Ramp Walking Elephant




Introduction: Ramp Walking Elephant

About: I am a retired health care professional, with a life long interest in woodwork. I was taught the basics at school in the 1960's and taught myself fine woodworking techniques in the 1980's. I like to use hand t…

I have always been drawn to old fashioned toys, ones that do not need batteries or upgrading and that use clockwork, or as in this case, gravity.

There is a timelessness to them - we have a small collection of them and my wife and I often take time to play with them in the kitchen!

If you are intending to make this little elephant, please look at step 10 before you start. There is an alternative template with a slightly more 'bulbous' body that may involve less fiddling than the one posted in step 1.

This Instructable involves the use of cutting tools.

Please make sure that you are properly acquainted with how to use them safely - if in doubt, seek advice and/or guidance, before starting.


  • Pencils, graphite and charcoal.
  • Small Tri-Square.
  • Rule.
  • Glue stick (for paper) - can use watered down white glue.
  • Scissors.
  • White glue.
  • Vernier slide caliper.
  • Bench vise.
  • Small clamps.
  • Tenon saw.
  • Junior hacksaw.
  • Wood chisel - 3/4 inch. (Optional)
  • Files, woodworking – 6 inch -coarse, half round and round.
  • Needle file set.
  • Hand drill with 2 mm drill bit (1/16th inch).
  • Shooting board (described in text).
  • Jack plane.
  • Pliers and metalworking vise (Optional).
  • Soft metal wire, 2 mm thick (1/16th inch) - short length, about 50 mm (2 inches).
  • Centre punch or a nail.
  • Small hammer.
  • Flat washers 2 mm (2), stainless steel preferably.
  • Cocktail sticks.
  • Wood - reasonably hard. Small piece - the elephant is 35 mm high (1 3/8 inch) and 15 mm thick, (just short of 5/8th inch). You will also need wood for the legs (2 X 4 mm wide,3 mm thick and 35 mm long) and front and back foot (50 mm long and 15 mm wide). This foot length allows one to grip it in the vice)

Step 1:

I drew out the template (pic 1 above) and cut out the image with scissors. Use charcoal pencil to scribble on the back (pic 2).

Trace onto the piece of wood selected - pic 3 - result - pic 4.

Mark out the cutting lines - pic 5.

Cut off the excess wood - pic 6.

Mark the pivot hole and the hole for the leg stop with a centre punch and drill a 2 mm (1/16th inch) hole through the points - pic 7-9.

Step 2:

A brief digression on the subject of shooting boards.

Nothing at all to do with firearms - a useful tool for 'shooting' the ends of cut pieces of wood. Useful also for planing the edges of small pieces of wood - indeed, I have done all the surfaces in just a few minutes. An advantage is that one can look down at the work and watch the progress.

A brief Google search tells me that these are not available commercially - construction is very easy. See the photos above.

It consists of a flat board, (mine is 12 mm, (1/2 inch) multi-ply), 40 cm (15 3/4 inches) long and 20 cm (7 7/8 inches) wide - pic 1.

There is a piece of wood running the length of the shooting board, attached to it with screws. This can be gripped in the vice to secure it while working. If you are building one of these, attach the flat board to the runner first - pic 2. (Mine is 6 cm (2 23/64 in) by 4.5 cm (1 3/4 inches).

There is a thin 'mezzanine' of 3 mm ply on top, aligned with one long edge of the multiply, leaving enough space from the opposite edge to the edge of the base to accommodate the side of a jack plane. (Mine is 14.7 cm (approx 6 inches) by 30.5 cm(1 foot approx). The 'mezzanine' is skinned with Formica (or any similar composite), as is the 'runway' for the jack plane. (pic 3 ).

The blade of the jack plane does not extend right across the sole - the 'mezzanine' is to lift the working surface to allow all the work to be 'shot' full access to the blade - pic 4. In addition, I use a scrap of wood to further raise the wood to the middle of the blade, when necessary.

There is a stop attached at a right angle to the multiply base with screws from underneath. With use, this stop gets eaten away by the plane blade and so must be unscrewed, trued up again and reattached, (or replaced eventually) - pic 5.

Step 3:

Use the jack plane and shooting board to square off the cuts. Hold the work with the left hand, (assuming a right-handed person) and push the plane back and forth, skimming the work each time. Sometimes, a little Q-20 or WD-40 on the 'runway' will ease things along nicely.

(This is optional - it is just the way I like to work. I have found that progressing a piece along which is not square can lead to misalignment further along, which can be very difficult to fix.) See first three pics.

Thickness the blank in the same way - I wanted 15 mm (just short of 5/8 th inch) - see pics 4 & 5 above.

Use a fine saw to cut away the waste around the profile - pics 6 & 7. I use a Junior hacksaw.

Step 4:

I use a chisel to pare away the excess wood, almost down to the line - pics 1-3.

Take a small cut off the back of the work first, (pic 1) - this will prevent spelching, (splintering), of the wood as the chisel completes the cut.

The chisel is optional- a file will serve equally well.

Use a file to take the elephant right down to the line and lightly bevel the edges once complete - pic 4.

(This beveling is called 'breaking the arris' - I have always loved the wonderful terms that so richly adorn the terminology of woodworking !!)

Step 5:

Grip the elephant upside - down in the vice and drill a 2 mm (1/16th inch) hole for the tail - pic 1.

Make the tail using soft wire, a metal-working vice and a pair of pliers - pic 2 & 3.

If you do not have a metal working vice, you can use two pairs of pliers. The wire I used, I found near our home - a short length, but quite hard - soft wire is much better!!

Use the template - pic 4 - to mark out the ears. I used a contrasting wood to make it more pleasing. One can make one thick ear and then split it into two, or prepare two identical thin blanks, mark out and trim to size, pinched together with fingers while adjusting in the vice. I used this last method - pics 5-8.

Check that the ears will not foul the back legs, (once you have made them), by inserting a cocktail stick into the pivot hole and dropping a washer over - pic 9.

Glue on the ears - pic 10.

Result - pic 11.

Step 6:

Cut out the template for the trunk and paste it onto a suitably small piece of wood - pic 1.

Using files, shape the truck - pic 2.

Use a needle file to bevel the edges - pic 3 &4.

Finished trunk, ready to attach - pic 5.

Glue on the trunk. I used quick set epoxy here - and propped up the elephant with the trunk vertical while it sets. Clean up the squeeze-out glue when set, using a needle file.

Optional step: Once the glue had set, I drilled a 2 mm (1/16th inch) hole through the trunk into the body just a short way. Then I glued in a cocktail stick to re-enforce the joint, trimming it later once the glue had set - pic 6.

Step 7:

The back and front feet are best made in one piece, so that the curve of each foot is the same - cut a suitable piece of wood to make the feet - I used 50 mm, (approx 2 inches).

Plane the blank to size (50 mm ) with the shooting board - pic 1. The feet are 15 mm (just short 5/8th inch) deep.

Place the blank for the foot in the vise and shape with a file to a curved contour - pic 2 & 3.

Cut a piece slightly wider than the front foot ( pic 4) .

Glue to the bottom of the elephant, leaving it slightly proud on both sides, and clamp until set - pic 6.

File down flush on both sides after the glue has set .

Step 8:

Cut a piece of suitable wood to make the back legs. Mine are 4 mm (1/8 inch) wide and 3 mm (3/32 inch) thick, final measurements and so cut with an allowance to skim them down - pic 1.

Adjust the thickness and width of the legs using a shooting board - pics 2 - 4.

Work slowly and carefully - you can use a scrap piece of wood to press the leg against the sole of the jack plane while skimming. Probably not a good idea to have your fingertips so close to the blade.

Mark a pivot hole at the end of each leg and confirm with a centre punch and small hammer.

Place the legs one by one in the vice and drill a 2 mm (1/16th inch) hole right through - pic 5.

Use a needle file to widen the hole to accept a cocktail stick - pic 6.

The final fit must be such that the legs pivot freely about the cocktail stick with no hesitation or sticking - pic 7 & 8. Any sticking here and the elephant will not walk.

Step 9:

Insert a cocktail stick into the pivot hole and trim allow 8 mm to project on either side of the body of the elephant.

Place two 2 mm washers over the projecting stubs of cocktail stick.

Place the holes of the two legs over the projecting stubs. Place an addition two washers, one on either side between the leg and the body, in order to keep the legs parallel - pic 1.

Measure and mark out the back foot. The measurement is the inside distance between the legs, held parallel, with the legs pressed against the washers - pic 2. This gives clearance between the legs and the body of the elephant, enabling the legs to move freely without rubbing against the body.

Cut the back foot to length with a Junior hacksaw and trim with a file, holding down the foot onto the stop of the shooting board with one hand and filing the cut edge smooth with the other - pic 3.

Paste the template, ( pic 4) onto a piece of card and cut out the profile.

Attach the back foot to the front foot with a short length of masking tape across the soles - pic 5.

Adjust the relationship between the feet, while still pressing the legs against the rear foot. One can make up a small wooden spacer to assist with this - pic 6.

Bring up the back legs and press them against both sides of the back foot - pic 7.

Mark the position of the foot on both legs with a pencil (vertical position) and also then position of the legs on the foot - (fore and aft position). Also check with the elephant upside down and looking at the soles of the feet, that the edges of both feet are parallel - that they line up. Any deviation here may mean that the elephant may not walk at all or walk straight.

Relax the pressure, apply glue between the foot and the legs, re-adjust to the pencil marks and clamp - pic 8. (The masking tape is removed in this pic for clarity). Re-check the alignment above and also by looking from behind, that the back foot lines up with the front foot horizontally - any tilting at this point may mean that the elephant may not walk at all or not walk straight. Look at pic 8 again - the gap between the feet is constant.

Once the glue has set, remove from the clamp and trim the legs to be flush with the back foot - pic 9. Bevel them slightly away from the sole.

Step 10:

Fit the tail and also a small length of cocktail stick into the leg stop hole - pic 1.

The elephant must rest on its back feet when placed on a level surface - pic 2.

Make up a sloping ramp, using temporary packing at one end to lift it - it may need to be adjusted later - see below - If it doesn't walk.

Mine is 35 cm (13 3/4 inches) long and 5.5 cm (2 1/8 inches) wide and 7.7 cm (3 inches), off the ground.- pics 3 & 4. Mine has sides added to it and folds up - both optional.

Now it is time to try him out!! Place the elephant on the ramp, push down gently on the tail and release. The elephant should begin to walk down the ramp in a 'nodding' fashion.

If it doesn't walk:

  • The slope also has an effect - try the slope suggested above - if no luck, then lengthen the vertical part of the ramp by 12.5 mm (1/2 inch), propping something loose underneath.

  • Try sliding the tail in or out - on mine this did help, but it also needed some ballast on the head. I used a left over small piece from making the foot and attached it with a small piece of Press putty or similar.

  • Try placing the ballast on the elephant's forehead about a 1/4 inch up from the base of the trunk. If no luck, move the tail back a little.
  • Move the ballast back a little - try it and then move the tail again if no luck.
  • Alternate moving the ballast and the tail - making just one adjustment at a time.
  • I must admit that it took quite a bit of fiddling to get it to walk well, all the way down the ramp - eventually I had to drill a hole in the base of the elephant to take a small screw and two metal washers - pics 5 & 6.
  • Thinking more about it, the elephant might need less fiddling, if the shape of the body was more bulbous at the rear - see pic 7 - look at the new contour drawn in. I have made such an elephant, which worked well on the original slope above.
  • Once it is walking well, one can glue the ballast in place. It can also be fashioned into a head ornament - in real life, such ornaments are worn by some elephants, notably in India.

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    Alex in NZ
    Alex in NZ

    2 years ago

    I've always loved these things too. I wonder who made the very first one? They probably ended up burned as a witch.
    What a beautiful and cute little toy. Well done, and thank you for sharing your work :-)