Introduction: How to Make a Wooden Toy Bus for Kids of All Ages!

About: Woodworker, maker, youtube creator, podcaster, brand advocate, router instructor and Father. I post regularly on my youtube channel, and teach router courses regularly in the UK. I also make all kinds stuff a…

This is a really simple and quite quick project that can be done with minimal tools, hand tools only and only takes a couple of hours. I really like these and plan to do more in the future! Enjoy.

Step 1: Materials and Tools 'needed'.

As far as materials, this project requires only "some bits of wood". By that I mean, use what ever you have. It really makes no difference at all.

I used Maple and Walnut, because Thats what I had, the bits came in a bag of scrap I got from one of my suppliers. seriously, use what ever!

In terms of tools, all you need is:

  • A chisel (mine was 3/4")
  • A file or rasp
  • Handsaw (tenon saw)
  • Glue
  • Some forester bits - I used 25mm and 38mm
  • A Handplane.
  • Card scraper and/or abrasives
  • Clamps, or a vice
  • Some small wooden wheels from the craft store (I actually turned my own on the lathe, so that's an option if you have one in your arsenal).

I also used a piller drill/drill press and the bandsaw, but only to speed things up a bit as I made quite a few.

eventually I intend to have free plans available on my website, as time permits. They may be there already....

Step 2: Cut to Parts to Size, As Required.

The actual size or dimensions is really not important, it's all about the proportions.

When I cut up the boards, I made them 25mm x 40mm (ish) and about 10 inches long (see metric mixed with imperial - it really is about the proportions not the actual dimentions) - if it looks right it is right! :-)

Once you have you two halves sized, cut a bevel on the end of what will be the top half, about 5°-10° is plenty, again is all about looking right.

Step 3: Marking Out the Bodywork.

Mark out the lower half of the body first, at one end for the radiator/grill. it's basically a small tenon, 1/3 the width of the shorter height. then about 1/4" back from what will be the front.

Step 4: Cut Out the Tenon for the Grill/radiator.

This is really easy, just cut out as if it were a stubby little tenon, a hand saw makes quick work for this, with no need for any power tools at all.

Step 5: Mark Out and Cut the Front Wheel Arch.

This bus is a "half-cab" version, so the bit next to the drivers cab needs shaped to form the wheel arch. it's pretty straightforward, but may confuse, so bare with me...

Draw a curve on the side of the bus (same side as the side you drive on for your country) and strike a line horizontally across the front next to the radiator/grill - see images. This can then be cut away with the hand saw and refined with the chisel and rasp/file.

Take your time here, it's possible to cut the curved shape with the handsaw along the top, but cut triangle shaped parts out from the side. It might look a little rough now, but better to leave a bit and shape in the next step, then cut too deep.

Step 6: Smooth Off Your Saw Marks.

Using a file or rasp, or lots of sand paper, smooth out the curve. and set the lower half aside for now.

This is what your aiming for.

Step 7: Drill Out the Side of the Cab.

Next drill out the side of the upper half to form the cab. using a 25mm forester bit to get a flat bottom hole.

The cab is cut using over lapping hole that go back far enough to just past where the wheel will be. Line the top and bottom sections together and mark a line by eye to just past where the wheel will go so you know where to drill.

The hole need to overlap but only up from the bottom about 20mm - this is so you get the little swoop at the back.I used a pillar drill/drill press with the fence and a stop, but it can easily be done with a normal drill. stopping at the same depth is the most important part.

Step 8: Clean Up Round the Cab.

Once the holes are drilled, clean up the any leftover bits left between the holes and the bottom with a sharp chisel. When drilling the holes, drilling less holes with more overlaps works best to avoid the marks left by the drill. Cleaning out the rest is really easy with the chisel.

To get to this point should only take about 20minutes, less cutting the blanks, even using only hand tools.

Step 9: Glue the Two Half Together.

Before gluing the two bits together, double check its a nice smooth seam, any faults in the surface will show along the side of you bus if not.

I ran a hand plane across the two mating surfaces first before gluing up.

When you glue up, be careful around the cab area - it's a bit of a pain if there's loads of squeeze out in there!

Clamp it up tight or chuck it in the vice overnight.

Don't worry about the state of the sides at this point, once you take it out of the clamps/vice, use a hand plane to smooth off, and flush up the sides together. it makes everything easy to fit and look nicer!

Step 10: Define the Final Shape.

For the rear of the bus I just looked at a picture online to give me the general idea.

Taper the bottom under the rear wheels slightly and curve the back. I used a bandsaw when batching these out, but for the prototype I used the tenon saw in the same way as doing the front wheel arch. Then refined the shape with the rasp and abrasive paper. A jigsaw could also work well here.and a hand plane is also useful here too if you cut by hand.

Step 11: Drill Out for the Wheels.

Drilling out for the wheels is easy, again I used the pilar drill/drill press. But a hand drill will work the same. The important part here is lining the holes up. If you put them out of whack the bus won't sit level on all four wheels.

To get around this. Work out where you want the wheels, and mark the centre points, then transfer your marks round to the other side. although the depth of the hole is important, it's not quite as critical as having the centre point of the hole the same distance up from the bottom of the body.

Taking your time and being as accurate as you can is all it takes.

Step 12: Fit the Wheels.

As I said I turned the wheels on the lathe, you can use store bought ones though. I simply guide my wheels on here.

If you want them to turn, you can use bamboo kebab skewers as axles and drill a small pilot hole through the body and glue the wheels to them. This also aids in lining up the wheels if you're using a pillar drill/drill press.

Step 13: Carving the Destination Board (optional).

Although totally optional, I think this part sets the whole thing off. Most buses of this shape had whats called a destination board on the from to the bus so you knew if you were getting on the right one or not. This is marked out in the same way as the lower wheel arch then cut and carved out with the chisel, before final shaping with the file.

Step 14: Final Sand and Finish

I like to give the whole thing a really good sand, at least down to 320 grit, but it depends on your choice of finish. For these I used spray lacquer, sanding lightly between coats, but a good oil finish or even paint would work.

Since these are only display 'toys' for a grown-up kid, it really made no difference, but if you plan to give these to children, use something thats toy safe!

Wooden Toys Challenge 2016

Participated in the
Wooden Toys Challenge 2016

Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2016