How to Make a Hand Carved Wand

This tutorial explains how to make a hand carved wand, which is a perfect gift for any young witch or wizard. The process is easy, and it can be done in a single evening. Hand shaping allows you to have a more rustic look, and incorporate curves into the design.

how to make a hand carved wandBoth of these wands are shaped by hand using tools, which is different than my normal process of turning them on a lathe. However, having carved dozens of guitar necks on the belt sander, the process itself is something I am familiar with.

The main wand in this tutorial is made from Walnut, is 12-1/2 inches long, and designed with a round pommel and grooves on the handle.

The second wand is made from Cherry, is 12-1/2 inches long, and is partially turned on the lathe. The two rings at the center begged to be turned, so I did that before I carved the rest by hand. This is completely optional, and you can carve this with files just as well.

You can use this same process to make any type or style of wand that you want. If you like my designs, please feel free to use them. If you would rather have something a little different, then modify them to suit your taste. There is no wrong answer as long as you like what you make.

Laminating the Blanks for the Hand Carved Wand

how to make a hand carved wandAll of my hand carved wands are made from a laminated bank. The blank measures 1-1/2 inches square, and 16 inches long.

If you head to the woodworking store and find a piece that is already big enough to cut out a blank, then feel free to use a single piece. In this case, I was only able to find 3/4 inch thick pieces, so I glued two of them together.

This is a great way to save money in general when woodworking. The thicker 8/4 pieces are always more expensive than the standard thickness. Besides, with a good glue joint, you will never be able to tell it was made from two pieces.

how to make a hand carved wandTo laminate the blank, cut two pieces that measure 16 inches long, and 1-1/2 inches wide on the table saw. Then, apply wood glue to both sides.

After both pieces of wood have glue on them, spread it evenly. Use a finger or a glue roller to form an even and thin layer.

Make sure that the glue covers both mating surfaces, and that there are no dry areas. Also, don’t hose the project with glue. A thin layer on both of the faces that are going to be glued together is just enough. The first secret to an invisible joint is an even film of glue.

how to make a hand carved wandNow, clamp the pieces together. The second secret to an invisible glue joint is to use several clamps.

Even clamping pressure and multiple clamps helps ensure that the pieces are held together well.

Apply a couple spring clamps on the ends to keep the wood from sliding. Then, start adding strong bar clamps in between. Once they are all in place, begin bringing up the pressure. Bring up the pressure evenly, which will help keep the wood from sliding around. Clean up any squeeze out with a wet rag, and allow the wand blank to dry overnight.

Drawing a Design for the Hand Carved Wand

how to make a hand carved wandThis is where you get to decide what kind of wand you like. If you look around online, there are a few places that will make you answer some questions and assign you a wand. The inspiration for these two wands came from a site like that.

The first step is to mark out the ends based on the size of the wand. In this case, they are 12-1/2 inches. Then, start laying out the rest of the design. For this carved wand, the top of the round pommel is 4-3/4 inches from the butt end, with a 1 inch ball, and 3/4 inch handle. The rest of the wand starts out a little smaller than 3/4 inch, and tapers to less than half an inch at the tip.

how to make a hand carved wandThe biggest part of laying out the design for your wand is keeping everything centered. The blank is square, so keeping the main details centered helps later on.

In this case, the handle, pommel, and middle of the wand are all centered. They will be easier to cut and shape later, and will have the most wood to work with.

The top 1/3 of the wand curves, so this is marked out off center on purpose. Since the top section is thinner, it really does not matter that it’s not centered. There will be plenty of wood to carve out the design.

Roughing Out the Carved Wand Blank

how to make a hand carved wandThe more you can remove on the band saw or with a coping saw the better. Carving by hand, even using power tools takes time. If you can reduce the bulk of the process by using a saw, then you will save time later.

Use a band saw or coping saw to cut off the waste wood that is outside the lines. Also, leave a tiny amount extra on the tip and butt of the wand. This little extra allowance will be trimmed off later. The reason for keeping a little extra is to make sure that the wand measures exactly as it should for length. After all, if a little wizard asks for a 12-1/2 inch long wand, that’s what they should get.

how to make a hand carved wandNext, draw more guides on the adjacent face of the wand blank.

Essentially these are the same lines as on the first round in most cases. In this one, the curve has already been set. So the design shows a straight cut for the top section of the wand.

The reason for these new lines is to give you more waste to saw off on the band saw or coping saw. Again, the more you can take off before sanding the better. Run the piece through the saw after you mark out the design, and be sure to stay outside the lines. Discard the waste, and you now have a roughed out wand blank.

Shaping the Hand Carved Wand

how to make a hand carved wandNow the fun begins. This is what the blank looks like after everything that can possibly be cut off by the saw has been removed.

It is starting to look like a hand carved wand, but it still needs to be sanded and shaped.

This is where you will need to decide on how to proceed. On these wands I used a spindle sander and a bench top belt sander for the vast majority of the work. The spindle sander was nice for the tighter areas, and the belt sander was great for hogging off large amounts of wood quickly. Even a palm sander or almost any other kind of power sander can be useful.

how to make a hand carved wandStart by refining the shape, and rounding the corners. If you have a large pommel or decorative feature in the design, start refining the shape.

Take your time, and work around the piece. Be careful not to remove too much from one area or another.

If your design starts to get a little off, remove material from the other side to even it out. A hand made wand will have a little variance in the design. This is normal. You just want to make sure that it looks intentional not accidental.

how to make a hand carved wandBegin rounding the handle and rounding the shaft area. This is easiest to do on a belt sander, but can be done by hand too. If you are working on this project by hand, files are going to be your best friends.

Even on a budget you can pick up a few wood files for this project. Look at a discount tool store or in a home improvement store. Most files have a medium to coarse set, and will remove wood nicely. It’s a much faster process than sanding by hand, and they are not too damaging to the wood. A basic double mill flat file and a square file are good to start with. Look for a larger diameter round file too if you can.

Adding Grooves on the Wand Handle

how to make a hand carved wandMeasure 3/4 inch in from the end of the wand and the base of the pommel, and make a couple marks. Then, make several more marks 1/4 inch away from each other.

Extend these carefully around the handle of the hand carved wand. This does not need to be perfect, and a little variation is a good thing,

Then, use a hack saw to create a small cut following the lines. The hack saw is perfect for this, and it will give the file a place to grip later. This process puts rings or grips on the handle, and gives it a really nice look. Simply clamp the saw in a vise, and carefully rotate the wand against the blade. Work it in the same direction as the teeth, not against them. It will mark just as well, and be easier to control.

how to make a hand carved wandNow, follow the cuts that you just made with a square file. Use one of the edges of the file to widen the saw cut.

Follow the cut all the way around the wand for each groove. Make sure to keep the point of the file straight up too. This will make it easier to get an even groove on the bottom, and means your file is not tipped one way or another.

Go back over the grooves one at a time and check for odd looking spots. Address them with the file and continue looking. Sometimes the first and the last grooves look really different. If they are, go back and even out the depth of all the grooves before moving forward.

Installing the Core Cover

how to make a hand carved wandIn order to give these wands a little mystery, I added a core cover to the end. Anyone who knows a little wand lore understands that wands have magical cores. Since I was all out of Phoenix Feathers, I had to improvise.

I liked the idea of installing a core cover, which makes it look like there is really a magical core inside the carved wand.

For the cover, you can do any kind of inlay that you like. In this example, find a small plastic rod and drill a matching hole. Then, drip glue into the hole and insert the rod. When dry, cut off the excess and sand the end smooth.

The dot that you see is the same material that is used for adding side dots to a guitar fretboard. I happened to have a few of these in the shop, so I used it for my core cover. What you use does not matter, it’s just for the story. It adds to the magic when a kid believes there is a core in their wand.

Staining and Finishing the Wand

how to make a hand carved wandStaining and finishing is a matter of personal preference. I had to match a darker color than the Walnut I was using, so I used a dark walnut dye stain.

Dye stains are great. In this example, coat the wand several times with dye, and set it aside to dry. Then, lightly sand, and coat again.

After the dye dries, you can use a finish of your choice to protect the wood. In my case, I used a buffed finish. Buffing the surface creates an even sheen, and polished the surface. It also allows the wand to be handled immediately. I buff many of my projects, and I use the Beall Wood Buff System, which I have a post about.

how to make a hand carved wandIn order to give the wand a worn and realistic look, buff the wood more in areas that the witch or wizard would touch more.

In this case, buff the handle extra hard, and the end of the handle. A hand carved wand should show some variation in the wood as well as the finish. This is where you can make it stand out.

If you look at the end of the handle, you can start to see the original color of the wood popping through the dark stain. This looks very natural, like the wand has been through a lifetime of use. It is easy to do, and simply requires buffing on that one area longer than on the rest of the wand. Buffing is sanding in a way, so it does remove material…slowly.

Hand Carved Wand Made From Cherry

how to make a hand carved wandThe Cherry is made the same way as the Walnut wand, with one exception. The double ring pommel is turned on the lathe.

I could have carved something like this by hand, but it would not have looked as good or as even in the end. This wand is the same size as the Walnut wand, and the pommel is in the same place.

Turn the pommel, or carve a couple of 1/2 inch rings that are right next to each other. These form the pommel, and give the rest of the hand carved wand a really sharp look.

how to make a hand carved wandAfter that, the process is largely the same as the Walnut wand.

Begin with the blank after turning and mark out the design for cutting.

Make sure to cut off as much waste as possible on the saw, which minimizes the amount of sanding to do later.

Then, refine the shape with power sanders or files and keep on going until the wand is exactly as you like it. In the case of the Cherry wand, I also drew a wavy design on the handle, and then went over it with a Dremel and a round nose bit. This lightly carved the design into the wood, and was easy to finish over.

Hand Carved Wand Final Pictures

how to make a hand carved wandHere are both wands after staining and buffing, and they came out great. You can also see the detail of the carving on the handle of the Cherry wand on the bottom.

Both of these were created using pictures as a reference, and capture many of the details.

The hand carving process allows you you craft any shape and style of wand that you desire, the only limit is your imagination. These wands were a pleasure to build, and only took one evening to complete. I love the rustic, hand-made look that is very different from lathe turned wands. These both look like they have age on them, and stories to tell.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

How to Make Wooden Tools For Kids

Do you want to experience one of the most amazing feelings in all of woodworking? Then you need to start making things for kids. When I made a set of wooden tools for my son, he was so happy to start playing with them. The feeling it gave me is not something that can be described. It has to be felt.

wooden tools for kidsI wrote a book about making wooden tools called Wooden Tools For Kids based off the experience that I had with my son. It was my hope that I could give that experience to other parents or grandparents, because it was extremely powerful.

The first set I made for him was only a few tools. But, he had so much fun with them that I was quickly designing an entire matching set. The whole 20+ piece set, and a farm style tool box are covered in the book.

Kids love wooden toys. They also love to use their imagination as they play. When you make wooden tools for a child, they also get to learn about tools as they use their imaginations. This is a double bonus.

Having been a woodworker for a very long time, I always knew that I wanted to introduce my son to the craft as soon as I was able to. He is just under two years old right now, and even though he doesn’t know what most of these wooden tools are, he still enjoys playing with them. It also allows me to begin showing him things that have to do with woodworking.

wooden tools for kidsHere is a look at the entire set. It was actually pretty hard to get them all squeezed into one picture. The set is pretty large.

Going clockwise from the top left there is a draw knife, leather strop, hand plane, ruler, combination stone, repair knife, open ended wrench, mallet, sanding block, chisel, flat screwdriver, phillips screwdriver, wall sander, square, glue roller, dovetail saw, level, T-handle wrench, long file, carving knife, and a marking gauge.

This is a very comprehensive set. The wooden tools are replicas of the same tools that I have in my shop. If these wooden tools were all real, the set would be great for anyone starting out in woodworking or home repair. Plus, they also look very realistic, which makes them easy to recognize in adults as well.

wooden tools for kidsOne of my favorites from Wooden Tools For Kidsis a replica of a marking gauge. I have a nice Crown marking gauge that I use in the shop. So, I made a couple modifications to it for the wooden tool version.

First, the stock does not move. This is to keep the pieces together, and preserve the look of the real thing. Also, the marking pin at the end is very blunt, and made from a dowel. Plus, all of the pieces are doweled together to help prevent them from coming loose over time. You can see one of the dowels at the bottom of the Maple piece in the picture. The other goes through the end of the beam, and holds the marking pin in place. My son still uses this as a hammer, but again he’s not even two yet.

wooden tools for kidsAnother one of my favorites is a simple square made from Maple and Walnut. My son has lots of toys that are made from those two species. He has not had any allergy issues, so I continue to use them for his wooden tools and toys.

The blade is made from Curly Maple, which gives that wavy look when finished. It sets off the look of the tool, and is more interesting than plain Maple. I wrote a whole article on why you should start using Curly Maple over regular Maple, and it explains the benefits for the small cost difference. Most of the time, the beauty of Curly Maple is so much more than the slight price difference that it is a very easy decision in the woodworking store.

wooden tools for kidsAll of the tools that you see in the pictures are explained in an easy step-by-step manner in the book. I treat each of the tools in their own chapter, and you can easily follow along.

If you are absolutely brand new to woodworking, you will need to have a few tools in order to make this set. I don’t have the biggest or best version of any tool. However, I do have a bench top version that still works well.

I use common woodworking tools for the instructions, and you can make substitutions for tools that you do not have, or non-power for power if needed.

Pretty much anyone with a basic woodworking skills and some shop tools will be able to make just about all of the tools in the book. The instructions show each step clearly along the way. You can also choose which tools from Wooden Tools For Kids you want to make, and design your own smaller set if you like. Either way, they are sure to put a smile on a young kids’ face when you hand them over.

I do make money when someone buys my book. That should be no secret. However, the feeling that I got when I gave these tools to my son pales in comparison. It’s a wonderful feeling, and makes you proud to be a woodworker. Giving wooden tools or wooden toys to a child is a rare joy, and worth the time.

If you have any questions about How to Make Wooden Tools for Kids, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work online. It helps me reach more people, and share with them the joys of woodworking. Happy building.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

***Please note that the links to view my book, Wooden Tools For Kids are affiliate links, which take you to Amazon. If you buy the book on my recommendation, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me maintain the website, and continue to operate Westfarthing Woodworks.

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several different books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they each cover different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

How to Make a Wooden Train – The Log Car

This tutorial on how to make a wooden train covers making the log car. It’s a open car with six uprights that hold dowel logs. This is an easy build, and makes a nice addition to any handmade wooden train set. The car base is the same size as the others in this series, and the look blends well with the rest of the cars. A preview of the entire how to make a wooden train series can be seen in the picture below.

how to make a wooden train tanker

The entire train making tutorial is broken up into several sections, one for each car. In total, there are instructions for an Engine, Tanker Car, Three Tank Car, Open Top Car, and in this tutorial a log car. The whole set looks great together, and is sure to become a family treasure. The simple design is easily recognizable and classic looking.

How to Make a Wooden Train Car – Assembling the Body

how to make a wooden train log carStart with a piece of wood for the base of the wooden train car that measures 2 inches by 6 inches, and 3/4 inch thick. Select a piece that will contrast well with the dowels that you use for the uprights.

For my wooden train, Walnut is used for all of the train car bases.

Next, measure for six drill holes. Three on each of the long sides. First, measure in 5/16 inch from the long ends, and draw two long lines that run the length of the piece. Then, measure in 1/2 inch from each end, and place marks perpendicular to the long lines. Finally, measure for the center of the lines, which should be about 3 inches, and make two more marks on the lines. Indent the six intersections with an awl or sharp nail so that the drill can enter the wood without walking.

This is an old woodworking trick. The indent gives the drill somewhere to focus. It helps prevent the bit from wandering before entering the wood. This is the most effective with twist bits that do not have center points, but is helpful with all bit styles. Long story short, it will help you drill the hole exactly where you intended.

how to make a wooden train log carNow, select a 3/8 inch dowel, and cut six pieces that measure 2-1/2 inches long. Chamfer both ends of the dowels, and select one end that looks the best on each.

On the good end, sand the chamfer smooth and make sure all of the scratches are removed. This will be the end that you see after gluing.

Drill the six holes using a 3/8 inch Forstner bit, stopping 1/2 inch into the surface of the wooden train car. Then, sand the pencil lines off the base. Blow out all the dust, and then drip glue into the holes. Insert the bad ends of the dowels into the holes, and rotate them for good glue coverage. Allow the piece to dry for a couple hours to set the joints.

If any glue comes out, be sure to wipe it off. It will be difficult to remove excess glue with the dowels in the way. Use a wet rag, and remove any glue that comes out of the holes while it’s still wet. You do not need a ton of glue to hold these dowels in place. A few drips that are spread around well is just right.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Making the Logs

how to make a wooden train log carThe log car needs to have logs on it to look accurate. Make these from another dowel that has a diameter of 1/2 inch.

I chose Oak for the dowel, because it has a grainy look and almost looks like small milled logs for transport. You can chose another species if you like, just make sure that it is not irritating to the child getting the train.

Cut 8 pieces from the dowels, each one measuring 6 inches long. Chamfer both ends with sandpaper or a belt sander, then focus on sanding them smooth. Make sure to spend the time cleaning up the ends, because they can be splintery if you are not careful. Sand the logs smooth, and check them carefully.

An optional non-toxic stain can be used to give the logs a more realistic look if desired, but the natural look of the Oak is pretty good by itself. For this wooden train set, I only use a clear finish. It’s completely up to you though when it comes to finishing.

how to make a wooden train log carHere is what the logs look like inside the wooden train car. The gap in between the uprights is one inch wide, so two logs will sit right next to each other.

If you want to have a look more like the picture, you can let them fall more naturally into the train car and they will stick upwards a bit.

After you are satisfied with your test fitting, set the logs aside for finishing. This will happen later in the wooden train tutorial, as everything can be finished at once. If you have kids that are going to lose these train logs, take the time to make a few extra for spares.

I give this advice after the fact, because I have no idea where most of the logs are now. My son has lost the majority of them already, and he has only had the train for a few weeks. Plan ahead, and you will have replacements at the ready.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Drilling for the Axles and Couplers

how to make a wooden train log carNow that the bulk of the wooden train car is made, it is time to drill for the axles and wheels.

Measure 1 inch from each end, and make a mark on the side of the train car. Do this on all four sides. Then, make another mark that is 3/8 inch from the bottom of the car.

Use an awl or sharp drill to make an indent at the intersection of these lines all the way around the train car. Then, use a drill press or a hand drill to make the holes. The axles are 3/16 inch diameter, so use a bit that is slightly larger to accommodate for glue and swelling. Drill the four holes 1/4 inch deeper than is needed for the wheel and axle to press into the train car body. This extra is for the glue.

I used a 7/32 drill for most of the axle holes. I found that it worked well, and allowed enough room for the swelling and glue. Some of these store bought axles and wheels are a little different sizes. The best way is to test a couple holes and try pressing in the pegs. The one that lets you push them in without too much resistance or wiggling is the right drill.

how to make a wooden train log carNext, the wooden train couplers need to be drilled and installed. Since the train couplers are all the same for the entire series, I show how they are made in this article. You will need two for this car.

On each end of the car, measure for the center by either connecting the opposite corners with straight lines or measuring for the center of the faces and edges of the board. Make an indent for the drill to follow where the lines meet. The dowels used for the wooden train couplers are 5/8 inch diameter, so use a 5/8 inch Forstner bit to drill a hole that is 1/2 inch deep. Do this on both sides of the log car.

how to make a wooden train log carNow, the hole is going to be very close in diameter to the thickness of the train car. Pay attention to the drilling, and make sure to find the center of the ends accurately.

If you plot the center well and drill carefully, the hole is an easy drill.

Make sure to set a stop on the drill press or mark the drill if you are drilling the train couplers by hand. It can be easy to go too deep, and since the couplers are already cut to length, they will sink in too far. Also, keep the drill as straight as possible to ensure that the couplers install straight.

If the coupler holes do not come out perfect, don’t worry. A little variation is not something that will be immediately noticeable. As long as the train couplers work, then the hole being slightly angled is not the end of the world. You can decide based on how off center the hole ends up. As long as it’s inside the end of the board, it should work fine.

how to make a wooden train log carDrip some glue into the coupler hole on the homemade wooden train and insert one of the coupler pieces. Rotate the coupler so that the entire inside of the joint is covered with glue.

Use an axle pin (without glue) to sight the hole on the coupler to be pointing straight up. Turn the coupler until the pin is pointing straight up, and then move on to the other.

Repeat the process for the other coupler. It is very important that the hole points straight up, so use an axle peg to help. Let the glue dry for a couple hours, and then the couplers will be very solid.

Remember, do not add any glue to this axle pin. The whole point is to just use the pin for easier alignment of the hole in the coupler. Once the coupler has had a few minutes for the glue to tack, the pin can be removed.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Sanding and Finish Prep

how to make a wooden train log carThe wooden train car is basically complete at this point. The only thing left to do before finishing is to sand.

This is meant to be a kids toy, so make sure to break all the sharp edges and round off all the corners. Start with 150 grit paper, which breaks through the sharp areas quickly. Then, switch to 220 grit for the final smoothness.

Check over the piece carefully, and make sure to address anything that needs more sanding. These are simple wooden trains, so there will not be much to distract people from large scratches and tool marks. Spend the extra few minutes and the project will come out great.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Finishing and Assembly

how to make a wooden train log carIt is far easier to finish the wooden train car before you assemble it. Once the wheels are in the way, it can be really tough.

Select a finish that is agreeable with the person that will be receiving this train as a gift. For kids, it is important to select a finish that will not irritate them, or cause any reactions.

My son has plenty of toys that were finished with Tried and True Danish Oil, so this is the finish that I use for the project. Use a clean cloth, and wipe on very thin coats. The thinner the better, as they will dry faster and more even. This is a good rule to follow for the vast majority of wipe on finishes.

Many people make the mistake in the beginning of dipping their project in finish, thinking that it will speed up the process. In reality, the thicker the finish applied, the longer it takes to cure. Wipe on a very thin coat, and after that dries, you can always add a second if you like. All of the pieces in my how to make a wooden train tutorial series are finished with just one coat.

how to make a wooden train log carAt this time, the logs, axles, and wheels can also be finished. Use the same finish on all of the pieces of the homemade wooden train, and they will all have a similar look.

For the axles, only finish the heads, not the shafts. The bare wood is needed to allow the glue to adhere.

The logs finish really quickly. A couple wipes with a cloth does the trick.

Set the logs and the wheels on a cloth to dry, and allow the product ample time. A good rule is to double whatever it says on the finish can, because the manufacturers tend to exaggerate their drying claims. Depending on your environment, drying can be longer or shorter. Once the wooden train is fully dry, move on to the assembly phase.

how to make a wooden train log carAssembling the train begins with the wheels and axles. Test fit the axles first without any glue, because some are larger than others. Find four axles that fit well, and set them aside for attaching the four wheels.

Drip glue into each hole one at a time, and press a wheel and axle into place. Make sure to leave a little wiggle room for the wheel to spin freely.

Then, glue a full length axle into one of the wooden train couplers. In the other, a shortened axle with a leather train coupler threaded onto the shaft. Make sure that the leather piece can rotate freely. The glue will hold both pins in place.

The wheels only need a tiny fraction of space to spin. Anything more will allow the wheel to wobble. Wobbling can lead to broken axles. Once the wheel spins freely, do not back out the pin any farther.

how to make a wooden train log carNext, add the logs to the wooden train car. Place them how you like, and make sure that the wheels are still able to spin.

Set the train car aside to dry for a few hours, and the piece can be added to the rest of the train from the tutorials.

This is a really easy build, and a couple of these look great on any handmade wooden train. If you make a couple, they can be spaced out on the train, or carried in groups. Either way, the log car is a great addition to a handmade train, and is sure to get quite a bit of play. My son loves taking out the logs and putting them back in. It’s fun for him, and he really loves this train set.

The rest of the how to make a wooden train series will be added over the next couple weeks, and each car will have it’s own tutorial. Check back from time to time and you will see them all. I hope you enjoy making this wooden train as much as I did. My son loves this train, and I couldn’t be happier to have made it for him.

If you have any questions on how to make a wooden train – the log car, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends online. It helps me reach more woodworkers, and share my passion. Happy building.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

How to Make A Wooden Train – The Tanker Car

This is another part of my tutorial on how to make a wooden train. In this post, you will learn how to make a handmade wooden tanker car. This is an easy build, and it looks great in a toy wooden train. The rest of the tutorials will be coming out over the next couple weeks, and you can see a preview of the whole set below.

how to make a wooden train tanker

how to make a wooden train tankerThis tutorial covers the wooden tanker car, which is made from Walnut and Maple. The base of the wooden train car is Walnut, and the dowel for the tank is made from Maple.

The wheels are 1-3/4 inch diameter, and you can get these from most craft stores, woodworking stores, or online.

You can choose anything you like for the wheels on your wooden train car, just try to keep them about the same diameter as mine to preserve the look. My wheels require 3/16 inch diameter axles, which are also used for the couplers at the front and back.

How to Make A Wooden Train – Making the Body

how to make a wooden train tankerFirst, cut a length of 1-1/2 inch diameter dowel that measures 5 inches. This is going to be the tank on the tanker car.

Cut the piece to length on a miter saw or with a hand saw. Check the faces, and sand them to remove tool marks.

If you do not want to buy a dowel of this size, and have access to a lathe, you can turn a piece of wood to the same diameter. Alternatively, you could also glue two pieces of wood together, and round off the shape on the belt sander. It will take a little longer, but it will work just the same.

how to make a wooden train tankerNext, sand a flat portion on the bottom of the tank. This will help the piece sit on the train car base much better.

Press the dowel against the running belt sander until there is a flat portion along one side. Keep sanding until the flat section measures 3/4 inch wide. This is plenty to stabilize the piece.

It can be a little tricky to do this, just take your time and do not press too hard. Focus on keeping even pressure across the dowel, and watch both ends as you remove material. Take a second to measure from time to time, and once you are on the 3/4 inch mark, the piece is ready.

how to make a wooden train tankerNow, it is time to cut the base. Select a piece of Walnut, and cut a piece that is 3/4 inches thick, 2 inches wide, and 6 inches long.

You can use any kind of wood that you like for this project, just keep in mind that some kids are allergic to certain types of wood. My son has tons of toys that are made from Maple and Walnut, so I was comfortable using them again.

Place the tanker on the wooden train base, and line it up in the center. Check the flat area that you sanded on the tank, and make sure that it lays down on the bottom car nicely. If there are any large gaps, sand them until the tanker fits well.

how to make a wooden train tankerFinally, glue the tank to the train car base. Make sure to use a high quality wood glue like Titebond, as the joint will be stronger and last longer.

Measure from left to right, and front to back, and make a couple very faint marks where the tank will sit on the base.

Since everyone’s tanker will be a little different depending on how sanding the flat section went, you need to do this with your two pieces in hand to have the best results. Once you have your marks, apply a thin film of glue to both mating faces, and clamp the pieces together to dry. Let the piece sit for a few hours, or until the glue has dried.

How to Make A Wooden Train – Securing the Pieces

how to make a wooden train tankerNow that the pieces are glued together, they need to be reinforced. It is always a good idea to add strengthening methods to any wooden toys that you make. This handmade wooden train car is no different.

Use a pair of 1/4 inch dowels to secure the tank to the train base. Measure 2 inches from each end of the car, and make a couple marks.

Select a drill that matches the dowel you use, and drill through both pieces, stopping just before the top of the tank. Drip some glue into the holes, and press the dowels in place. Make sure they are seated all the way, and allow the piece to dry.

After the dowels have dried, cut the ends flush to the bottom of the car. Do this with a band saw or a small hand saw. Get as close as possible without scratching the bottom of the wooden train car. The more you remove now, the easier the sanding will be.

After the bulk has been removed, use sandpaper and a block to sand the ends of the dowels flush to the surface. You can also do this on a belt sander if you wish. Once the ends of the dowels are completely flush to the car base, the securing process is completed. This will add strength to the joint between the tank and the train car base, making a stronger toy.

How to Make A Wooden Train – Drilling For the Wheels

how to make a wooden train tankerI will confess that in my hurry to make this wooden train for my son, that I forgot to drill for the wheels until after I finished the car. It was fortunate that the car did not have anything sticking out that prevented me from drilling them, otherwise I would have needed to start over.

On the side of the wooden train car, measure one inch from each end and make a mark. Then, measure 3/8 inch from the bottom of the car and make another mark perpendicular to the first. The intersection of these marks is where you need to drill your axle holes. Use a drill press or hand drill to make these holes, two on each side of the wooden train car.

I used 3/16 inch axles. If you are using the same, select a drill that is just slightly larger in diameter, and use that to drill the holes. Also, drill about 1/4 inch deeper than the peg will go into the hole with the wheel installed. This extra space is for any excess glue.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Couplers and Connectors

how to make a wooden train tankerSince the wooden train couplers are the same for all of the trains in the tutorials, the information for making them can be found here. All trains need some method of being connected to each other, and these wood and leather couplers are perfect.

Once your wooden train couplers are made, the next step in how to make a wooden train is to attach them to the train body. The couplers are made from a 5/8 inch diameter dowel, and you will need a Forstner bit of the same diameter to secure them to the train car. If you do not have a Forstner bit, a paddle bit can do the same thing.

how to make a wooden train tankerOn each end of the train, measure for the middle, which should be about 1 inch, and make a mark. Then, make another mark that is 3/8 inch from the bottom. The intersection of these marks is where you drill.

Alternatively, you could also draw two lines connecting opposite corners, and the intersection would be right in the center.

Use an awl or small drill to make an indent at the center of the intersection, which will help the drill bite without walking. Then, drill 1/2 inch into each end of the car with a 5/8 inch diameter drill. Blow out the dust, and glue one coupler into each end, making sure that the hole is facing straight up.

An easy way to ensure that the hole faces straight up is to put an axle peg into the hole, and use it to sight the pin vertically. Don’t apply any glue, just use it to guide the gluing of the train couplers.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Finishing and Assembly

how to make a wooden train tankerIt is easier to assemble the homemade wooden train after the finish has been applied. There will be lots of small areas that can be tough to get into if you attach the wheels first.

When selecting a finish, make sure to look into any allergies that the recipient has, and select the safest finish possible.

For my son, he already has a ton of toys that are finished with Tried and True Danish Oil, so I used the same finish on the handmade wooden train. Apply light coats to all of the wooden pieces, and place them somewhere to dry. The lighter you coat the surfaces, the better.

On the tanker train body, make sure to get into the area where the tank and the train body meet. This can be done by pressing the cloth into the crease between the pieces and rubbing the finish back and forth. Once everything is coated and dry, begin assembly.

how to make a wooden train tankerFirst, test fit the axles in the holes. I found that some of these are larger than others, and have a hard time going all the way in. Identify any axles that need a little sanding, and start with four good axles that fit well.

Drip some glue into one of the axle holes and press an axle and wheel into place. Seat the peg nearly all the way, leaving a small gap for the wheel to spin freely.

Repeat this process for the rest of the wheels, and make sure that they all spin nicely. Next, insert a long peg into one of the train coupler holes. Then, the smaller peg and the leather piece in the other.

The directions for the train couplers shows how to make both pegs, and how to make the connecting leather strip. Make sure that when you glue the smaller peg on the leather strip, that the strip can still swing side to side. This needs to be able to move in order for the train to make tighter turns.

Once everything is assembled, allow the glue to dry for several hours. Then, the train car can be added to the rest of the set.

This tutorial on how to make a wooden train is a streamlined design, without all the bells and whistles of some designs. If you like that stuff, there is a whole world of wooden train accessories that you can buy online. Model train making is a huge hobby, and you can go nuts with accessories if you like.

Since I made this wooden train set for my son, I went with a minimalist design that reduces the chance of any small parts breaking off. He still throws things, and thinks everything is a hammer, so I knew those small parts wouldn’t last. If you are making this for an older child, then feel free to accessorize until your heart is content.

how to make a wooden train tanker

I am going to add more tutorials for making wooden trains over the next couple weeks, and you will be able to make the entire set. There will be directions for a Train Engine, Open Top Car, Log Car, Three Tank Car, the Tanker Car that you just built.

If you have any questions on how to make a wooden train – the tanker car, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work online with your friends, which helps me share my work with more people. Happy building.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

How to Make a Wooden Train – The Open Top Car

The following tutorial will teach you how to make a wooden train, in particular an open top car that kids can fill with anything they like. This is one of several cars that I will be posting tutorials for in the coming weeks. You can see a preview of the full set below.

how to make a wooden train

I made this entire set as a Christmas gift for my son, and he really loves them. Choo Choo Trains are one of his favorite things, and my handmade wooden trains did not disappoint. It was an absolute pleasure to see him open these. He dropped an Elmo toy dead on the ground and went right over to his new trains. It made a father feel good.

how to make a wooden trainThis tutorial on how to make a wooden train covers the open top car. This is a great car to have in a homemade train set. Not only is this a quick build, but kids like to put things into the car when they pull around the train. (At least mine really does.)

The car is made from Walnut and Curly Maple, with a couple store bought accessories to make the build easier. You can shoose any wood you like for the project, just be mindful of allergies when making your choice. The wheels, axles, and coupling posts are all from a woodworking store. There are many places that sell wooden parts for toy makers. Most woodworking stores, craft stores, and several places online carry them.

You can choose any kind of wheels and accessories you like. As I explain how to make a wooden train in this tutorial, I will explain the exact materials that I use. All of these trains are very clean looking, but you can find lots of wooden accessories if you look online.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Building the Body

how to make a wooden trainStart with a piece of 3/4 inch thick Walnut that measures 2 inches wide and six inches long for the base of the wooden train car. You can use a different wood if you like, just make sure that it contrasts the sides of the car.

Next, cut two pieces of 1/8 inch thick Maple that measure 6-1/4 inches long and 1-7/8 inches high for the faces of the car. The Maple I used had a nice figure, and was originally going to be used for violin sides. I really like the look of Curly Maple. You can find figured Maple pretty commonly in woodworking stores, so the expense is relatively low when compared to other types of figured wood.

how to make a wooden train

Arrange the pieces so that the sides are placed against the long edges of the wooden train car base. This is the first assembly step.

Sand one side on each of the Maple pieces, and remove any defects or scratches. These sides are going to be glued to the Walnut base, and it will be difficult to sand them later.

The outsides will be sanded after assembly, but they will be easier to get to. For now, sand the two inside faces of the Maple pieces, and make sure that all obvious scratches and saw marks are removed. Once you are satisfied, move on to the next step.

how to make a wooden trainUse a high quality wood glue like Titebond to glue the two Maple pieces to the sides of the Walnut base.

Cover both faces that will be bonded together with a very light layer of glue. Then, arrange them on a flat surface.

Press the pieces flat against the surface while applying the clamps. This will help keep everything lined up well while gluing. Also, make sure that the Maple pieces stick over past the ends of the Walnut on both sides. This is intentional, and will be handled after the glue dries. Set the piece aside for a couple hours, or better overnight.

how to make a wooden trainAfter the glue has dried completely, remove the clamps and inspect the joints. Make sure that your glue up has no gaps, and that the pieces have adhered well.

Now, use a belt sander or sandpaper laid on a flat surface to sand the slight overhang on the Maple back flush to the Walnut. Spend a little time and make sure that the ends are made flat and even.

On the belt sander, this process is extremely quick. So quick in fact that you can take off way too much if you are not careful. If you are working on the belt sander, get it close and then finish with sandpaper on a flat surface by hand.

how to make a wooden trainOnce the two ends are flush, a couple of Maple end caps can be glued on. Cut two pieces of 1/8 inch thick Maple that measure 1-7/8 inches tall and 2-1/2 inches long.

Make sure that your Maple pieces extend past the two that were just glued on. This is similar to the last step, and the overhang will be dealt with later in the process.

Sand the inside faces on both ends to remove any scratches and saw marks. Then, apply a thin layer of glue to both bonding faces, and clamp the ends on the wooden train car. Press everything to a flat surface to ensure that all the pieces are even, and leave the car to dry for a few hours.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Sanding the Open Top Car

how to make a wooden trainAfter the glue has dried, the majority of the construction process is complete, and you are on to finishing touches and trim work.

Start by sanding down the excess overhang on the Maple ends. A belt sander can make short work of this.

Once you get close, switch to sandpaper and a block, and finish by hand. You can also lay a piece of sandpaper flat on the bench and sand the entire side of the wooden train car at once. Be careful on these ends, because the thin pieces of wood are only being held together by a 1/8 inch wide line of glue. It is enough for normal use, but not enough to be yanked on.

how to make a wooden trainNext, sand the bottom of the car flush. Even the best glue job will have a small amount of hang over from one piece to the next. This is fine, and is easy to deal with.

If you have a belt sander, simply press the bottom of the car on the belt and sand until the entire bottom is even. This will remove all glue residue, and even out the wood.

For those without a belt sander, the easiest way is with sandpaper laid out face up on a flat surface. Start with a rougher grit if you have quite a bit to sand off. Then, once you are very close, switch to a finer grit to smooth out the surface. Try not to tip the train car while sanding, and it will flatten out faster.

how to make a wooden trainNow the faces need to be sanded until they are smooth. If you used a nicer looking piece of wood for the sides of the open top car, this is very important.

The open top car is a very simple car. The sides and the bottom will be looked at quite a bit, and become a focal point of the train.

Spend a little time sanding and making sure that all tool marks and sanding scratches are removed at this stage. Also, do not round over any of the edges or corners at this point. If you round them now, it will be more difficult to get an accurate measurement for placing the train axles later in the process. For now, focus on making the homemade wooden train sides as nice as they can be.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Placing the Wheels/Axles

how to make a wooden trainThis step is very important, as placing the axles properly is a key part of how to make a wooden train. If the holes are placed poorly, the train will wobble, and not run true when played with.

For all of my wooden train cars, I placed the wheels the same way. This ensures an even look, and that all the cars will have some matching characteristic to them.

First, measure from the ends 1 inch, and make a mark. Then, measure 3/8 inch from the bottom, and make a second mark that goes through the first one. This intersection is where you drill for the axle pegs. Mark the open top car on both sides, for two wheels each. After they are marked, use an awl, nail, or another sharp object to indent the mark, which will help the drill enter the piece without walking.

how to make a wooden trainThe best tool for drilling these axle holes is a drill press, but you can do it by hand with an electric drill as well if you are cautious. Focus on making the hole as straight as possible, and perpendicular to the side of the train car.

The axles that I used for this project are 3/16 inch diameter. With that in mind, I selected a drill that was just slightly larger to make my holes. This way, there is room for the glue when the wheels are attached. Make sure to work carefully, and drill the holes as accurately as possible. Make sure to use a stop, and drill the holes about 1/4 inch deeper than needed.

To check that measurement, pop an axle through one of the wheels, and see how long it extends into the wood. Add 1/4 inch to that, and you will have your target depth. The excess is for the glue.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Final Sanding and Finish Prep

how to make a wooden trainNow that the holes have been drilled for the axles, final sanding of the handmade wooden train can begin. This is where you can start breaking corners and rounding off sharp edges.

In the end, this is going to be a toy that a child will play with. That being said, you need to make sure that there are no sharp edges or points on the train car.

Go around the car with 150 grit sandpaper, which will round everything off quickly. After that, switch to 220 grit paper and remove any scratches left by the 150. Blow off the dust and check for scratches that need attention periodically, and stop once the wooden train car looks good.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Installing the Couplers

how to make a wooden trainAll trains need couplers. These are used to attach one train car to the next. Since these are all the same for every one of the trains that I made, I show the process here in another post.

Once you have made your couplers, the process for installing them on the train is easy. On each end of the train, find the center of the 2-1/4 inch wide end, and make a mark near the bottom. Then, measure from the bottom 3/8 inch up and make another mark.

Make an indentation with an awl like for the axle pegs, and use a 5/8 inch Forstner bit to drill 1/2 inch into each end of your wooden train car. Apply glue to your train couplers, and install one at each end. Make sure that the holes for the pegs point straight up. This is easily done by putting an axle peg into the hole dry, and using it to sight the coupler straight.

How to Make a Wooden Train – Finishing and Assembly

how to make a wooden trainIt is easiest to finish the homemade wooden train before assembly. This way, there are less small spaces and confined areas that you need to get finish into.

There are a number of different ways that you can finish a wooden toy, but the most important thing to consider first is the final recipient.

Make sure that the finish you use is safe, and that you are not giving something to a child that they will be allergic too. I know that my son has several toys finished with Tried and True Danish Oil, and has never had a problem with any of them. Since an oil finish really pops the grain on wooden toys, it was an easy choice to use the same finish for the train.

Apply the finish you choose following the recommendations on the can, and allow it to dry for several hours. Use a clean cloth, and lay down very thin coats. This will help the finish dry better, and look smoother.

how to make a wooden trainAt the same time that you finish the body of the open top car, finish the wheels and the axles as well. Once everything has dried according to the directions on the finish you choose, the wooden train car can be assembled.

The wheels can be anything you like from a woodworking store, mine are 1-3/4 inches in diameter, with 3/16 inch diameter axles.

Start by test fitting your axles. I have found through error that some of them are a little wider in diameter than others, and they don’t like to go all the way into the hole. Test fit first, and make sure that all of your axles are in good shape. After that, drip some glue down into the hole, and press a wheel and axle into the side of the train car. Make sure that the wheel is slightly away from the body of the car, so that it can spin freely.

how to make a wooden trainRepeat the fitting process on the other three wheels, and then turn your attention to the couplers.

Install the taller peg on the front of the train, making sure to drip just enough glue that it does not press out.

The smaller peg goes through the leather piece, and is glued into the back side of the train. The leather strip should move freely, as it will need to flex from side to side as the train cars are pulled together, Once all of the gluing and assembling are finished, set the car aside to dry. In a few hours, the wooden train can be played with, and will be a great edition to any homemade wooden train set.

how to make a wooden train

I am going to be adding tutorials for the rest of the cars in this handmade wooden train over the next couple weeks. There will be instructions for a Tanker Car, Log Car, Three Tank Car, and an Engine. Each will be it’s own tutorial, as they are all fairly long.

If you have any questions about how to make a wooden train – the open top car, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with others who may be interested. It’s a great way for me to help more people become successful at woodworking. Happy building.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

Making Toys For Kids

If you are not making toys for kids, then you are missing out. My tiny boss (my son) has directed the vast majority of my woodworking projects since the day he was born, and the feeling that I get when I give him something I made cannot be described. As a woodworker, you should really consider making toys for kids. They love what you create, and they will leave you with a sense of accomplishment that you need to feel to understand.

making toys for kidsWhen I wrote Wooden Tools For Kids, it was after making my son a set of toy wooden tools. More importantly, it was after seeing his reaction to them. He lit up, and was over joyed with the toys that I made for him.

That feeling inside me made all the difference. It was so amazing to know that I made my son feel the way he did, and that I was the reason that he was so happy. As soon as I felt that, I knew that other people would love to feel the same way.

The first set that I made for him was only four pieces, a hammer, saw, wrench, and a hand plane. He played with them constantly, even though he had many other modern toys and some wooden toys. It was through seeing his reaction that I decided to write a book, and to show the process for over twenty more tools. Making toys for kids was fun for me, and I knew that the feeling I got from my son was something that other people would love to feel.

If you are considering making toys for kids, or making toys for your children, my book can help you along the way. I love tools and woodworking, and hope to teach my son the craft when he gets older. This book and the tools that I made are a way to involve him in woodworking at an early age, and get him playing with tools.

All of these tools are easy to recognize, and they look great. They inspire the imagination, and are sure to become family heirlooms. Most kids toys end up in garage sales, or being donated to thrift stores. These are different. These toys are meant to become family treasures that will be kept long after the children have grown up and left.

Making toys for kids has transformed my woodworking in a way that I never saw coming. I make more for my son than I make for anyone else, and I really enjoy sharing that feeling with other people.

If you have any questions on Making Toys for Kids, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy building.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

How to Make Homemade Wooden Train Couplers

Today I am going to show you how to make homemade wooden train couplers. I made a wooden train for my son for Christmas, and struggled with how to connect them all. This solution makes it easy to connect each train, and they are more secure than magnets. They are also made from traditional materials, which I like.

homemade wooden train couplers

Here is a sneak peek at the train set that I will have tutorials for on the website. There is an engine, open top car, log car, tanker, and a three tank car. Each one will have a complete tutorial that explains the building process in an easy to follow manner. The train couplers are all the same though, so I am covering that first.

Homemade Wooden Train Couplers Shopping List

You will need a 5/8 inch diameter dowel for your train couplers, as well as a piece of sturdy leather. I selected the 5/8 inch dowel size because the wood used for the cars is a little thicker, and can easily be drilled into. The leather can be from anywhere, just make sure when you stretch the piece that it holds well. If you do not want to use leather, you can use any other sturdy fabric.

Step One – Drilling the Dowel for the Train Couplers

homemade wooden train couplersBefore you can start drilling for your couplers, you need to make an easy jig for the drill press from a piece of scrap wood. This jig will help you center the hole on the dowel. It is not easy to drill right through the center, so the jig is important.

Cut a piece of scrap that is as long as your drill press table, and a couple inches wide. Then, use the table saw to make a 1/4 inch wide slot through the middle. Make the slot 1/4 inch deep, which is enough to center the dowel. Next, chuck your drill bit (which is the size recommended for your store bought axles) into the press. Mine is 3/16 inch. Lower the drill until the bit is centered in the slot, and then clamp the jig in place. This aligns the drill, and it will drill directly through the top of the dowel.

homemade wooden train couplersOn the rear clamp, you can use it as a stop so that the holes for the pins are drilled in the correct spot. For the trains in my tutorials, this is 3/8 inch from the end.

The way the jig works is that the dowel naturally falls into the slot when you place it on the drill press. Since you centered the slot before you clamped it to the drill press, the drill will go through the top center every time.

When you drill your wooden train couplers like this, the axle pin will stand up nice and straight. The train couplers will look good, and the process will move very smoothly.

Set the dowel on the jig, and lower the drill until it goes almost all the way through the thickness of the dowel. Set the stop so that the drill cannot advance any farther. Now, the drill and jig are ready to be used to make train connectors.

Slide the dowel into the jig until it hits the stop at the end. Then, turn on the drill and lower the bit until it hits the stop. Retract the bit, and move on to the next step.

Step Two – Cutting the Train Connectors to Length

homemade wooden train couplersMeasure 1-1/4 inches from the end of the dowel, and make a mark. This is the length that you need to cut down the dowel for all of the couplers on the trains.

If you did a test fit of the axle peg before you cut the dowel, remove it before you cut the dowel to length. Use a miter saw or a band saw to cut the piece.

After the cut, take a look at the placement of the hole by inserting a peg and looking from the end. Make sure that the hole is perpendicular to the dowel, and make any adjustments on your jig if necessary.

homemade wooden train couplersI bumped my jig somewhere along the line and had to make a few more of these to have the number I needed. You will need to make one of these for the engine car, and two each for every other car you plan on building.

Here is my set of wooden train couplers. They are very simple, and easy to work with. At this point, you can use sandpaper to round over the end nearest to the hole. Also, sand the end grain to remove the saw marks. Only do this on the end that is near to the hole. The other side will be glued into the body of the train cars, so you are not going to see that end. Sand them now, because it’s much easier before they are attached to the wooden trains.

Step Three – Making the Leather Connectors

homemade wooden train couplersOnce you have the dowel portion of the train couplers made, you now need to work on the leather or fabric. This will be mounted to one end of the train, and then slip over the peg on the next train to link them together.

Start with sturdy leather or fabric, and cut pieces that are 1/2 inch wide and several inches long. Each strip will be 1-1/4 inches long, so cut as many as you need for all of your cars.

For the leather I worked with, I found that using a straight edge and a hobby knife was the easiest way to get the edges nice and straight. You can also use a scissors, just take your time and leave clean edges.

homemade wooden train couplersNext, cut the strips to length. This will vary depending on what your specific needs are, and you can change this easily. For my trains, the length of the strips is 1-1/4 inches.

Lay the strip out on the bench and use a hobby knife to cut them. Make sure that the ends are square. You can also use a scissors, but again take your time.

Cut as many strips as you need for your wooden train cars. Each car takes one strip, which is permanently fastened to one end. I recommend keeping a few extra in case you end up needing a replacement somewhere down the line.

homemade wooden train couplersNext, you need to punch holes into the strips so they can be installed on the trains. The pegs I used allowed me to punch a 3/16 inch diameter hole through the leather that was 3/8 inch away from each end.

I used a leather punch tool for this process, but for most leather or fabric, a simple hole punch can do the same thing. You can also carefully cut the hole with scissors of need be. In order to get a nice round hole, the leather punch is definitely the best tool. I found mine in a craft store for about $20, which is inexpensive for what the tool can do. There are plenty of other uses too, which make it worth the money.

homemade wooden train couplersNow, one of the holes needs to have a small slit. This allows the opening to become larger and go around the head of the pin on the next wooden train car.

Pick one hole, it doesn’t matter which, and cut a small slit that is 3/8 inch long. Begin the slit at the center of the hole, and cut towards the middle of the strip.

A hobby knife does this perfectly, but scissors work too. Look further down in the article and you will see a diagram of what this slit looks like. The picture above has the slit in place, but it may be easier to see on the diagram.

Step Four – Installing the Train Couplers

homemade wooden train couplersInstallation is a matter of drilling a 5/8 inch hole that goes 1/2 inch into the end of each train car, and then gluing the dowel in place. This will be covered more in depth on the instructions for each car.

There are two sides to the wooden train couplers that make the system work. The picture on the left shows the pin side of the coupler. The dowels are the same for each connector, the only difference is how you place the axle pegs.

For the pin side, drip some glue into the small hole and drive a full length axle peg inside. Make sure not to over fill the glue, otherwise it will come out of the hole and get all over the larger dowel.

Turn the peg a few times to evenly spread the glue in the hole. Then, allow it to dry for a couple hours. You can finish the pegs before or after you insert them, and with a hand applied oil the process really isn’t much harder.

homemade wooden train couplersOn the other side of the wooden train couplers you can install the leather or cloth strip. This is a permanent mount, because the axle peg will be glued in place. However, of one of these is damaged somehow, the axle head can always be cut off and drilled out for a new leather strip.

The standard axle size is too long for the hole on this side of the train coupler. You need to cut the length of the pin down to around 1/2 inch depending on how deep you drilled the holes.

After you have the axle pin cut down, do a test fit to make sure it goes all the way down to where the head contacts the larger dowel.

Finish the larger dowel first before you add the leather train coupler strip. It can be finished later if you want, but it will be a little frustrating going around the leather. Push one of these shorter pins through the hole in the leather strip that does not have the slit, and then drip some glue into the hole. Press the pin into the hole, and straighten out the leather piece before allowing it to dry.

homemade wooden train couplersHere is the diagram that I promised to help show you the process for making the leather strips. This outline can be applied to any size strips that you need, and for any kind of wooden train that you have made. This strip is what makes the wooden train couplers work.

As long as you use sturdy leather and cut everything nicely, the strips will last for a long time. My son has been twisting them and pulling on them and they still look as fresh as when they were installed.

If you are using cloth instead of leather, you may decide to sew together a few layers of a heavy cloth, and then sew around the edges to keep them from fraying. Also, look for a cloth that does not stretch very much, like a duck cloth or sail cloth.

To connect the trains, simply slide them near each other. Then, slip the end with the slit over the peg on the next train. Slide it down to the bottom of the peg, and then the trains will pull each other. These wooden train couplers will hold nicely, and have a traditional look.

homemade wooden train couplers

If you have any questions about How to Make Wooden Train Couplers, please leave a comment and I will be glad to help. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest!

As I make the tutorials for the other handmade wooden trains available, I will link to them in this article. Each train will be explained one at a time. They are all easy to make with common shop tools, and are sure to become family treasures. Happy building.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

Figured Wood For Making Wooden Toys

Using figured wood for making wooden toys is can really bring them to life. Figured wood is simply wood that has a striking appearance or grain pattern. Most commonly used woods for kids toys have figured versions that are available to buy. The most common of them all being Maple, which comes in several types of figure including Flamed, Quilted, Curly, and Spalted.

Figured wood like Curly Maple can add beauty to your wooden toys.

figured woodThis is a piece of Curly Maple that I split open on the table saw. The color is like any other piece of Maple, but notice the wavy pattern on the board. These are from compression in the tree, and the result is a more beautiful looking piece of Maple.

Most of the time, figured wood is going to be more expensive than a plain version of the same species. The rarity is what drives the price, and figured pieces are always going to be more.

However, if you pick out a species that has a more common chance of having figured wood present, then you can reduce your expenses a little. Figured Maple is one of the least expensive you can buy. The pieces are found commonly in Maple trees, and therefore are not nearly as scarce. That being said, very highly figured and beautiful pieces can still fetch top dollar, but pieces with a nice amount of figure are still fairly inexpensive. Look around your local hardwood store and you will see several examples.

Figured wood changes dramatically when you apply a finish.

figured wood toyOn the surface, figured wood does not tend to look that much different than plain wood. Once you know what you are looking for, you will be able to see the subtle differences and pick out a great looking piece. The real magic in figured wood is when you apply a finish.

The wooden toy wall sander that is pictured on the left is a perfect example of how a finish works on figured wood. I applied finish only on the bottom half of the base to show the contrast. The top section of wood looks nice, but it looks nothing like the bottom area.

The finish that was applied to this wooden toy was Tried and True Danish Oil. A simple coat of oil with a cloth is what made that piece of wood come alive. The streaks of lighter and darker wood just explode, and the wood really shows off its character. The whole bottom block on this wooden toy ended up looking the same once I applied the oil, and it’s one of my son’s favorite toys. Many finishes will do the same thing to figured wood, but oils really do it the best.

Combining figured wood and straight grained wood can provide contrast.

figured wood hand plane toyHere is another example of how figured wood makes a difference. The wooden hand plane toy on the left has a gorgeous design. The addition of using figured Maple instead of plain Maple on the faces takes it to the next level.

The straight grain Walnut center also lends contrast to the Maple. Not only through color, but in the grain as well. The Walnut has very straight and regular grain lines. In contrast, the Maple has wavy and irregular markings. These two things combine together to make a wooden toy that looks far better than if it were made from a couple pieces of wood without any thought for how they were placed. Figured wood made the difference here, and the results are beautiful.

This same piece of wood was used in my wooden toy tools book.

wooden tools for kidsI really enjoyed using figured wood when I made my son a set of heirloom toy tools. I knew that I wanted to use Maple and Walnut, and thankfully there was a lot of figured Maple to choose from at the hardwood store.

This one simple change really made my tools stand out more. Having made several wooden toy tools in the past using whatever was in the shop, I noticed that these were far more interesting and received more positive feedback.

My book, Wooden Tools For Kids has step by step instruction for making over twenty different wooden toy tools. There are also instructions for making a farm style tool box, and a chapter on finishing.

When my son was born, I knew that I wanted to introduce him to woodworking at a young age. He is still too young to be out in the shop with me, so I made him a set of wooden toy tools that we could play with together. He loves them all, and I get to expose him to the craft that has been a lifelong love for me.

My son still uses most of them as hammers or cars, but that’s fine. The memories that I have watching him enjoy something I made can never be replaced. He will eventually know what all of them do, but until then I’m going to enjoy watching him push around that wooden hand plane while making car sounds.

If you have any questions on Figured Wood For Making Wooden Toys, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy building!

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

My Son’s Favorite Toy Car

my sons favorite toy carHere is a picture of my son’s favorite toy car. I made it for him while working on a wooden tools for kids book. He loves this toy, and pushes it all around the carpet making engine sounds.

I can’t bring myself to tell him that it’s not really a car, but what does a 19 month old kid know about hand planes anyway?

All I care about as a father is that my son is enjoying the toy I made for him. My son’s favorite car may not really be a car, but as long as I see that smile, I really don’t care. That’s the beauty of making wooden toys for kids. You may be surprised at the response, but it’s always memorable.

my sons favorite toy carThis wooden toy hand plane that ended up being my son’s favorite toy car is just one of the over twenty wooden toys that I explain in my new book. I make this hand plane in the same way that the Krenov style hand planes are built.

In fact, if you were to drill for a dowel, and fit an iron, this little hand plane would work just like any other in the shop. The bed angles are the same, and there is even relief for the shavings to escape. The wedge is fitted like any other handmade plane, and perfectly slides into the opening. With only a few small changes, this little toy could be used to true up boards and level wood for a project.

my sons favorite toy carWhen I make things for my tiny boss, I really like to put everything I have into them. Wooden toys encourage children to use their imaginations and learn more. My son’s favorite toy car is no exception to that.

He saw what I made him and immediately began using it as a car. He has other cars, and they are similar in shape and size. It was natural for him to imagine that it was another car, and begin playing with it the same way.

I put my heart and soul into these wooden tool toys that I made for him. The set is beautiful, and he loves playing with every one. When I decided to take all of my photographs and turn them into a book, it made me so proud to have the opportunity to share some of the amazing moments that I have had with my son with other people. Making something for a child, especially your child, is an amazing experience.

If you ever want to feel appreciated beyond measure, make something for a kid. The amount of joy and gratitude that you will see and feel is hard to put into words. Anyone who makes a set like this, or even a small set that they pick and choose from the book will surely create many long lasting memories.

Of the twenty plus tools in his set, my son still uses most of them as either cars or hammers. That’s fine. I know he’s happy, and it all was because I made him something from the heart.

I will never be a wealthy man, but when I die and my children go through my safe deposit box, the wooden toys I made for them as kids is what they will find inside. Those are the true treasures of my life; the memories that they have created for my family and me. For that, I can never be richer.

My Book Shows How To Make the Exact Same Set I Made For My Son

wooden tools for kidsWooden Tools For Kids is a great way to start making toys for your children and grandchildren. Anyone with some woodworking experience and some shop tools can begin making heirloom toys right away.

There are step by step instructions for over twenty tools, plus a farm style tool box to hold them all. There is also a finishing chapter that deals with how to protect your wooden tool toys and enhance their look.

I never really thought that making a set of toys for my son would have such a huge impact on me. Having been a woodworker for a long time, I knew that I wanted to introduce him to the craft early on. However, I still had some time to wait before he could come into the shop.

Making a set of wooden tool toys was the perfect compromise, because I could start teaching him about tools while he played. We have a great time together playing with his toys, and an even better time making memories that will last me the rest of my life.

If you have never made something for a kid, you really should try it. Whether you make the toy tool set from my book, or make something else, it’s a great experience. I hope you give it a try.

If you have any questions on My Son’s Favorite Toy Car, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy Building!

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.

Handmade Toys and Woodworking

Handmade toys are an incredible gift for a child. Not only do handmade toys encourage the imagination, but they also give you a huge creative outlet. Kids love toys. If you are interested in making them yourself, they can become lifelong treasures that you will never throw away. If you really want to feel appreciated as a woodworker, make something for a child. They always appreciate it.

Handmade Toys and Imagination

handmade toysHandmade toys encourage children to use their minds. A wooden toy makes them imagine, and create their own sounds and motions. These things are lost with modern toys, because all the sounds and lights distract children from using their imagination.

With all of the modern toys that my son has, he still has a great time with his wooden toys. In fact, he plays with them more than the others.

He has to imagine what they are for, because he is still fairly young. I made him a wooden hand plane that he still thinks is a small car. However, even though he does not know what the toy really is, to him it’s the best little car in his collection.

For me, it’s a way to connect with my son through play. It’s also a way that I share my love of woodworking with him at such a young age. It will be several years before he is out in the shop with me, so for now I make lots of handmade toys for him.

A Handmade Toy Car

handmade toysThere is such an amazing feeling that you get when you give a handmade toy to a child. You are almost giving a part of yourself to them, because your sweat and effort went into making the toy.

When you make something for someone you love, people from across the room can see it in the work. There is much more value in a personally crafted wooden toy than anything you could buy in the store.

You traded your time for the toy, not your money. Anyone can trade money for things. The real secret to an amazing gift is to make it with your time and skill.

This wooden flippy car came from a time when I watched my son play with another toy car. It kept falling over, and he was trying to push it along the ground upside down. I designed a small wooden car that had a smaller body than wheels. This design never stops running, even upside down. Now, my son does not get frustrated when his car flips over, because it still rolls.

Making Baby Blocks From Scraps

handmade toysEven simple things can me made and given to a child with great results. You do not have to be a master woodworker to make something nice.

I made a set of over-sized wooden blocks for my son using the scraps from a giant baby gate I made to keep him off the hard tile in the kitchen. The larger blocks made it easier for him to stack them, and more of a show when he knocked them down.

Almost anyone with a saw can make a set of baby blocks like this. My son was overjoyed when I came in from the shop with a huge pile of blocks for him. (I really over-bought the wood for that baby gate.) He loved playing with them, and he still does today. Even this basic project made a huge impact, and if you make a set, they will do the same thing.

The Tool Set That Launched a Book

handmade toysMy biggest kid project to date has been a set of wooden toy tools. These homemade toys are all small replicas of tools from my shop.

I had to make several adjustments to the actual designs and remove the sharp edges and points, but they still came out looking like actual tools.

After making a few of these, I decided to make a whole set for him. I also made a farm style tool box to hold them all. He is still a little small to pick up the tool box, but it makes a great storage location. He uses most of the handmade tools as hammers or cars, but I don’t care at all. I traded my time to make something beautiful for my son, and I know he appreciates it by the look on his face.

My Handmade Toy Tools Book

wooden tools for kidsWooden Tools For Kids is a woodworking book that teaches you how to make handmade toys in your shop. I focus on making a toy tool set, which includes over 20 tools and a nice tool box to hold them all.

I have been a woodworker for close to two decades now, and in that time I have made everything from guitars to tobacco pipes, and wooden rings to magic props. When my son was born, I already had this little set in mind for him.

This book covers each tool one at a time, and has step by step instructions. You do need to have a few common woodworking tools, but you can make substitutions for what you actually have in your shop.

This is a great project for anyone with a child or a grandchild. Handmade toys encourage the imagination, and if you make this set, you will have a family heirloom that you can pass down for generations. These are not the kinds of toys that end up in a yard sale. These are the types of pieces that you keep long after your child has grown and left.

I hope you enjoyed the story of why I enjoy making wooden toys. I love making toys, and they are so much more than just a toy when you are done.

If you have any questions on Handmade Toys and Woodworking, please leave a comment and I will be glad to answer them. Also, please share my work with your friends on Pinterest! Happy building.

Additional Information About Westfarthing Woodworks

While I publish the overwhelming majority of my woodworking content for free, I also have several books available as well. You can see them on my Available Books Page, and they cover several different woodworking disciplines.

You can also Join the Community, and receive updates from me about new articles, upcoming books, and when I release new books. It’s completely free, and full of great tutorials, freebies, and great content.

Lastly, if you like what I do so much that you want to help me continue my work, please look at my profile on Patreon. This is a way for the people who enjoy my content to help me create more and better tutorials, books, and resources for woodworkers.