Wooden Toy Snake
My daughter has a small toy snake that looks pretty cool and is very wiggly. I saw the Antiqued Wooden Snake Toys Instructable and thought those toy snakes were pretty neat also. So I just had to try my hand at making my own toy wooden snake. However, I decided to approach the flexible body in a much different way.
My goal was to avoid having a bunch of loose body slices to keep track of; instead to make the body and keep it essentially together during the build. I decided to provide my snake's flexibility by running a cloth strip down the center sections of the body. I did some novel saw work and I think it turned out quite well. And I didn't have to worry about getting body parts out of order. :-)
Step 1: Materials
The snake is made from a wood dowel.
1-1/8 inch diameter dowel, however long you want your snake (mine was 30" long)
2 inch wide bias tape (the type used in sewing) long enough for the flexible part of the snake (mine 24")
Epoxy glue (5 minute set) or wood glue.
Foam sanding block
Wood craft sticks to mix the epoxy
Foam brush to apply epoxy
Scrap cardboard to (you guessed it) mix the epoxy on
A band saw came in really really handy, and I can't image trying to make this toy without one.
Stationary belt sander
Step 2: Layout the Dimensions of the Snake
I started out with a 30 inch dowel.
My intent was to have a 3" long head, 20" flexible body and a 6" tail for a total length of 29".
The finished snake ended up being 28 inches long as I shortened the flexible middle a bit to make it easier to cut.
Take the dowel, measure and mark off 3" of it for the head. Then measure and mark 6" off the other end for the tail.
The flexible mid section needs to be marked off in 1/4 inch increments -- These are where the body will be cut into disks. Make tick marks at 1/4" increments the entire length of the (soon to be flexible) middle.
You can certainly modify the dimensions to your liking. Nothing is critical.
Step 3: Form the Tail and Head
I started shaping the Tail and Head while they were still attached to the dowel - Makes it easier and safer to cut that way. I cut tapers into the tail so that it sloped downward to the bottom belly of the snake and also cut the sides into a point. I also did some rough cuts on the head to get the general shape.
I then took the tail and head to the stationary belt sander and sanded them into their final shape.
At some point you cut the head and tail off of the dowel -- When you are done or when it's going to make it easier to handle the finish sanding work. In any case you end up with three separate parts; the head, the middle and the tail.
Step 4: Cut the Body Slices
The whole midsection of the snake is supposed to be super flexible. I did this by cutting the mid-section into the 1/4" disks that were measured out earlier. However, DON'T CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH the dowel. Cut only about 3/4 of the way through the dowel so that the bottom (belly of the snake) keeps all the disks intact.
In the two end-view photos you can see the small cross hatched area at the bottom of the dowel -- this is what we want left solid (uncut) to keep holding it all together.
Step 5: Cut the Body Lengthwise
After the midsection has been cut (almost) into disks its time to cut the middle section down the middle! This cut down the length of the middle separates the middle into two halves which is where the cloth will be located. You should end up with two middle sections composed of bunches of half-disks still attached to their respective sides.
I clamped a board to the bandsaw table to act as a fence to keep the cut relatively straight.
Step 6: Prepare the Fabric
You can use almost any fabric that you can glue in place. I chose bias tape since it was very thin and strong.
Cut the tape the length of the flexible middle section and iron it out flat. Test fit the fabric over the halves of the middle just to make sure its long and wide enough.
Step 7: Glue the Fabric in Place and Clamp the Halves Together
Mix up the epoxy (I used 5 min; only because I did not what to wait.) Other glues should be OK. However, I don't think any of the foaming urethane glues would be a good choice because they might foam up and fill the gaps between the disks. This would be bad - I guess the equivalent of a snake with arthritis.
I didn't want to fill up the gaps in the sides with glue so I found that dabbing the glue on with the foam brush worked pretty well. My intent was to put glue on both wood halves and sandwich it all together and clamp it. However, I had some issues learning the dabbing method so I ended up gluing the cloth to one side, clamping, and coming back to put glue on the second side and clamping a second time. You can do it however works best for you.
Note that alignment is critical. The cut slots between the disk halves must line up so you can cut the disks apart later. You not only need to align side to side and get the slots to line up but it is also critical to make sure the halves are aligned vertically so that neither side is higher than the other -- so they are flush. It helps to have the snake body on a hard flat surface, so I ended putting the clamps on top of the snake to help keep it flat.
After the glue has set you can cut away excess cloth and sand the cloth area flush to the body.
Step 8: Cut the Discs Free
Take the middle section that is now back to looking like a dowel and go back to the band saw and cut into the existing saw blade slots. You are cutting down into the cross hatched part that was shown on the end of the dowel earlier. Cut into the solid portion of the belly of the snake that is holding the disks rigid. Be carful to only cut in just far enough to free up the wood. You will cut into the fabric just a little but only cut as little as necessary to free the disks. As you cut through the wood you can feel it give way as the disk is cut free to let you know to stop cutting.
Use extra caution handling the dowel making these cuts as it will start to get flexible and become harder to handle. Keep your hands and fingers out of the blade path.
Sand the dowel to remove burs from cutting. Laying the flexible portion into a guide slot on the bandsaw table is helpful.
Step 9: Attach the Head and Tail
Now it is time to add the head and tail. Mix up some epoxy and apply it to the head and tail and tape them onto the flexible mid section. Let the glue set.
There you have it. A super flexible fun toy wood snake. I did not finish mine but you can also leave it natural, stain it, paint, or wood burn as you like.