Introduction: Wooden BMW Station Wagon
I really enjoy making toys for my son. I have made him some pretty simple cars and trucks (like this one: https://www.instructables.com/Simple-Toy-Truck-1/... and I wanted to up my game a bit. So I decided for his 3rd birthday I would replicate the family station wagon. In this instructable I will show you how I made this car, and with these instructions you should be able to replicate any car you want.
Don't forget to check out the video at the top of the page, especially the end so you can see the smile on my son's face when he opens up his present.
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 (I used 3/4" thick pine for chassis, 1" walnut for wheels and 1/2" walnut roof rack and maple dowels for the rest)
Note: The links in this article are affiliate links, meaning, at no
additional cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Step 1: Finding and Printing Your Car
I found this blueprint/outline of my car by searching on google for: e46 BMW touring side profile. In doing the research I found this website: https://getoutlines.com/car-blueprints which can be useful to find your own car.
I scaled the drawing using photoshop to make the wheels exactly 1.5" (as I have a hole saw that size) and then printed out the car.
I cut out one of the side profiles and attached it to an appropriate sized board. I used pine for my project as that is what I had laying around, but any wood will do.
I attached the paper to the board using a combination of a glue stick and packing tape. I find the packing tape really helps hold the paper together once you start cutting.
Step 2: Cut Out the First Outer Side
The car is made from five pieces. The two outer sides, two inner sides and a middle piece. The first thing I did was cut out one of the outsides. I simply followed the lines using my bandsaw. For the tight corners (such as the wheel wells) I made some relief cuts first. This allows the waste material to break away so that you can cut a tighter corner without the blade binding.
Step 3: Repeat for the Second Side
I transferred the lines to a second piece and cut it out.
If you wanted to save time, you could probably stack cut the two outer pieces at the same time.
Step 4: Cut Roof and Windows
In order the windows out I needed access through the roof. As the roof will be a solid piece that will be cut in a later step I decided this was a good time to cut it off.
I traced out the window lines and drew a straight line that crossed them at the top. I then headed over to the bandsaw to cut out all of the windows.
For the very sharp corners (i.e. the bottom of the front window) I had to make several passes, eating away bit by bit until I had enough room for the blade to point in the other direction. If you had a scroll saw you could save time by using it in this step as they can usually cut much smaller corners.
Step 5: Sand and File
I probably did this a bit out of order, as there will be more sanding and filing later. But I like to break up the sanding if I can as it is a very monotonous task. I used a drum sander on my drill press to get into the curved area of the wheel well (and everywhere else that had a curve) and then I used a file on all of the flatter areas.
I didn't worry about perfection at this point, I just wanted to make some progress.
Step 6: Drawing Interior Pieces
To draw the interior pieces I first traced out the outline of the car but I made sure to not trace out the wheel wells. I then freehand drew out what I thought would look good as an interior. I wanted to make sure the seats would be visible through the windows, so I lined them up with the window wells.
Step 7: Cutting Out the Inside Pieces
Again I was back at the bandsaw to cut out the interior pieces. I just followed the lines I had drawn. I tried to get as close as possible to the lines as it will save on sanding in a later step.
You will note in picture 3 I did some stack cutting of the windshield area. As I noted before, it would have saved some time to do the two interior pieces as a stack cut.
Step 8: Cutting Out the Middle Piece
For the middle piece I wanted it to be a bit thinner than the others. This was both because overall 5 pieces of 3/4" pine would have made the car too wide for the scale I was making the car, but also because the middle seat in a car is usually smaller than the side pieces. I used a hand plane to thin the board. You could use an electric thickness planer if you have one.
I then traced out the lines from one of the inner pieces made in the previous step, with the exception of the front seat. In my car this is where the arm rest is so I made sure to add that detail.
Then back to the bandsaw to cut along the lines again.
Step 9: More Sanding
Can you believe it? More sanding. It is really important to do all of the interior sanding work now as once it is glued together it will be much more difficult.
I used a combination of sandpaper by itself and for some of the areas I found it easier to attach the sandpaper to a thin scrap of wood with double sided tape.
Step 10: The First Glue Up
The first glue up was very stressful so I only got footage from one angle. But basically I put glue on each of the parts and then clamped it all up. You can see in the picture I had some blue tape laid out. I was hoping that tape would help me keep things aligned, but alas it didn't work!
I tried my best to not get any glue to squeeze out into the interior. Any squeeze out I cleaned up with a wet rag.
Step 11: More Shaping and Sanding
After the glue was dry I did a bit more shaping and sanding. Again this was more to break up the sanding process, but you can also see that I cut a bunch away from the hood using the bandsaw. (it looks like my tracing skills need a little work).
The main thing that I was worried about in this step was to ensure that all of the tops of the window columns were sanded flat so that the roof could be attached. Unfortunately I do not have a picture of me doing this (instead I have some nice footage of my elbow).
Step 12: Adding Inner Wheel Wells
Because the wheel arches went up into the interior of the car I had to add some interior wheel wells. Just like in real life, these will get in the way of anything you want to put into the trunk of the car. They are simply made out of some small bits of pine ab out 3/8" thick, 1" long and 1/2" tall. Just enough to cover the holes in the wheel wells. I then glued them in place using a combination of CA glue and wood glue. The CA glue sets up very quick, but it isn't very strong. The wood glue takes longer to cute, but will not easily break.
Step 13: Adding a Steering Wheel
Of course a car wouldn't be much fun without a steering wheel. I used a hole saw to make a circle out of walnut about 3/4" big (it is a bit out of scale and probably could be smaller). I then sanded it down and drilled a 1/4" hole into the back of it. I drilled the same size hole into the interior of the car (this probably would have been easier before the glue up, but it still worked. I attached it all together with the same CA glue and wood glue method described earlier.
Step 14: Glue Up Number 2
The roof is just another piece of scrap pine. I put glue on all of the columns and clamped it together. I again made sure there was minimal squeeze out on the interior and tried to wipe off any excess with a wet rag.
Step 15: Final Shaping and Sanding
The final shaping and sanding started at the bandsaw. I cut the roof along the same lines as the windshield and back window. I then took the car over to the belt sander and continued to shape it. The part that took the longest was getting the angle right between the doors and the roof.
Once the majority of the work was completed with the belt sander I switched over to hand sanding. I went up to 120 grit. As this is a toy car that will get beat up, dropped, smashed, etc I didn't want to make it too smooth!
Step 16: Adding Roof Racks
At this point you can really go wild adding small details that will really add to the look of your car. You can add mirrors and door handle and lots of other stuff. As I knew most of those things would not last with my 3 year old playing with this, I only added what I felt were the essentials. And of course, that detail is the roof racks.
I wanted the roof rack rails to be a contrasting colour so I grabbed some thin walnut I had in the scrap pile. I sketched out something that I thought would be close and cut them out on the bandsaw. In order to get the rails to fit perfectly on the roof of the car I put a piece of sandpaper on the roof and then sanded the rails until they sat nicely.
I then used some thin maple dowels to make the cross bars. I sanded them so that the it had two flat sides and glued them in place.
Originally I used CA glue as it was a bit of a small surface and I was feeling lazy and didn't want to wait for the glue to dry. This of course came back to haunt me as a day after I gave my son the toy he had popped off the roof rack. I reapplied everything with some wood glue and it held much better, but he was still able to knock off the cross bars. For now I have just left them off. Please keep this in mind if you are adding details.
Step 17: Carving and Drilling the Front Details
I feel like a BMW wouldn't be complete without the kidney grills and the 4 round headlights, so I added these details. I choose to use a knife to carve out the kidney grills. I used a drill for the headlights.
Step 18: Making Wheels - Part A
Making the wheels was one of the more complex parts of the project.
As tires are black I of course went with some black walnut for this part of the project. I used a hole saw in some 3/4" thick walnut that left me with a 1 1/4" circles. I gave them a quick sand on the disc sander as the hole saw never leaves a nice finish.
I went over to the bandsaw and cut them right down the middle. When cutting a circular object on the bandsaw it is very important to use a clamp to hold the work piece. The bandsaw blade will want to grab the work piece and spin it into the blade. If your fingers/thumb are there they will get spun right into the blade as well, and that doesn't sound fun to me.
I went back to the disc sander and sanded all of the bandsaw marks away and made sure all of the surfaces were flat.
Step 19: Making Wheels - Part B
In order to add a directional tread pattern to the wheels I devised this simple jig. I drilled 2 opposing 1/4" holes at 45 degrees. I added a small 1/4" dowel to the holes and now I was ready to make some treads.
I drew 4 intersecting lines on all of the wheel halves that divided them up into 8 equal parts (like a pizza). I placed a wheel half on jig and pressed it lightly into the bandsaw blade. I used the lines to align the wheel on the jig. After doing 4 wheels with the jig in one direction, I moved the dowel to the other location on the jig. I was then able to cut the remaining 4 wheel halves.
Step 20: Making Wheels - Part C
To re-assemble the wheels I first needed to make some axles, so I cut some 1/4" dowel to approximate length ~4 1/2". I used the same CA glue and wood glue trick so assemble the wheels and I used the axle to ensure everything stayed aligned.
For the tread pattern I wanted it to be an alternating chevron style pattern, all going in the same direction, so I just kept that in mind when I was putting glue on the wheel halves.
After they were all assembled I took the wheels to the drill press of all places for some sanding. I put all four wheels on one axle and put the end in the drill press. I was then able to spin the wheels and sand at the same time. This saved a lot of time! Be mindful to not press too hard as the drill press is not meant for this kind of lateral load. (If you have a lathe you could do the same thing much safer.)
Step 21: Attaching Wheels to the Car
I used a wheel along with a mechanical pencil to mark out the location for the axle holes. I used a 9/32" drill bit (one size up from the 1/4" dowel) to drill out the holes for the axle. I also ended up making the holes a bit "sloppy" by twisting the drill to elongate the hole. This gives the car an appearance of suspension. When you pick up the car the wheels aren't securely attached and kind of droop down a bit, in a similar way if you were to jack up a car. I think it is a nice subtle feature that adds some realism to the car.
The wheels were attached to the dowel with wood glue. I first glued one side, then put the axle through the hole and then glued on the wheels on the other side. It is very important to not get any glue on the part of the axle that is sliding through the car as this will stop the wheels from spinning.
Step 22: Adding Finish
The finish I choose for this project was a mineral oil that I bought for doing cutting boards. It is food safe which makes me feel comfortable when my son inevitably licks the car for no good reason.
A smarter person than I might have considered applying finish to the inside of the car before gluing on the roof. But as I hadn't thought of doing that I instead had to get out a cheap paintbrush and apply it slowly and from multiple different angles.
Step 23: Enjoy!
The best part of any project is getting to see the end user enjoy it. If you want to see my son unwrapping the present check out the video at the top of the page. As you can see it really put a smile on his face (and mine too!)
If that isn't enough fun for you, you can enjoy the fact that I spent an hour kneeling/laying in the snow to get these fun forced perspective shots of the car.
I hope you found this project as fun as I did. If you did I would appreciate if you check me out on other social media:
If you make a replica of your own car (or even a replica of mine) I would love to see some pictures! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask them in the comments.
This is an entry in the