In his mid-80s, veteran John Will is keeping himself busy. Since leaving the military, he has made more than 750 sets of Lincoln Logs – by hand – and donated them to local elementary schools.
Each log is hand-cut to size, sanded and notched intricately so it can be placed together. In total, nearly 100 handmade logs are placed together to create a cabin. (And that’s just a single version.)
Hailing from Halstead, Kansas, Will travels near and far to bring his creations into the joyful hands of elementary-aged kids. Usually, without warning. He shows up, brings his creations, and lets the school know he is donating the toys for their use.
What’s even more impressive is that he’s only been at this since retirement, the last six years. That works out to about 125 sets per year, or nearly two and a half per week. However, the skill likely comes naturally to Will, who previously worked as a carpenter and woodworker.
Each set comes built as a Lincon Log-style cabin, complete with a chimney and weathervane and an accompanying fence. The entire set can be taken down and rebuilt as a toy or learning tool. Will uses natural cedarwood, which shows through in beautiful hues of whites and reds. (They likely smell even better!)
Will also provides a how-to build guide so students can follow and put the cabin back together with each piece rightly in its place.
Will has created and donated additional blocks to help teach kids math skills, including fractions. He has told multiple schools that creating the log sets and blocks helps keep him young at heart and busy with his hands.
However, he has told principals he just wants to give back to kids. And while he will pose for images in person, Will notably does not give interviews. Local papers, newspapers, etc. have reached out to ask about his project, but he declines to be in touch each and every time.
A map of how to build a Lincoln Log set. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
After his time in service, Halstead worked as a homebuilder with his woodworking skills. He retired in his 60s, some 22 years ago. He continues to reside in Halstead, a small town of 2,200 that’s located northeast of Wichita.
Will is likely to continue his donation drops, showing up at any given Kansas area school with a happy surprise.