I love making things out of wood, and even more so when I can use my offcuts from other projects. These cars are small, easy to make and can be done quite quickly. Even better, they’re made of wood, not plastic and thus will eventually return to nature. They’re such a classic toy, can be painted any colour and contain hours of fun for the little ones.
The other beauty of this toy is that you can very easily make or download any kind of template, stick it to a piece of scrap and have yourself a fleet of different cars in all the colours of the rainbow. You’re only limited by your imagination.
If you like this project, please vote for it in the contest that I've entered: Wooden Toys, First Time Authors and Handmade Gifts. If you're on a computer, the voting button is up near the top of the screen. If you're on a mobile device, the voting button is down near the bottom. Thank you for your support!
What you’ll need:
- A scroll or bandsaw
- A router
- A drill press/hand drill
- Scrap wood – anything from mdf to soft/hard wood will do
- Spray adhesive and a wood glue
- Tyres – you can make these but I buy mine online
- Spray paint in any colour you like
Step 1: Create a Template
I drew this little car, cut it out and glued it to a piece of MDF I had lying around using a spray adhesive. Creating a template means you don’t have to keep cutting and gluing the paper template to the wood you want to use, allowing you to save time and create an exact replica each time. MDF makes a great template (and car) because it’s easy to cut and perfectly straight.
The dots indicate where the wheels and windows will be drilled out.
Step 2: Cut the Template Out of Wood
Cut the template out using a band saw or a scroll saw. This is actually the hardest step and the one
you need to be the most accurate on. Your template will be used over and over so take your time and make sure it’s perfect.
Use a drill press or hand drill to cut out the axles and windows for the car. You’ll need the axle holes to be slightly bigger than the dowel you use so that the tyres will roll freely.
Step 3: Attach Template to Wood
Drill the template to your piece of wood. Drill opposite holes so the template doesn’t move easily as you don’t want it to slip on the bandsaw or the router.
Step 4: Cut the Car Body
Roughly cut around the template as close as possible on the band saw, or scroll saw depending on which you have. You don’t want to get too close and accidentally damage your template so be careful! The template is the most important piece.
Step 5: Route the Car Body
Set your router up so that you can clean up the piece using the template height as a guide. Set up correctly, you’ll be able to route around the template in no time.
Step 6: Drill the Windows and Axle Holes
Drill out the unscrewed holes, creating one axle hole and one window, using the hole in the template as your guide. Remove one of the screws holding the template to the new car and drill out that hole, then remove the final screw and drill out your last hole.
Step 7: Cut Your Axle
The length of your axle will be the thickness of your wood, plus 2 times the thickness of your tyres, plus a millimetre or two so there is room for movement. If the tyres are held too tightly on the car, they won’t roll freely.
If you’re making tyres as well all you need is a circular piece of wood with a hole the same size as the dowel. I buy mine online as I love the look of them but have made them before too. The easiest way to make them is to buy some thick dowel, cut strips with a bandsaw then drill a hole the same size as the axle dowel.
Step 8: Attaching the Wheels
Attach the first tyre to your dowel. If you are planning on painting the dowels this needs to be done first. I would suggest putting a bit of painters tape around the top so you have some bare wood to glue the wheel to. I’ve found that if there is paint on the wood, the glue can sometimes not hold well so this will make things easier.
Additionally, if you’re looking to paint the tyres, now is the time to do so.
Once both are dry, put a drop of glue on the axle, attach the tyre and hold for about 30 seconds so it is firmly held. Wait for this to dry before moving on to the next step.
Step 9: Paint the Car
I like to paint the bottom black and spray paint the body. A few coats with sanding in between will make the car super shiny! However if I'm using nice wood like cedar or blackbutt, I will leave the car unpainted to show off the natural wood.
When painting the bottom of the car, to avoid leakage onto the body, I wrap them in painters tape. I then paint the bottom with a brush.
Once this is dry, if the bottom of the cars isnt perfectly flat I cover the black paint with painters tape to avoid the spray ruining the finish. Its a longer process but makes the cars really smooth.
Step 10: Attach the Final Wheel
Put the axle through the car and attach the other wheel. Be careful with the amount of glue you use so you don’t stick it to the car. After a few minutes make sure the wheels rotate.
Leave it to dry overnight so the glue is firm and you’re done!
The beauty of these cars is once you’ve made one it’s so simple to keep making them. You can have your own little production line going!