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  • Writer's picturezoe birrell

Eco Friendly Wood Fidgets for Transgiving

This year I decided to take part in transgiving again by designing and making a batch of eco friendly fidgets from mostly wood. In this blogpost I will run you through the why and the how of bringing this project to life with a fair bit of assistance from photographs which I apologise in advance for their quality as they were all taken with my phone and some are a bit meh but I wanted to give you a visual glimpse into the process.

Why Take Part in Transgiving

TransGiving is a project which sends care packages to trans and non binary folks across the UK. It’s a not for profit project organised on instagram that is running for its third year and I am really happy I made work for it again this year as this is my second year taking part.

Community is really important to me and in participating in this project I want to send some trans joy and love out to members of the trans community who are far more likely to feel isolated at this time of year due to estrangement from family etc. And especially with the present climate around trans and gender issues in the western world I know this can be a lifeline to a lot of people.

But participating in Transgiving also helps me feel and be a part of this community. The organisers fundraiser and give small grants to trans artist to cover the costs of materials and their work which in turn supports trans creatives.

This year I used the £75 grant provided to cover material costs and donated my time and had a lot a help from a couple of friends to bring it all together.

For more info on TransGiving visit @transgivinguk

Why Eco Friendly Mostly Wood Fidgets

I decided to make these wood fidgets because I wanted to make the most eco friendly and trans affirming fidget I could think of. I specifically wanted to make a fidget for this project as a high percentage of trans and non binary people and neurodivergent and Im all about practical gifts that can have a practical use in day to day life. I love the idea of these wood fidgets living in folks pockets giving them little doses of joy when ever they need it throughout their day.

Although I definitely think I could have made something that was more sustainable I felt like the compromises in using ply over plastic  helped reduce their long term impact. After going backwards and forwards on the design I settled on this one. The goal was to make the fidgets 100% plastic free but I found the bearing with metal cages where not as good at the job and where very noisy meaning if you wanted to play with fidget in a social situation it would draw attention.

How These Eco Friendly Wood Fidgets Where Made

The photos illustrating this post have been telly you the story of the project from a small sketch on a piece of paper to the final boxed fidgets before they where dropped off to be lovingly packed up and shipped to recipients. 300 people applied but sadly the budget I had was only enough to make 60 fidgets as the cost of materials was pretty high.

Last year the project I made was entirely done by hand. This was labour intensive on a time used level so this year I thought maybe I could get far more individual fidgets made it I used tools for part of the project. The main restriction to the quantity of fidgets made was the bearings used which led to the decision to make clay weights for the arms.

A friend had just aquired a laser cutter so I set to work figuring out how to design something using it. The idea being that once the work is done I could go back and make as many as I need in the future with minimum effort. On a sustainability level however maybe using a laser cutter is not the most eco friendly way to work due to high electricity use and the production of the tool itself.

I started with a triangular design but after testing out a few shapes we ended up with a more traditional design as the triangle did not seam to spin as well and the fact I was making clay weights on the arms affected the scale of the design. The use of wood meant that unlike plastic the fidget had far more structural weak points. This all factored into final shape and design.

The inclusion of the trans logo in some way was never really in question and I really liked the idea of using clay which tied the project to the fidget dice I had made last year for transgiving.

Initially I was planning in making these by hand but then a friend who works with cnc machines at a plastic forming factory volunteered to make a mold for pressing in the design. Although this again drastically increased the environmental impact of the project in the short term duet to energy and materials used to design and fabricate the mold the more of these fidgets I make over the time the more sustainable it will become.

Once the mold was made I had to finalize me decision on what clay to use. I desired to use Das air dry clays as they are vegan and unse a lot of natural materials. Although my favourite clay was the wood paste based one this proved to be a nightmare to use with the mold as it kept sticking making casting with it a messy job that require a lot of talk and water and washing mold between each cast. The stone dust based clay worked really well in the casting process and got better results as did the red clay based clay. I ended up doing a selection of them all.

The dowels used for finger holder where cut to size individually on a bandsaw and then hammered into the centre of each bearing which was the press fitted into each fidget body. Finally I had also had 3mm round bits made for the finger holders in centre of fidgets which I decided to add my painting frog sketch to. These where glued on with some wood glue. And then they where done.

I had some laser cut fidgets which had mishaps in the etching process which I decided to char with a blow torch so they could still be used which made for a cool black alternative design.

To Sum The WHole Thing Up and Thanks

This whole project took me around four months to pull together with a lot of challenging for me coordination and communication of my wishes for the final look of the design but over the last couple of weeks I have been getting to see post and comments made by people who received their transgiving parcels which have given me a lot of joy.

Bringing these eco friendly wood fidgets into reality was definitely a collaborative project. I would really like to send a big thank you to Dale who did all the laser cutter work, and Kevin who did all the cnc work for the mold. And obviously Transgiving for organising the entire thing and inspiring me to bring it all together for them.

And a massive thank you for sticking with me to the end of this post. I hope you found it interesting.

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