Hobbies and Fun – Introduction

fun-640x200The best toys for very small children are large spoons and small pots with lids. For larger children, plaster of Paris can be colored with finger paint and molded into chalk sticks. The cheapest sled for small children is a corrugated pasteboard box; it will slide nearly as well on grass as on snow. For older children, a truck inner tube is fun on snow.

A toy that kept children amused for hours was the disk buzzer, which consists of a large button or a thin disk of wood with two holes in it; a string is looped through the holes, and the ends are tied together. One finger on each hand is hooked through the loops and the disk is twirled to wind it up. When the hands are forced apart and then relaxed, the string unwinds and rewinds while the disk spins with a buzzing sound. A hummer is a thin piece of wood about 6 in. long and 2 in. wide; it is whirled around in a circle with a string through a hole in one end. A tailless kite has a thin vertical stick 4 ft long, a bowed horizontal stick 3 ft long, a covering of light paper, a harness string attached to the top and bottom of the vertical stick, and a kite string tied to the harness string slightly above the balance point.

In earlier times, boys made spring whistles by bruising (tapping) and twisting the bark off of tulip poplar branches; the girls made dolls from fall corn shucks.

Crystal Garden

The old crystal garden that fascinated people in Victorian times can be made by stirring together 4 Tbs. plain salt, 4 Tbs. laundry bluing, 4 Tbs. water, and 1 Tbs. household ammonia. Dissolve the salt, and pour the liquid over a porous rock or a piece of coal. Use drops of food coloring to dye the crystals.

Christmas Windows

One way to decorate windows at Christmas was to dissolve as much epsom salts (sold in drugstores) as possible in water or windshield washing fluid; a brush was used to paint the glass; the salt crystallizes as it dries.


A wire or fiberglass screen makes a good stencil for wood signs; tack the screening to a wood frame. Use stencil letters from a craft store, or, for a positive, make letters with tape, paint everything else with melted paraffin, and peel off the tape. Place on a piece of paper or wood and spray with paint or dab with a nearly dry brush.

Crystal Radio

The key parts to the old crystal radio were high-impedance headphones (at least 2000 ohms), a detector, a long outside wire antenna, and a good ground. Any germanium diode will serve as a detector; one type is 1N34; the original radios used a metallic crystal (commonly pyrite or galena) and a cat’s whisker (a thin springy wire with one end touching the crystal). A tuning coil or variable condenser is needed for tuning. The antenna and the ground are the two terminals of the circuit; the detector and the headphones are wired in series between the terminals, and the tuning coil is wired in parallel, across the terminals.

Halloween Crafts

To make imitation blood, boil together ½ cup water, 1 tsp. instant coffee, 1 tsp. yellow food coloring, and 2 tsp. red food coloring. Separately mix a paste with 2½ tsp. flour and 2 tsp. of water; stir the paste into the boiling water. Cool and stir in ½ tsp. of liquid detergent. Pour on a rag wrapped around an arm.

To preserve a snakeskin, rub the inside with steel wool and borax to remove all meat. Let dry overnight, and paint with automobile antifreeze; the treated skin will be pliable and fairly strong.

A craft that dates back only to the 1960’s is making prints of spider webs. An interesting web can be sprayed with paint and allowed to dry. A piece of wood or card-board is then held against the back of the web, and the front is sprayed with a plastic sealer.

Invisible Ink

For invisible ink, mix 1 part of boiled linseed oil into 20 parts of household ammonia; the writing can be seen by wetting the paper. Or use milk or sugar syrup; the writing can be made visible by heating the paper.

Craft Paint

Craft paint can be made by mixing ½ cup corn starch with ½ cup cold water. Separately, soak ¼ oz (1 packet) of unflavored gelatin in ½ cup of cold water to soften. Pour the starch mixture into 2 cups of hot water, and slowly stir in the gelatin. Finally, for each cup of the mixture, add ½ cup of soap powder or grated soap and 1 tsp. of Rit dye.


For casting and carving, mix equal parts of melted wax and clay. Plaster of Paris, if completely dry, can be used for casting lead and other metals. Boiled linseed oil makes the best adhesive for sand molds or castings, but molasses (any thick syrup) can be used. Plaster can be mixed with fiberglass or mortar sand, and plaster can be made tougher by boiling in wax, tallow, or milk. Paper mache is harder and more moisture resistant if made with plaster of Paris instead of flour paste. To make a plaster cast of a person’s face, first coat the hair with vegetable oil, insert tubes in the nostrils, and fasten a roll of cloth around the head to limit the spread of the plaster. Mix the plaster and apply about a ½-in. thick coating. When the plaster is hard, remove it, soak it in linseed oil, and use this negative for casting a positive copy.