Introduction: Make a Wooden Toy Car

About: I'm a husband, dad, contractor, woodworker, tinkerer and all around busy dude. That said, I put projects out when I can. A weekly basis is a dream that one day I hope to attain. I love making things, buildin…

Anyone who has kids, or has been around kids, knows the importance of awesome toys. Not only do they offer a great distraction for those energy-filled little buggers, toys also give them the opportunity to imagine and play. They have a huge positive effect on early childhood development because they let kids stretch their creative, social and intellectual development muscles.

That said, I have three kids. And we're always looking for new and exciting ways to play that don't involve a monitor of some kind. So a while back I felt inspired to make a wooden toy car as a gift for them. I searched the internet for ideas, but couldn't find anything that I really liked. So I ended up taking the side profile of a VW Beetle and scaled it down to about 4" in length with AutoCad. I've included that template below, even though I said I wouldn't in the video. There were so many people asking for it, I couldn't keep it locked up.

I turned that template into this little beauty. And let's just say that my son loves it so much he takes it to bed with him on occasion. Now for the fun stuff. Let's make this little wooden toy car!

Step 1: Materials, Tools and the Template.

I used maple and black walnut for this project, and I had the pieces already in my workshop. But you can go down to the local home center and cut what you need. They usually sell hardwoods by the foot.

The materials you'll need:

  • (3) 5"x2-1/2"x3/4" Maple.
  • (2) 5"x2-1/2"x3/4" Walnut.
  • A small piece of 3/4" walnut for the wheels.
  • About 6 inches of 1/4" hardwood dowel. (I used poplar because that's what I had.)
  • A Maple scrap, about 1"x5"x3/8" for the wheel lock.
  • Wood glue.
  • Spray adhesive.
  • (2) 1" wood screws.
  • A finish of your choice, I used wipe on poly.

The tools that I used (In order of appearance):

Keep in mind that you don't need to use all of the tools I used. These operations can be made with inexpensive hand tools, a little elbow grease, and some ingenuity. My equipment just makes it faster and easier for me. Also, keep in mind that woodworking with these tools is inherently dangerous. And you need to understand your equipment, it's safety measures and your own personal limits. OK, the safety meeting's over. Here are the tools I used:

  • Radial arm saw
  • Table saw
  • F-style clamps
  • Drill press
  • 7/8" Forstner drill bit.
  • Band saw.
  • Pencil.
  • 1/4" drill bit.
  • 7/8" hole saw.
  • Belt/disc sander
  • Acid brush (For the glue up.)
  • Sandpaper (150 through 220)
  • Philips screwdriver
  • Shop cloth

The wooden toy car template:

After you've gathered your materials, it's time to print out the template. If you print this PDF on 8.5"x11" paper, it will be properly scaled for this project.

Step 2: Mill Down Your Lumber.

I used a radial arm saw and a table saw to do this. But you can use whatever tools you own. A hand saw and a little time would work just fine.

I cut all the pieces to rough width and length. So that they would accommodate the template above. Then I moved onto the glue up.

Step 3: Glue Up Your Blank.

Then I applied glue to all surfaces in contact with another surface and applied clamping pressure with F-style clamps. I let the glue set up for a couple days because it was so cold.

Step 4: Un-clamp the Blank, and Apply Your Template.

After the glue had dried, I unclamped the blank. Then I applied the template with spray adhesive. I used an aerosol spray adhesive that you can get at most hardware stores and home centers.

If you use a light spray, the paper template comes off extremely easy. It will almost peel right off. If you use too much and let it cure, you'll probably need to sand it off.

Step 5: Drill Out the Fender Wells.

I used a 7/8' Forstner bit to drill out the fender wells, following the template. I have center points on the template, and that's where you can punch a hole with an awl. And the Forstner bit will follow that center point.

The holes I drilled for the fender wells were 5/8" deep. To accommodate the 1/2" wheels.

Step 6: Cut Out the Template on the Band Saw.

Then I cut out the template on the bands saw. I'm using a 1/4" blade and just followed the lines.

Step 7: Cut Out the Axle Lock.

I accidentally cut right through the holes I was going to run the dowels through, it was an oversight in the design. So I needed a way to hold the dowels in place. I didn't plan for this when I made the video, but I've included the wheel lock in the template.

It's a small piece that is attached with screws to the undercarriage of the car, holding the axles in place.

Step 8: Make the Wheels.

Then I cut out some round pieces with a 7/8" hole saw. And removed the round piece from the hole saw.I cut them to width by slipping a pencil through the center hole created by the hole saw, and cut them to final width on the bandsaw.

I sanded them on the disc sander to get them smooth. And moved onto making the axle/wheel assemblies.

Step 9: Make the Axles and Wheels.

I cut a 1/4 inch dowel to rough length and glued the wheels to the dowels. Making sure that the axle would fit onto the car, and the wheels would still turn. After I glued up the wheel and axle assemblies, I wiped all the glue off with a damp cloth so there wasn't any squeeze-out. Squeeze-out wouldn't look good, and it would hamper the wheel turning. After they dried, I sanded off the extra dowel on sticking out from the wheels.

Step 10: Then I Put It Together.

After I had all my pieces, I put the car together.

I forgot to hit record when I predrilled the holes to attach the undercarriage. But all I did was predrill with a counter-sink bit, and attach the undercarriage to the bottom of the car with some 1" screws. A counter-sink bit makes a pocket for the screw head to fit into. So that the screw head can be recessed from the surface of what you're mounting.

Step 11: Then I Applied My Finish.

I used three coats of wipe on polyurethane, letting it completely dry in between coats. I also sanded each coat with 1,000 grit sandpaper, before the next. But I didn't sand the final coat because I wanted the satin finish. I made sure that the poly was completely cured before I gave it to the kiddos. And that's it, it's time to...

Step 12: PLAY!

I was done, and I gave the little wooden toy car to my kids. To say that they loved it would be an understatement. This is an awesome gift for any child, and being handmade makes it just that more special.

Thanks for checking this out, and we'll see you on the next one!

— Adam

Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

Participated in the
Homemade Gifts Contest 2016