Wood Toy Pickup Truck

About: Love building fun things with wood (automata, puzzles, etc). Music is my 2nd love, Concertina, Bass, piano, etc.

This little toy truck is primarily a wood working project. The plan was to make a bunch of these and give them out to little kids for whatever reason I come up with. The basic size is 3 1/2" x 1 1/4" so it can be made from just about any small scrap of wood. The wood finish is butcher block oil to make the toy as safe as safe as possible for little kids.

Your choice of wood will have a major impact on the looks of the finished toy. You can use common Pine if you prefer to leave the wood in it's natural color. Butcher Block Oil does not do much for Pine. I used Oak for the main body. The oil gives Oak a nice brown finish. I used Black Walnut for the cab and wheels. The oil enhances the Black Walnut finish. Walnut has a variety of colors. For the wheels, try to find walnut as dark as possible .

The following is a step by step procedure to make the truck. However, one of the nice things about this project is that you can do most of the steps in whatever sequence you want.

Please note the exploded view of the completed truck so you can see all the individual parts required.

Materials I used (for one truck):

Oak (Main body and box sides) - 3/4" x 1 1/4" x 5"

Black walnut (Wheels) - 3/4" x 4" x 1 1/4"

Black Walnut (Cab) - 3/4" x 1 1/4" x 1 1/4"

Wood dowel (Axles) - 1/4" x 5"

Step 1: Truck Body Main Block

Cut a piece of 3/4" stock, 3 1/2" long and 1 1/4" wide

Step 2: Truck Box Cut

Mark 1 1/2" along the length of the body. Mark down 3/8" at the 1 1/2" point along the side. Cut out the area to make room for the box.

Step 3: Axle Holes

Mark 1/2" from both ends of the main body. Mark 3/16" up from the bottom for both axles. The axles are 1/4" wood dowel. The holes for the axle have to be slightly larger to allow the axles to turn easily. A 9/32" drill should be adequate to allow the axle to turn easily. If not you may have to go to a 5/16" drill bit. The holes are close to the edge but I have not had a problem with the placement.

Step 4: Box Sides

The box sides should be 1/4" x 1 1/2" x 3/8". However, you may find it to be more accurate if you take a piece of 1/4" wood and place it in the box area of the main body and mark as needed. Do that for both the length and the height.

Step 5: Cab Main Block

The cab main block is 3/4" x 1 1/4" x 1 1/4". I used black walnut here only as a personal preference. It adds color and has a nice finish with butcher block oil.

Step 6: Windshield Cut

The first cab cut will be to make the windshield angle.

The cab is 3/4" tall. The side of the cab is 1 1/4" long. Mark 1" across the top of one side. Draw a diagonal line down to the bottom corner. Make the diagonal cut to form the windshield.

Note that the cab is quite small and requires careful attention. If you decide to make more than one truck at a time, set up a whole string of cab sections on a 3/4" x 1 1/4" strip. Then don't make any cuts until you have the entire side of all the cabs defined (see the next step for dimensions). Keep the strip of wood one piece until all the interior cuts are made and then make a final cut to separate the cabs. It is much easier to make the cuts with a larger piece of wood.

Step 7: Side Window Cuts

On one the side of the cab, mark 1/4" down from the top and 1/4" in from both sides. I used a bandsaw to make the cuts on each side and then nibbled out the center.

Step 8: Windshield and Back Window Cuts

The windshield and back window are cut at the same time. Draw a line 1/4" down from the top of the cab and 1/4" in from both sides of the windshield. If you are using a bandsaw, set the cab on the back window to make the cuts. I made a cut down both sides with a band saw and nibbled out the center. Cutting this part requires careful attention on the bandsaw because you don't have much to hang on to.

Step 9: Wheels

The wheels require a little more work than the rest of the parts. I used Black Walnut wood so the wheels were as dark as possible.

I cut the wheels with a 1" hole saw. I bought the hole saw, with arbor for less than $4.00. The hole saw has a 1/4" pilot bit which makes it ideal for drilling the 1/4" axle holes in the wheels.

There are no doubt many different ways to cut the wheels but this worked for me. Cut a strip of 3/4" Black Walnut about 1 1/4" wide. Each wheel takes about 1" so make the strip as long as you need for whatever number of wheels you would like to make. Then set the depth stop on your drill press to about 1/2" for the hole cutter (not the pilot drill). When you normally drill a hole with a hole cutter, the disk is removed and is stuck in the hole saw. With this method, the hole cut is only 1/2" deep in the 3/4" wood. When you lift the hole cutter the disk stays attached to the board. The pilot drill hole will probably go all the way through the board. The photo example shows holes made for 8 wheels. Drill as many wheels as you need and maybe a few extra.

Now it's time to remove the wheels. I used a bandsaw with a fence to make the cut. Turn the strip 90 degrees so the cuts are facing the fence on your bandsaw. You may want to sand the cut surface first to make sure it fits tight against the fence. Set the width of the cut to 3/8". Pass the strip through the saw against the fence. After each wheel passes the blade it is cut free so it is just waiting to fall on the floor, depending on the length of your fence! It would help if you could get someone to hold a container to catch them.

Take a close look at the wheel in the photo. Notice how the outside and inside edges have a chamfered edge. To make the chamfer edge I inserted a 1/4" dowel, about 3 inches long, into the wheel with a pressure fit.

This proved to be a little more difficult than expected because the pilot drill I used made a hole slightly larger than 1/4". If you can install a true 1/4" bit in your hole cutter you can skip the next step.

I found a 5/16" wood dowel and used my lathe to trim it down to a tight fit into the wheel axle hole. You could do the same thing by inserting the piece of wood dowel into a drill press and use a file or sandpaper to bring it down to size. Be sure to use oak wood dowel for this. Poplar wood dowels will get compressed after you do about 3 or 4 wheels and then the wheels will spin on the dowel or fall off.

Insert the dowel into one wheel. Only insert it far enough to get a firm seat. Mount the dowel in an electric drill. Spin the wheel to make sure it is mounted perfectly perpendicular to the axle. If it is not you will see the wheel wobble and your chamfer will be lopsided!

While spinning the wheel with the drill, hold the wheel against a belt sander at about a 45 degree angle. Depending on the belt sander grit and quality, you will have to experiment with how long to hold it against the belt sander. The depth of the chamfer is your choice. The 3" length of the dowel should provide sufficient room to get at the inside edge chamfer also.

Step 10: Main Body Assembly

1. Glue the box sides on to the main body. After the glue dries, sand the top of the main body to get one nice smooth finish from the front of the hood to the back of the box. Don't sand the sides until the cab is installed.

On all trucks, the cab and box are two separate units. To help make the box look like one separate unit we need to make a slight cut (1/32" deep?) on the bottom of the main body to match the end of the box sides. You could use a chisel, fine tooth saw, or utility knife to make the cut. Remember this is only a slight cut for looks only.

2. Glue the cab onto the truck body. Line up the back of the cab with the edge of the box. Apply a little dab of glue on each of the four corner posts on the cab. Wipe off any excess glue.

3. After the glue dries, sand both sides of the truck.

4. Sand the back of the box so the box sides are perfectly flush with the back of the body.

5. Slightly round the top of the back and front of the cab.

6. Round the front of the hood.

At this point you should be ready to apply a finish if desired. Again, since this toy will most likely be used by a small child, use caution on what you select for the finish. Butcher block oil does a nice job but may not provide a the finish desired for some of the woods.

Step 11: Install the Wheels

1. Make the axles. The axles are made from 1/4" wood dowel. Cut one axle 2 1/8" long. Temporarily insert the axle into either hole on the truck body. Temporarily place a wheel on each side. The ends of the axle should be flush with the edge of the wheel. Now check for proper length of the axle. There should be just enough clearance for the wheels to turn without rubbing. Re-cut the axle if needed.

2. Lightly sand the ends of the axles to get rid of any fuzzy stuff on the edges. The ends of the axle will be visible through the wheels

3. Lay a wheel on a flat surface. Apply a dab of glue on one end of an axle and insert it into the wheel. Rotate the axle so the glue gets distributed around the axle. Make sure the axle is all the way down through the wheel so it is flush with the other side of the wheel and is straight up and down. As stated before, my hole cutter pilot drill bit was slightly larger than 1/4" so I could not get a pressure fit with the axle into the wheel. However, the axles did attach properly with a little extra glue applied.

4. After the first wheel glue dries, insert the axle into one hole in the truck.

5. Apply a dab of glue to the end of the axle and slide the other wheel on to the axle. Make sure the wheel is flush with the end of the axle.

6. Repeat for the other axle.

7. You may have to twist one or both of the wheels slightly after the glue dries to break loose some excess glue to get the wheels to turn. Remember that the wheels turn with the axles.

7. Enjoy your truck!

This is NOT the ultimate procedure to make a toy truck and I would appreciate any comments or suggestions on how it can be improved.

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