Introduction: Heirloom Push Toy
This thing is noisy. Be warned.
I built the pushtoy on the right (in the photo where I am posing with them) over 18 years ago, back in 1998, when my son was a toddler. It was inspired by a photo of a wooden toy that I found online. I was intrigued by the idea, and got together with my brother and designed and built my pushtoy. This was way before the time of youtube. I didn't even own a digital camera back then, and I have no photos at all of the build, let alone any video.
I recently decided that it would be fun to revisit this project. However, this time I would thoroughly document and film it for my youtube channel.
If you want an idea of what this toy is like, I recommend watching 10-20 seconds of the youtube video linked here. That video is just one long noisy demonstration of the toy. (Sure you could watch the whole thing, but 10-20 seconds is enough to demonstrate the toy.)
PLEASE NOTE: I don't own a lathe, and have not used one since shop class in the 7th grade. I built this project without a lathe. Don't let all the curves scare you!
Step 1: Option: Video Build
If you would prefer, you can watch two videos that detail the project build. Otherwise, read on!
Step 2: How It Works
Here is how it works. There is no axle through the center of the piece. Instead, the axles are just stubs that connect the wheels to the outside frame. The wheels are connected together by four dowels, and there are eight noisemaker blocks that can swing freely on the dowels.
As the wheels turn the noisemaker block falls forward, and bangs against the neighbouring dowel, as shown in this photo. ... Then as the wheel continues to turn, the block turns upside down, and then falls forward again (this time while upside down) and bangs against the other neighbouring dowel. To the left side of the photo you can see an example noisemaker block mounted on a dowel. There are two blocks on each dowel, which is eight blocks in total. So there is a constant rattle of blocks banging back and forth. I strongly recommend watching the video above to get a sense of the noise and activity of this toy.
Step 3: Bending Form
I think that the most challenging part of the build is making the curved sides. To make that process painless, I used the Woodgears.ca BigPrint Program to make a 1:1 plan for the bending form.
With that plan it is a fairly simple process to glue together some scrap plywood, glue the plan to the plywood, and cut out the bending form. This is then sanded and wrapped in packing tape.
Step 4: Making the Curved Sides
I ripped a bunch of thin strips of Hard Maple, and one strip of Teak. My strips were a bit less than 1/8" in thickness. I have a push stick dedicated for ripping super-thin pieces.
I used West System epoxy to glue up the strips to make the laminated curved sides. I was very pleased that none of my strips snapped. It was interesting to compare the Teak with the Maple, as the Teak was definitely more flexible. I used epoxy because I wanted a really strong bond, and as little spring-back as possible.
In the third photo, everything is mostly clamped in place. I made clamp blocks that were also wrapped in clear packing tape, as I did not want to have my clamps stick to the workpiece!
After it was dry I cleaned it up on the jointer, ripped to width on the tablesaw, and cleaned up all the epoxy squeeze-out on the spindle sander.
Step 5: Make the Wheels
I drew up the wheels in CAD and also used BigPrint to generate 1:1 plans for them. It makes cutting out the wheels very easy, and also helps with locating all the holes that need to be drilled.
Some of the holes are just decorative through holes. The others are only drilled half-way through the wheels.
After drilling the holes I then took the wheels to the router table and used a round-over bit to ease all the edges, being careful to NOT round-over the holes that would later receive a dowel.
Step 6: Trimming the Curved Sides to Length
The wheels are used to help figure out where to cut off the bottom of the cured pieces. I left a bit of space above the wheel to makes sure that the inward-curve of the side pieces would not rub.
After cutting off the bottom I drilled axle holes.
Step 7: Finishing the Curved Sides
I used the fence on the Tablesaw to help line up the bottom of the curved pieces. I drew a perpendicular line (on a piece of tape) and used that for alining the two tops to make sure that both were the same. Then I marked and cut off the top.
I could then glue the two pieces together. I also needed to add two extra pieces of maple to thicken up the top. My curved sides turned out to be a bit less than 1/2" in thickness and I needed more substance there for when I attached the handles. I also added decorative and reinforcing dowels above and below where the handle will be installed.
Step 8: Adding the Handles
I again used epoxy to glue the handles in place. As I said before, I don't have a lathe. These handles are shaker pegs that I bought at Lee Valley. (link here. And here is a link to an amazon option for those pegs) The tenons on these pegs are tapered, so I trimmed them a bit to make them more round and trust the epoxy to hold.
(on the previous noisemaker the handles have lasted 18 years so I think I'm safe.)
Step 9: Wheel Assembly Part 1
Now there is lots of measuring and figuring. I measured between the two sides to see how much space is available for the wheel assembly. I allowed 1/8" for space, measured the thickness of the wheels, and used that to cut the noisemaker mounting dowels to size. In the next photo I am test-fitting the dowels and making sure it all fits between the curved sides.
I then measure the space between the wheels and use that to figure out how thick to make the noisemaker blocks. They don't need to all be the same thickness! I had some pieces that where about 1" thick, and some that were just under 3/4" thick. As long as all eight of them add up to enough to almost fill the space between the wheels, you're good.
Step 10: Noisemaker Blocks
I also made CAD 1:1 plans for the noisemaker blocks. It wasn't really necessary, but it just makes things simpler. I glued the plans to the stock, cut them out, sanded them, and then rounded over their edges on the router table.
Step 11: Spreader Bar
Here the wheel assembly is dry-fitted and placed between the curved sides. Make sure that all the noisemaker blocks swing freely!
The next step is to lay out the spreader bar. Trace the curve from the sides onto the spreader bar and cut it out very carefully. I gave it some touch-up sanding and then glued it into place with Gel CA glue.
I then added two reinforcing dowels into either end of the spreader bar. They're decorative as well, but the main reason to put them there is to hold the spreader bar in place!
Step 12: Axles
On my original push toy, I used wooden "smoke stack" toy parts as the axle stubs. (shown in this photo) These were no longer available here so I had to come up with something else. (They may still be available at Hobby Lobby or similar craft stores in the US.)
Instead I used short stubs of 3/4" dowel, and I bought some 1-1/4" wooden balls to glue on the end. When drilling the hole in the ball I accidentally burned a ring into the ball from friction. I liked the effect, so I then did it on purpose on the other one.
Step 13: Apply Finish
For a finish I used Clapham's Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish. This is the same beeswax + mineral oil finish that I use on all my cutting boards. It is a quick and easy wipe-on paste finish. It is also completely food safe, which seemed like a good idea for a kids toy.
Step 14: Wheel Assembly Part 2 + Final Assembly
I glued the four dowels into one of the wheels using five-minute epoxy. Once the epoxy had dried, I mounted the 8 noisemaker blocks and then glued on the other wheel.
When gluing the second wheel I was very careful with how I placed the dabs of Five Minute epoxy, as I did not want any squeeze out at all.
And finally, I glued in the axle stubs, also with Five minute epoxy.
Step 15: Finished Project
Photo Album of the finished push toy.
This includes one photo comparing it to the original that I built way back in 1998
1:1 plans are available on my website.