Introduction: Carving a Wooden Toy Hammer
My son has a toy hammer and peg game that we got second hand. The hammer was plastic and had seen better days, so I decided that I would carve/sculpt him a new one with some scrap wood I had in the shop. I ended up make one that I think turned out pretty nice and I think my son agrees (watch the video above to see his reaction to receiving the new hammer)
Below are links to tools and materials I used in this article. It is either the exact tool/supply or something very close.
Scrap wood - Any wood will do, but below is what I used for this project
Hammer Head - Spalted maple burl that I had left over from making projects like this.
Shaft - 3/4" maple dowel
Grip - Walnut with 3/16" maple dowel pins.
Drill bits (3/4" and 3/16")
Wood finish - I used mineral oil as it is food safe and you never know if your kid will put something in their mouth.
The toy hammer and peg game (note: the newer version comes with a wooden hammer)
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Step 1: Tracing Out the Head
The first step in this carving is to trace out the old plastic hammer. I traced out the side first and then traced out the top. While it is nice to get a good outline of the part you are tracing, a general outline is sufficient because this will just be used to make the rough shape of the hammer head.
Step 2: Cutting Out the Rough Shape
I used my bandsaw to cut the rough shape for the hammer head. You basically just need to follow the lines, but for tight corners, sometimes that is not possible. In those cases you can see in the first two pictures that I cut a bunch of relief cuts. These are cuts that are perpendicular to the line and allow the waste material to be released when the blade cuts along the line. This ensures that the blade does not bind up.
Another tip when following the lines is to not worry about cutting up any of the waste material. A lot of times when I see people first trying to use a bandsaw (or other type of saw) to cut along a pattern, they try really hard to follow the line, no matter what it does. While that works great with a pencil that can go in any direction and be lifted off the paper at a moments notice, it doesn't work well with a bandsaw. A big tip I learned is that you can always go back and cut more off, so don't worry if you are missing a corner or a cut out along the way. If you look at pictures four and five you can see an example of this technique.
The last tip is that this is a rough cut, so don't worry too much about getting close to the line, it will be refined in later steps. If you cut too much off it is very difficult to put material back on.
Step 3: Refining the Shape With a Belt Sander
A belt sander is a great tool for removing a lot of material very quickly. I used it for refining the rough shape that had been cut from the bandsaw and to add outside curves to the hammer head. Basically I just took a little bit of material off at a time until I had the shape of the original plastic hammer head.
Be careful with this step as it is very easy to loose the grip of the work piece and have it become a projectile. There are always places where the belt sander cannot reach, for those, continue to the next step.
Step 4: Cutting Inside Corners With a Knife
I used a carving knife to refine the shape of all of the inside corners as I could not reach them with the belt sander. I took little strokes removing small amounts of material until I had the surface pretty close to the shape I wanted. For me, I use a carving knife in the same way that I use a bandsaw, it is a rough cut of the shape that still needs to be refined, which will be done in later steps.
Step 5: Filing the Inside Corners
For all of the spots that I had just used my carving knife, I now needed to file them smooth. I used a combination of different files for different places. The full rounded files were good for areas around the head and the claw part of the hammer but in some spots a half round file was better because of clearance issues. I also used a small flat file to get between the claws. Basically, I just kept going into my file collection and pulling out the file that looked most like the shape I was hoping to achieve.
If you don't have any files, you can use sand paper wrapped around different objects (i.e. pencils, dowel, popsicle sticks, etc) and get a similar effect.
Step 6: Drilling the Hole for the Handle
I first marked the center of the bottom of the hammer head. I then used a clamp to steady the work piece. As the work piece is pretty small, a clamp is recommended to help hold the work piece while drilling. I used a 3/4" forstner bit to drill the hole, but any 3/4" drill bit would work. After the hole was drilled I elongated the hole at the top of the hammer head. This will allow the dowel handle to expand when the wedge is added in a later step.
Step 7: Cutting the Handle and Wedge
I cut a piece of 3/4" dowel to 7" in length. I then cut a slit in the top of the dowel using a handsaw. The slit was cut to approximately 1 1/2" long and will be where the wedge will be going. Be careful not to stress the dowel where you cut it. I did a "test" fit and the dowel ended up snapping because I pushed the wedge in too far.
I then grabbed a bit of scrap walnut and made a small wedge. The material was the same width as the dowel (3/4") and my goal was to make the wedge be approximately 1/8" at the 1 1/2" mark. I used my bandsaw to cut the wedge and I ended up making on longer than I needed, but I cut off the excess in a later step.
Step 8: Gluing the Head to the Handle
I spread some glue on the handle and in the hole in the head. I made sure it was evenly spread around and then attached the two pieces together. It is important to ensure that the cut out is at the top and that it is perpendicular to the length of the hammer head. Also make sure that there is a bit of the dowel sticking up from the hammer head. This will be removed later, but you want it sticking out so that you can make the piece flush in a later step.
I then added some glue to the wedge and used a mallet to hammer it in place.
(note: if you are interested in making the mallet in the picture I wrote a instructables article on it and you can find it here: https://www.instructables.com/id/Mallet-in-Under-1-Hour/)
Step 9: Flushing Up the Top
After the glue dried (I waited overnight), I cut the top of the wedge off using a handsaw and then went over to my sander to remove material until it was flat with the rest of the hammer head.
Step 10: Cutting Out the Grip
Although the hammer would have been functional at this point, I wanted to add a bit more to it so I grabbed some more scrap walnut and cut a piece that was approximately 1" x 1" x 2 3/4". This will be used as the grip on the handle.
I then went to my trusty drill press to drill out a hole for the handle to slip into. I again used my 3/4" forstner bit and used a clamp to hold the work piece.
Step 11: Gluing on the Grip
Gluing the grip is a pretty easy step. I just spread glue on the handle and on the walnut piece and then pushed them together. As you can see I had way to much glue, but better too much than not enough!
I don't know if it mattered in the end, but I tried to ensure that the grip was in line with the head. It will be cut down a lot in later steps, so this probably isn't important.
Step 12: Adding Pins to the Grip
After the glue had set up (about 1 hour) I took the piece to the drill press and drilled out a couple of 3/16" holes. I then grabbed a couple of small bits of 3/16 dowel that I had in my scrap bin and glued them into the holes. This was mainly done for looks, but it will also ensure that the grip never spins on the handle.
After the glue had dried I took it to the bandsaw and cut the excess off of the pins.
Step 13: Shaping the Grip
Shaping and sculpting the grip was a much quicker process than the head. The majority of it was done with the belt sander. Once it got close to the final shape I was looking for, I switched to hand sanding. A good tip for cylindrical objects (that I thought of way to late) is to put the work piece in a vise. Then you can use a strip of sandpaper and work it back and forth across the work piece.
After I got everything looking the way I wanted it to, I sanded the entire hammer. I used 120, 150 and 220 grit sandpaper and made sure I got into all of the small crevices by wrapping sandpaper around the files I had used in previous steps.
Step 14: Adding Finish
As this is a child's toy and it is possibly going to end up in his mouth (though not recommended) I decided that a food safe finish was the way to go. I used a combination of mineral oil and a mineral oil and bee's wax wood conditioner.
First I put on the mineral oil and spread it around to ensure an even coating of the entire piece. After a few minutes I wiped off any excess.
I waited a few hours and then added the bee's wax and mineral oil conditioner. It is just as simple to apply. I grabbed a glob of the finish, rubbed it all over the piece and kept polishing it until I didn't see any more waxy residue.
Step 15: Enjoy!
Now this was my favourite part of almost all of the projects I have made to date. I gave my son the hammer. I was lucky enough to be able to capture his moment of pure joy on film (you can see the video here). He loved it and said "daddy made that" and it made my heart melt. He immediately had to try it out and we had some fun playing with the hammer. It has been a few weeks since I made the hammer and he still loves it, which is more than what I can say about a lot of the other toys he has!
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