Handmade in Minnesota

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Stanglers make custom farm buildings, toys

By Tiffany Klaphake

RICE — As a child, Daryl Stangler started making his own barns, sheds and accessories to go along with his toy tractors and animals.

“I made my first building when I was 10,” Daryl said. “I just started making my own stuff to go with my farm toys.”

Today, Stangler is doing the same thing as a full-time career with Daryl Stangler Custom Buildings.

Daryl started making shed and barns for farm toys for other people in his spare time while working at his parents’ cabinet business.

“When I was about 16, I went to my first farm toy show as a vendor with some stuff I built,” Daryl said. “This one guy (Dale Matsen) comes over and buys everything I had on the first day. He is a larger vendor, and he is still my main vender that I work with.”

The business quickly grew from a hobby to career. By 2007, Daryl quit his job at the cabinet shop and his part-time job for a neighbor, who had a dairy farm, to pursue the farm toy business. In 2022, Daryl’s wife, Katy, also quit her job to work full time with Daryl.

“We have 10 to 12 large vendors that buy from us and go to shows and sell with their farm toy business,” Katy said. “Last October, one vendor ordered 800 buildings, and we had a month and a half to build, paint, get stickered, boxed and send out.”

 Some of the larger retailers that buy products from the Stanglers are Outback Toys, Matsen Miniture Farm Toys, Hounsell’s Farm Toys and D C Toy Trucks.
When Daryl and Katy attend farm shows to showcase their custom farm buildings and accessories, people assume their products are 3-D printed.

“We don’t 3-D print anything,” Katy said. “It is all handmade in Minnesota. That’s really cool.”

For metal pieces, such as augers, stanchions and other equipment, the products are made from brass or tin. Wood is used for the buildings and hay bales, and the other various parts and pieces are made from resin.

The Stanglers live next door to Daryl’s family’s cabinet shop and utilize a small space in the shop to build their miniature buildings.

“Our dream would be to build our own shop,” Katy said. “But for now, we use a space in the cabinet shop to build the buildings and have a space here (at their home) to build the toys and accessories.”
To make each piece to the 1/64 scale, Daryl gets life-size measurements for each piece. He gets brochures from farm machinery dealers or finds someone who has the actual piece of equipment and takes measurements.

Daryl creates rubber molds and uses resin for the various farm accessories such as bulk tanks, gas barrels, waterers and different parts of equipment.

He often creates several molds for a single piece of equipment. He then has to sand down each piece, wash it, dry it, put the pieces together by soldering or gluing the intricate pieces, and paint them. Daryl has five drills, each with a different bit size to handcraft each individual piece.

The bulk of the Stanglers’ work is for vendors, but they make custom items as time allows.

“One of the more recent challenging projects we did was from an 8-year-old on Tik Tok,” Daryl said. “He wanted a Quonset building. I have never built one before, so I had to figure out how to make it.”

According to Daryl, most buildings only take a couple of hours to build, but anything with resin will take longer as it needs time to set.

The completion time depends on the size and how many elements are incorporated.

Katy said some of the more challenging projects they do are freestall barns with curtains.

 “But as fast as we can make freestall barns, they go out the door,” she said. “People just love them.”

Just like in real farming, buildings and barns keep getting bigger; therefore, the Stanglers have to update their scope of buildings and accessories. This includes updating molds for the resin to make the various pieces of equipment and accessories.

“Kids always ask, ‘Can I fit my combine in there,’ and, ‘I need a shed with a bigger door,’” Katy said. “It’s great to hear people’s responses: ‘It’s even better than I expected. Oh, this is so great.’”

Daryl and Katy both find their career choice challenging as well as rewarding.

“At the end, when you are putting the final decals on it and seeing the final product is such a great feeling,” Daryl said. “It never gets old.”

Katy agreed.

“We have been very blessed to be able to do this for a living,” she said.