Introduction: Wooden Tunnel for Thomas the Tank Engine Playsets

I thought I would write up a quick second instructable for another playset I made for my sons' Thomas the Tank engine track. Unfortunately, I did not document the build of this toy while making it, but a lot of the cutting is freehand and I have done some sketches to give you an idea of the process I used.

My son is a huge fan of tunnels and one of his favourite Thomas episodes has a haunted mine in it, so I decided to us that as the basis for the first playset I built for him.

Again, I used basswood on this project because it is cheap, easy to work with, light and is safe for little hands.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Tools Required:
     Band saw, Scroll saw, Jig saw or Coping Saw
     Sandpaper (100 or 120 grit is fine)
     Drafting Compass (or something round with a 2" diameter)

Materials Required:
     Basswood 28" x 4 1/2" x 1/2"
     Acrylic Paint and Varnish
     Fine Sharpie Marker
     Wood Glue
     Brown Paper bag
     Old Toothbrush

Step 2: Layout and Cutting

The tunnel consists of 6 pieces stacked and glued, but really the most important ones are the front and back as these are the tunnel entrance and exit. measure up 1 3/4" from the long edge of the board, about 6" from the end and draw a 2" diameter circle at that point and cut that piece out.  Once the entrance is cut, freehand cut a rolling random arch shape around that line not closer than about 1/2"  away from the door cut (see piece #1 below). Next make an even larger rolling random arch shape leaving approximately 1" of material (see piece #2 below). The next piece is the tricky one, as you want to make sure that you overlap the seam between piece #1 and #2 more or less evenly so you can stack and glue them, the second image below can give you an idea of how to cut piece #3. Now, take your first 3 pieces and use them as templates to make a duplicate of each (or you can cut 3 totally different ones using the same procedure if you wish).

I then used the scrap offcuts to make a small sign and more rocks and trees to decorate the haunted mine tunnel.

Then give everything a good sanding and you are ready to paint.

Step 3: Painting and Finishing

Start by giving all the pieces a coat of varnish, let them dry as per the instructions and then polish them with a crumpled up brown paper bag. The bag acts like soft fine sandpaper and give the pieces a nice feel.

At this point I glued all of the cave layers using a light even coat of glue and clamping them together for about 20 minutes.

For painting, I started by giving the bottom and entire interior of the cave 2 coats of black paint, then applied a light gray coat to all of the 'rock". Next I used a very dry brush with a tiny bit of darker gray paint on it and dabbed it along the bottom edge and in all the nooks and crannies.

Then using the toothbrush, I splattered the whole thing with very watered down white, medium gray and black paint. After the splatter layer has dried, apply two more coats of varnish, giving a paper bag polish in between. (Don't shake your varnish, roll it on a table to mix it... shaking it will give you bubbles in your finish)

Lastly, I glued on the Trees, sign and other details, clamped lightly using scrap wood to protect the finish and let it dry overnight.

Step 4:

You may notice that my arch only has 5 layers to it instead of 6, as this was a modification i thought of afterwards, but it works fine either way. 

It has been a month in the tender hands of a toddler, and even with daily use (and the dropping and the banging that accompanies belonging to a 3 year old) it has held up surprisingly well. In total this project cost around $5 in stock and about 3 hours of time, so a pretty decent investment.