Product Safety and Quality
The majority of our products are toys and we take toy safety seriously. As required, we follow the US Consumer Product Safety Commission rules, including the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Our most recent third-party tests (Dec. 2012) have re-confirmed all previous tests with respect to lead and heavy metals.
Our materials are below the detectible lead level of 10 ppm. The current federal standard is 90 ppm. While we never add lead to our products we will never claim our products to be "lead-free." Lead is a trace background element and cannot be 100% eliminated. Do not believe any claims of products being lead-free, it cannot be guaranteed.
Although it is unnecessary to test for phthalates in our wood products, testing is required for our shoelaces in the lacing activities and the rubber stopper in our banks. We have passed all of those tests as well.
There is more information for our dealers here.
Our efforts do not stop there. We strive to produce product that will last for generations. This means going beyond minimum guidelines. Everyone has experienced the toy that broke the day after Christmas. That probably isn’t a lack following official guidelines but it is from a lack of concern for overall quality. For example, a softwood block is safe, a hard maple block is superior.
There is great concern about the components of finishes. While lead grabs all of the headlines, we find many people with concerns well beyond the federally regulated toxins.
Given our very broad product line, we use a great variety of finishes. We even have products with no finish (see our Schoolhouse Naturals line). It is our policy to make it very clear to you what finish we use on what product so you can make your own decisions. The specific finishes we use on each product are listed with product as you browse our site. The coatings we use are:
- Dye Stains: These are water/alcohol based stains, specially made for dip finishing, which is the least wasteful application process. These are in a variety of colors and are primarily used on our NameTrain line. We typically overcoat with urethane to prevent bleeding when wet.
- Lacquer: Nitrocellulose lacquer is an age-old spray finish that provides a hard, shiny, paint-like coating. It can be clear or opaque bright colors. Historically used for Montgomery Schoolhouse products, though some are being shifted to other coating types. Lacquer is a petroleum-based finish.
- Nothing at all: Yes, no finish at all, as seen on our Schoolhouse Naturals line. With an enormous number of queries about all our finishes, we thought we would try a line that has had all of the finish concerns removed. So far, we’ve seen great interest.
- Natural Oil: An FDA approved plant oil based finish, often used on kitchenwares. No allergenic nuts are used. This is a true oil finish and does not shine nor set really hard. It does, however, leave a rich amber appearance on our wood.
- Teak Oil: Like natural oil, teak is used on salad bowls and other wooden housewares. Unlike natural oil however, teak is very quick drying and it sets hard.
- Urethane: Another dip finish, more specifically called oil-modified urethane varnish, not a polyurethane. It is a clear finish, using a mineral spirit solvent. This finish takes a little extra time to cure and products may retain an odor until unwrapped—especially during the busy season.
- Whey: Utilizing a by-product of the cheese-making process, whey was developed by the University of Vermont and now produced by Vermont Natural Coatings of Hardwick, VT.
As with our other materials, our finishes are purchased as locally as possible. Nearly all are produced in Vermont, by people we know and have worked with for many years. If you would like more information about the finish on specific products, feel free to contact us.
Just as we have an obligation to produce safe product, it is always important to remember that appropriate use goes hand-in-hand with safe design and construction. We are required to mark, the majority of, our products with the intended age of the child who may be using it. Age grading is based on physical as well as cognitive developmental stages. So giving a more advanced product to a younger child, no matter how “advanced” you perceive that child to be, can be a hazard.
A marking of age 3+ is typically an indication of small parts hazards—which can pose a problem for younger children who may still be putting things in their mouth. Always monitor younger children when they are playing around older friends and siblings. What is okay for one child may not be okay for the next.