Play & Learning,  toys

Grimms Wooden Toys Imperfections & Issues

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Did your first order of Grimms arrive? Were you giddy with excitement to share this wonderful open ended toy with a child? Or yourself?

And then you opened the package and …

The nesting bowls smell! The rainbow is asymmetric. The blocks are moldy. Someone DREW with a black crayon!

Simultaneously you are in tears and a state of rage. Your hard earned money from the “highly recommended” toy company sent you a reject.

How could Grimms Spiel und Holz have so many mistakes in their wooden toys? You own other wooden toys and none of them have marks and kinks in them. What are all these blemishes and issues on the rainbow?

The Grimms rainbow are different from other brands because they hand make all their toys. And their style of work is a bit more on the rougher edge than perfectly sanded and smooth.

For example, the Grimms rainbows they are carved from a single piece of wood. And that piece of wood is 7cm thick. For comparison, Myers rainbows are comprised of three of wood glued together, and Raduga Grez rainbows are thinner. Ocamora rainbows are most similar to Grimms, but as they are a much smaller company (who also have had supply issues and have plenty of imperfections), I cannot make a educated guess as to their line of wooden toys.

The type of wood used for the Grimms rainbow is lime wood or also known as linden. This wood is soft and easy to work with – it’s perfect for carving, instrument making, and shields (if you lived back in the Middle Ages). Lime woods alsogets plenty of knots, occasional dents, and a bit of over/under enthusiastic sanding.

Before firing off an email to the shop you purchased from, read these seven reasons why the Grimms wooden toys might be alright after all.

Rainbow is asymmetric – If you bought a rainbow of any size, you will immediately notice that the arches do not look even. In fact, the rainbow may not even stand flat on a table. Don’t fear yet, this is because of tight plastic wrapping around the rainbow (we’ll save the plastic lecture for Grimms to another day). Once you remove the plastic, the wood will expand slightly as well as settle into place.

Uneven looking arches because of plastic wrap. Photo credit: Michelle

Knots in the wood – Totally natural and common. Some knots are a few inches large and others are tiny.

Knots in wood. Photo: Patty Hoffman.
Knots and spots are very visible on the natural rainbow. Photo: Ashley R.
  1. Black spots – Black spots are not uncommon on wood, they are imperfections in the wood caused by mineral deposits. It is not mold.
Black stripes and a small spot. Photo: Harley
  1. Natural wood pieces smell funny – The natural building boards, rainbows, nesting bowls, and bridges are oiled. The strongest smell is linseed oil. To diminish the smell, you can unwrap the toys and leave outside and air them out. Over time the smell will decrease – it can take a couple months.
  2. Rainbow stacks in one direction – The rainbows are cut by hand and slight variations in the thickness of the arch occurs. Sometimes this means the rainbow stacks “one way” and not both. If you see gaps between the arches, flip one around and then it will fit snugly.
Stacking the rainbow the wrong way (bottom) and right way (top). Photo: Lauren
  1. Black stripes – Does it look like someone took a black crayon and drew across the toy. This black stripe is known as the pith tube. It’s natural and nothing to be alarmed about. Admittedly, it can look annoying but it’s another beauty of the type wood used.
Faint black stripes with black dots visible on all pieces. Photo: Colleen.

  1. Sanding is wonky – At Grimms, they hand sand all the toys and puzzles. The rainbows are all sanded on the edges. This is one way to know you have a genuine rainbow, but it also makes it easier for children to hold. Unfortunately, the sanding on the arches can be uneven, sometimes wonky. And this imperfect sanding can drive you crazy. It’s driven me crazy too; and sometimes it’s terrible to the point that you might need it replaced – it’s very much a personal decision.

Over sanded arch section. Photo: C Wong.
Roughness, an indication of incomplete sanding, little color absorption. Could consider a discussion with the seller. Photo: Nicole Wolfe
  1. Color transfer – Color transfers happens during play – it’s inevitable. But when your toys arrive with lots of color transfer, is this normal? Yes and no. Grimms products that arrive in mesh bags (geo blocks, tree blocks, roofs and pillars) can have transfer. A few dings are to be expected. A lot of color transfer, where maybe half or more of the pieces have color marks are a cause for concern.

  1. Paint is incomplete – Some of the pieces may look like it wasn’t painted. There are some instances where the painting was forgotten (a big oops) or it was a shoddy job (the roofs and pillars were notorious for a poor paint job in the corners). Most of the time however, the paint, didn’t stick because of the wood itself. Different types woods and different parts of the wood absorb dye differently. Even on a same piece it may look like the paint isn’t even. See the image for an example.

Now that we have seen some examples of imperfections, what are issues that warrant a return?

Consider the following:

  1. Is that damage significant enough that play will be impaired? Cracks can causes issues down the line. A deep crack for example, can become worse and can even break the rainbow. However, a small dent is a cosmetic flaw. It could be caused in transit or while still manufactured. A large dent would warrant you contacting the seller.
  2. Is it worth exchanging ? Knowing that Grimms rainbows are imperfect, do you want to exchange the rainbow knowing another could have imperfections? If you return, do you have a game plan for which other rainbow to purchase? Ocamora (Spain), Raduga Grez (Russia), Myers (US)?
  3. Does the imperfection bother you needlessly? If yes, then contact the seller and return. If you think that imperfections will drive you crazy considering the price paid, then return. There is nothing worse than being upset over something. Kindly remember that most of the shops selling Grimms are small businesses – they work tirelessly to keep their businesses alive, a little kindness during the return process can go a long way.
  4. Is a piece not painted? On very rare occasions, a piece isn’t stained correctly. This should be returned.
  5. Do you see chips and splinters? This isn’t normal. Contact your seller.

In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether the rainbow is perfect or not. But I do hope you consider the above before making a return and decide if what you have is an imperfection or an issue. There’s a small business owner on the other end of your email

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