a lawsuit waiting to happen — you know, when little Bobby gets a small welt from spinning the rod on his finger, or when Timmy brazes his toy cell phone to the front of daddy’s new $5,000 plasma HDTV. Such is our litigious society.

So instead of learning from the welt, Bobby grows up in blissful ignorance, eventually picking up a Harbor Freight MIG unit after a long night of American Chopper reruns, and proceeds to flash and burn the crap out of himself and every metal item he owns. (Timmy, well, grows up to be a well-adjusted kid spared the merciless ass-beating he’d have endured after jacking up the TV.)

My point is simple: it’s easy to hurt yourself with tools — especially as a child. But that doesn’t mean we should shield children from every possible injury, robbing them of valuable — and often inexpensive — life experience. Toys like this plastic welder give kids a chance to use a real tool and learn how fun it can be to take charge of one’s environment instead of just accepting things the way they are. As most Toolmongers know, with a few tools, a lot of sweat and spare time, and enough desire, one can have most anything.

Anyway, if you want to buck the trend and give your kids an early start, you can have your own Discovery Power Welder for about $30 via the link below. And do us (and yourself) a favor: follow up that tool gift with the gift of knowledge and experience, lest you find (as Gizmodo suggests) “all your credit cards fused into one lump, never to be used again.”

Working Plastic-Welder Toy For Kids [Gizmodo]
Discovery Power Welder [Discovery Store]


10 Responses to Rant: Why Can’t Kids Have Great Tool Toys Anymore?

  1. Maureen says:

    I’ve got a six-year-old nephew who I would just love to get this for. Last Christmas, I bought him his own little plastic toolbench w/ plastic tools included. He had so much fun playing around with it, that I think I’ve created a miniature Toolmonger. As long as I’m there, I’ll let him in my shop next time he comes to visit and teach him how to pound real (not plastic) nails into a block of wood. And then if I end up getting this little toy for him, he can weld some things together as well. It’d be a great experience for the little guy.

  2. Davo says:

    Aw, just let the kids play with your toys…err, I mean tools…

  3. jim says:

    Kids should be playing and exploring and hurting themselves – it’s how they learn.
    I just finished putting together a bookshelf (OK, it was Ikea, but my shop is only 6′ x6′ square) with my 2 year old daughter – it was great fun, and she has a ball hammering in the nails on the back.
    (I was so proud when she saw my hammer come out and she ran to get her wooden mallet to help) She’s definitely getting some kid tools for Christmas.

  4. Quinn says:

    I had a very similar ‘tool’ growing up and I have very fond memories of brazing together cars and cranes then fixing them when they broke.

    I decided to get my daughter a set of real tools for her birthday but I was surprised how difficult it was to find a set of woodworking tools sized for a four year old’s hands. I finally bought a ‘vintage’ set of e-bay.

  5. ShopMonger says:

    When I was 8 I did a head job on a bmw, that same year I also helped build a turbo charged 350 chevy for a boat. I don’t see why people are so afraid of having thier children in the shop. There were simply rules…. No using welders, torches, table saw, or the chain saw. I knew the rules and followed them because I was allowed to use all the other tools. Kids who don’t have any idea nd “sneak” into the shop are more likely ot get hurt than a well informed one. Just like guns, tools are tools to be used for a purpose. And only for that purpose. Teaching our children to be responsible for thier action would be great thing. Most adults today can’t even take responsibility for thier own actions.

  6. Blair says:

    I once heard a quote, “why do they call it common sense, when it is so uncommon”, and I think most who read this site, and especially the commenters agree.

    How do we expect children to learn, if we are afraid to teach?

    I think “toy” tools like this are important to child development, and if an interest is kindled, a doorway to the supervised use of real tools.

    I’ll be willing to bet that most of us who enjoy the freedom of being able to do things for ourselves were brought up in this way, and I see nothing wrong with today’s youth, that a little less hand wringing wouldn’t solve.

    Stepping down off the soapbox now, but I intend to buy two before they become banned…..

  7. Blair says:

    Oh, and Maureen, (and anyone else who likes to discuss tools), drop me a line mstng1954@yahoo.com, re the miter saw debate for now, but always open to good discussion

  8. Maureen says:

    When did you guys first get into tools? I got into tools because of Home Improvement reruns. It’s amazing what TV will do for a bored kid. 🙂 I learned I loved tools! I was about 6 at the time.

    Did you guys have parents who believed in letting kids try things, or did you learn at school, or from friends?

    I think toys like this one will help kids discover interests they would never otherwise discover.

  9. BIGGEORGE says:

    When I was a kid I had a model kit that you had to weld the pieces of plastic together to assemble.

    You could make a car or a boat I think.

  10. Kocheeco says:

    I loved the Spin Welder when I was a kid. And yep, remember my first lesson about friction, on my fingernail. Want to fix the economy, give more kids like these.

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