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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Finally, 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
Now 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
I 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
Since 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.
On 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
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.
First, 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.
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.
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