Introduction: Wooden Toy Animals
This is how to make some quick wooden animals. I was inspired by some pictures I saw online like the bear and owl and adapted it to make the elephant too. you could easily change the bear into whatever animal you want with some imaginative changes.
For each step I'll describe what I did and give some other ideas of what you could do instead if you don't have the tools I used.
Step 1: Design
The first step is to decide what animals you want to make. I made 2 bears, an owl and an elephant. the bear can be used as a basis for most 4 legged animals if you're creative. Once you know what animals you're going to make you can decide what size to make them. The ones I made were based on the raw material being two 2x4's glued together to get a thicker piece which I think is a good starting place. I would start with dimensions of ~2.5"x2.5"x5" and adjust them to get your animal looking correct.
I ended up getting a nice piece of sitka spruce to make my animals out of that was a bit thinner than 2.5" thick. if you're using two 2x4's glued together you could scale them up and make them a bit bigger than I did.
The tools I used to make them are:
1) Table saw: used for cutting the pieces to rough size and making a slot for the elephants ears to fit in
2) Band saw: rough cutting the animals to shape
3) Belt Sander: refining the animals shapes and smoothing out the sharp edges
4) Drill Press with forstner bit: making the owls eyes and the hole that forms the elephants trunk
Step 2: Rough Cut to Shape
Once you have your design figured out you can rough cut the animals to shape. I used a table saw to get the wood to the outside dimensions and then a band saw to define the heads and feet of the bears and elephant. I also used the table saw to cut a slot into the elephant in line with it's front feet where the ears can be inserted later. The owl is just a basic square prism at this point.
If you don't have a table saw or band saw you could get to this point easily with just a handsaw. if you match your animal's dimensions to the thickness of the wood you're using you should only need to do one crosscut and rip cut to get to their outside dimensions. the heads of the beards could be defined with straight cuts rather than curves, you'll just have more work to do when sanding later. cutting away the area between the feet could be done with a handsaw then hammer/chisel. I ended up using that method anyways later to define all 4 legs of each bear and the back 2 legs of the elephant
Step 3: Rough Shaping
Before you rough sand the animals to shape you should drill any holes you need while the edges are all crisp and square to make marking and drilling easier. I used a forstner bit to drill about 1/4" into the owl to form it's eyes. I made the eyes a bit closer to the front of the owl than the back. where you place your eyes depends on how much of a "beak" you want to give it during sanding. I also drilled the hole that gives the elephant it's trunk at this point as well. I left about 1/8" of wood below the hole so the trunk would be difficult to break off if a child was playing with it.
Next up is to rough sand the animals to shape. I used a relatively coarse belt on my belt sander to quickly get them looking how I wanted.
For the bears this is mostly softening the edges.
For the owl I used the coarse belt to form the beak area of it's face. when you're softening the edges of the owl you need to be careful not to do all of them the same amount or it will loose it's owl-y character. I softened all the edges that weren't the beak just by hand sanding in the next step.
For the elephant you can shape the head once the hole is drilled,using the same methods as the bears with a saw or just do it slowly on the belt sander. (if you don't have a belt sander I would definitely recommend using a saw method). For the ears just cut some square pieces the same thickness as the slot you cut.
If you don't have a belt sander this could all be done by hand with sandpaper and files but it will take significantly longer.
Step 4: Final Sanding and Shaping
Once you're done on the belt sander you can hand sand the animal smooth so they'll be nice to hold. you can form the individual legs on the bears and elephant now too. round over three of the four corners of the elephants ears then glue them into the slot with the sharp corner hidden.
Once they're all soft and shaped how you'd like them you can paint eyes and a little triangle nose on the bears and eyes on the elephant.
Step 5: Finish and You're Finished!
The last step is to apply some oil/finish of your choice and you're done!
I just used some mineral oil but you could paint them however you like or even use non-toxic clear coat too.
Once they're all dried you can wrap them up and give them to anyone! they're as at home in a toy box as they are decorating a shelf :)
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