Friday, December 22nd, 2006
Review: Crayola Crayon Maker
The Crayola Crayon Maker won an Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award and was named a best toy of the year from Child Magazine. I don’t put much stock in toy awards. I bought this contraption. We played with it. I want my money back.
The Big Idea with the Crayon Maker is that you melt broken crayon bits down and make new, whole crayons. New colors are possible by mixing the colors of the broken pieces. Sounds cool, right?
Operation of this 60 watt wax forge is simple. Plug in the machine. Pull back a clear protective plastic cover to reveal a metal tray that has three crayon-sized impressions. Broken crayons get placed into the impressions, the protective cover is put back in place, and then you twist a knob to active the machine.
An unseen light bulb turns on, giving the machine a slight glow, and there is a loud ticking sound, much like a robust kitchen timer. The bulb heats the metal tray and the crayons melt. When the light turns off halfway through the process, you twist a second knob to tilt the metal tray and pour the melted crayons into a plastic mold. You wait for the machine to stop ticking, then open the protective lid, remove the mold, crack open the mold, and remove your new, cooled crayons. For cleanup, wipe a tissue through the metal tray and the plastic mold to pick up as much wax residue as possible.
Here is how The Big Idea falls apart:
- The first disappointment comes when you open the product box and realize you need to head back to the store to buy a special 60 watt small-base candelabra bulb before the fun begins.
- The entire creation process is supposed to take 20 minutes. It takes me 40 minutes. By the book, the broken crayons melt in 10 minutes, with another 10 minutes to cool. My crayons take about 16 minutes, but because there is no way to time it, I wait until the light turns off after 10 minutes, then crank the handle back to start over for another 10 minutes. Afterward, I found that the new crayons need more than 10 minutes to cool, unless I risk occasionally breaking one when opening the mold.
- The machine does not have a bell or other alarm. This means you have to actively watch the machine for 10 to 20 minutes to notice when the light has gone out.
- The forge only creates three crayons at a time.
- Do kids want to watch crayons melt and cool for half an hour, or more?
- The toy is rated for 8-years-and-up. I don’t recall using crayons in third grade, but anyhow, forget about using this forge around a toddler. When my 2.5-year-old daughter bumped the forge, liquid wax sloshed into interior parts of the machine.
If you don’t need to repair crayons often, it’s not worth the time or expense. Just buy a new box of crayons. They are inexpensive, especially if you buy off-brand.
If you need to frequently repair crayons, the machine is simply too slow, repairing too few crayons. Again, just buy new crayons.
There is one good thing to report. The Crayon Maker has some nice safety features. The on/off switch is located on a not-so-obvious underside area. The protective cover locks while the machine is in operation. And, the machine turns off if it is picked up or knocked off a flat surface.
Buying note: Crayola’s web site states the Crayon Maker “has recently been discontinued but may still be located through Walmart, Toys R Us, Target, K-Mart, KB Toy, Kohlâ€™s , Meijer, CVS, Costco, A.C. Moore, or Aldiâ€™s.”
I paid $13 for one at a brick ‘n’ mortar K-Mart (found on the top shelf in the school supplies aisle). Online sellers vary widely in price at this moment. Amazon links to sellers asking as much as $44 while ToysRUs.com asks $7.48 for one that is branded with Spider-Man artwork. Ebay has some similarly overpriced auctions.
Also: check out alternate measures for reusing broken crayons.
For the photos below, I melted the following Crayola colors:
- Yellow + blue (dandelion + blue)
- Red + blue (violet red + robin’s egg blue)
- Purple + orange (blue violet + yellow orange)
- The melting photos were taken at 1 minute, 8 minutes and 16 minutes.