Introduction: Elephant-Shaped Piggy Bank

About: I started a wood shop during the Summer of 2009, and have been teaching myself techniques and skills through the project's I've built, both for myself and for others. Since then, I've added leatherworking, 3D…
My girlfriend is slightly elephant-obsessed, so I made her this "piggy" bank in the shape of an elephant for Christmas.  I've seen some of these customized wooden coin banks on the internet, but they cost somewhere in the $30-50 range (not including shipping), whereas the one I made can probably be built for $10-15.  I ended up spending absolutely no money on this project because I had all the materials in my shop to begin with.

Because this instructable is a bit more complicated than my previous ones, I'll include a list of materials:

1'x2' 3/4" thick board (any hardwood)

Plexiglas (enough for the two side walls)

1/2" long flathead screws (x5)

1" long 1/4"-20 Phillips head bolt (x1)

Stain/paint (as per preference)

As for tools, I just used a jig-saw, power drill, and power sander.

Step 1: Find a Template Pattern

I found this minimalistic design of an elephant silhouette somewhere online (this piggy bank can be any shape, depending on the recipient's interest).  I blew up the image so that the elephant would stand approximately 5" tall, and then printed it out.

I suggest finding and printing out the paper template first before picking out the wooden board, so that you don't buy more wood than you need.

Step 2: Cut Out the Wooden Template

After printing out the template, I cut out the elephant, and taped it to the wooden board that was clamped to my worktable.  I drew the inner cavity (where the coins go) by hand and proceeded to cut that out first with my jig saw.

As a tip, drill into the middle of the section to be cut out with a bit at least 3/8" thick, so that the jig saw blade get in there.

After the cavity was cut out, I sawed out the body.  As you can see, I made the hole slightly too large, because the elephant broke in two, so I had to wood glue it and clamp it with rubber bands overnight.

After the glue dried, I sawed and sanded down the rough edges.  This first cut out thus served as my template to trace onto the rest of the board in order to cut out three more identical elephants.

Alternately, you could cut out four elephants instead of three, and thus have a perfectly good wooden template to save for later projects, so that you wouldn't have to go through the trouble of making a new one.

Step 3: Cut the Rest of Them Out

I repeated the previous step for the rest of the elephants.  I traced the first pattern on the rest of the board so that the cutouts took up the least amount of room, saving the rest of the board for later projects.

After cutting them out, I did some light sanding on the edges so that there would be no splinters lodged between the elephants when I glued and clamped them together.

Step 4: Clamp, Glue, and Sand.

It is best to align the inner cavities as much as possible, because that is a very difficult surface to sand later on.  I used dabs of wood glue spaced evenly on each surface, and then clamped the four elephants together to dry overnight.

Now comes the longest part: lots, lots, lots of sanding (in terms of my project specifically).  Even using a power sander still takes a while, depending on how well the initial templates line up.  The sharp curves are the hardest part to get at, so if you chose a more rounded shape, that should be much less work.  Because this will be touched by the user, the final grit should be between 220-500, rendering the elephant splinter free.

You can tell the difference sanding made between these two pictures.

Step 5: Making the Coin Slot

I made the thickness of the coin slot approximately two quarters thick, or 1/8".  Using a 1/8" bit, I drilled two holes as shown, about 1-1/2" apart.  Between the two holes, I drilled more holes along the slot line in order to make a gap into which I could fit a saw blade.  Once the gap was big enough, I sawed out the rest of the slot with my jig saw.

Step 6: Cut Out the Plexiglas Sides

I eyeballed the shape of the Plexiglas sides, making sure to take into the account the extra width for the screws.  I drew the template out on paper, which I taped to the Plexiglas sheet.  I cut the walls out with my jig saw, and sanded down the edges (note: sanding Plexiglas surface will scratch it, so don't do it).

After sanding, I placed each Plexiglas piece on its respective side and marked out with a sharpie where I would drill the screw holes.  

Important: for this design, one of the walls will act as the door to the coins, so the drilling pattern is NOT the same for both sides.

Step 7: Attaching the Plexiglas Sides

For one side, I drilled four holes through the sharpie marks on the Plexiglas, and then putting the Plexiglas on the elephant, through the elephant (bit thickness depends on what screws you use).  Because I used flat heads, I counter-bored the holes on the Plexiglas using a 3/8" bit so that the heads would sit flat on the wall.

For the opposite side (the door), I used one screw to act as a hinge, and a bolt to act as the lock.  For the bolt hole, I used a bit with the bolt's exact diameter through the Plexiglas, and then a 1/16" smaller bit through the wood, so that the bolt's thread would catch in the wood, which would act as the nut.  

Because the bolt can only be taken out with a screw driver, it acts as a sturdy lock, and can easily support the horizontal force from the weight of the coins.

Afterwards, I sanded down the openings to all the holes to remove any splinters or roughness.

Step 8: Remove the Plexiglas Walls and Stain

I then removed the screws and sides from the body in order to stain it. (Had I stained before and screwed afterwards, my sanding down the drill holes would have roughed up the stain, forcing me to apply it again)

I used my dark walnut stain, which shows off the grains and natural patterns of the wood.  I applied just one coat, so that the contrast would be more visible, and let dry overnight.

Paint would work just as well here, though I'd again recommend spray paint/primer for the hard-to-reach interior.

Step 9: Reattach the Plexiglas Sides

After the stain dried, I screwed in both sides, and thats it!

The final picture is of the elephant bank at my girlfriend's apartment, being put to good use.