The $4000 handmade rattle


MAKE editor and publisher Dale Dougherty has more on the well-intentioned-but-actually-awful Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA).

Years ago, Jason Gold was looking for a rattle for his new baby. He wanted something safe and made of natural materials. "I was trying to find a rattle that wasn't coated in paint or made of plastic," said Gold. Not finding any, he made a rattle out of wood. Thinking that other parents might be looking for alternatives to mass-produced items of questionable materials, he started Camden Rose, a manufacturer of wooden and fabric toys in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Today, the Camden Rattle sells for $15 through a network alternative retail stores and places like Whole Foods.

This year, Jason Gold thought the economy would be his biggest worry this holiday season. However, it turned out that the 2008 holiday season was the busiest ever for Camden Rose. The bigger worry for Gold has been figuring out if the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) will put him and many others like him out of business in 2009.

The CPSIA on the surface seems like a good idea, coming as a response to the recall of toys made in China and sold in the US that had potentially harmful levels of lead, phthalates or other toxins. The law's intentions are good but its side effects are not. Lost in the details were provisions that may deal a serious blow to America's cottage industries and individuals who make things by hand. This comes at a time when the unemployed and underemployed are seeking creative ways to make a living from home.

There are three parts to the CPSIA. The first requires independent testing and certification. "We've gone from no certification to the strictest form of certification in the world," says Gold. "It might cost me $4,000 to test my rattle." It's not just the cost of testing. The tests must be done for each component, and for each item, not for the manufacturing process itself.

The $4000 handmade rattle