As Al Raboff works the arm of a drill press, it’s easy to imagine him in Santa’s workshop.

The main workbench of Raboff’s shop is covered with wooden wheels, dowels, half-completed helicopters, roosters and walking grasshoppers.

Raboff and a dozen other members of Santa Cruz Toy Makers run their machines year round, crafting toys to give away to kids.

Over the past 14 years, Santa Cruz Toy Makers has made and donated 2,500 toys to local nonprofits, churches and children’s groups, which in turn give the toys to kids in need.

It all began when Raboff became a granddad.

He started making toys in his shop (wooden trucks, trains and animals), timeless toys with wheels and moving parts — the kind of toys kids can’t resist.

He spent hours in the shop, covered in sawdust, running the band saw and table sander.

Then another grandchild came along, then a third. One day, his daughters said enough was enough.

But he couldn’t keep out of the shop. The problem: What to do with all the toys?

Enter Santa Cruz Toy Makers.

Raboff and some friends began meeting once a month at Tiny’s Restaurant in Capitola to swap schematics they’d gathered from trade journals or invented themselves.

They would also bring a toy to the meeting, and began donating their toys to needy kids.

At one point the group had 18 members. But some moved, while others got too old or passed away. The number shrunk to a dozen members, most of them in their 70s.

Now the group is seeking new members. There’s no age requirement to join (they’re trying to recruit younger toy makers).

The club also has no dues, no offices, no requirements — other than making one toy a month, and it can be anything you want.

If you’d like to get a feel for the kinds of toys they make, visit their annual display at the Santa Cruz Public Library’s Main Branch at Center and Church streets.

A variety of their hand-crafted toys will be in a library display case for the entire month of December.

Joining Santa Cruz Toy Makers is a year-round commitment.

"There are a lot of toy-maker groups around the country, but most of them make their toys for Christmas distribution," Raboff said.

"We make ours year round — and give them out year round."

Some of the toys displayed in the library are so complicated, they took the craftsmen weeks to complete.

In 1996, Raboff made two wooden backhoes — each consisted of 150 pieces.

If you’d like more information, show up to their next meeting, held at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 2, at Tiny’s Restaurant, 1549 41st Ave. in Capitola.

For more information about the club, call 426-7325.

Contact Travis Semmes at