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Phedon Tskinopoulos Remembrance

In Uncategorized on August 11, 2015 by nicholasandrewray

Phedon Tskinopoulos

It’s been a year since Phedon left us in a house fire. I was asked to write a brief remembrance of him and that’s where the puzzlement begins. I “knew” Phedon for 30 years and yet, like many other Southern California free flighters, I never really knew him at all. We didn’t even know he’d passed until a month or two after his death.

Phedon worked as a machinist for Mattel for 26 years. He developed the mechanisms for the Hot Wheels cars. After leaving Mattel he worked as a freelance machinist and at one point developed his own action toy which was later marketed by another major toy company. He had a few patents for his mechanisms too, for toys like an “inflatable racing car.”

He had a complete machine shop in his house. He would appear at the Tustin blimp hanger and with no prompting he’d propose building a winder better than anyone else’s, or a tail boom form to custom dimensions, or a thrust bearing with “radically less friction.” Sometimes these things materialized, sometimes not. His workmanship was exceptional.

I first met him about 1985 and in the next few years he made a few tools for me. Then he disappeared from the scene for 20 years. One day in 2009 the phone rang and it was Phedon wanting to tell me about a great batch of Tan SS rubber he’d found, as if no time had passed at all.

In his later years he began cutting indoor wood. With little fanfare a package might appear on my doorstep with a few sheets of wood, all meticulously surface ground. I never knew what I’d get or when it would arrive.

What else do we know of him? He was active in Wakefield in the 1970’s and supposedly made the U.S. F1b team. But he didn’t want to travel so withdrew from the team.

Perhaps the best image of Phedon is the (possibly apocryphal) story that the character of the toymaker in Toy Story 2 is based on him. I don’t know whether that’s factual but after watching the movie I want to believe it’s true.

–Steve Brown

 

 

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