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Heirloom Push Toy



What could be better than a child's noisy push toy? How about TWO noisy push toys?

I built the pushtoy on the right over 18 years ago, back in 1998, when my son was a toddler. It is based on a photo of a wooden toy that I found online. I was intrigued by the idea, and got together with my brother and designed and built a version of it. This is way before the time of youtube... I didn't even own a digital camera back then, and I have no photos at all of the build, let alone any video.

I recently decided that it would be fun to revisit this project. However, this time I would thoroughly document and film it for my youtube channel.

Here is how it works. There is no axle through the center of the piece. Instead, the axles are just stubs that connect the wheels to the outside frame. The wheels are connected together by four dowels, and there are eight noisemaker blocks that can swing freely on the dowels.

As the wheels turn the noisemaker block falls forward, and bangs against the neighbouring dowel, as shown in this photo...

... then as the wheel continues to turn, the block turns upside down, and then falls forward again (this time while upside down) and bangs against the other neighbouring dowel. To the left side of the photo you can see an example noisemaker block mounted on a dowel.

There are two blocks on each dowel, which is eight blocks in total. So there is a constant rattle of blocks banging back and forth. I strongly recommended watching the video above to get a sense of the noise and activity of this toy.

Here is a look at the finished toy. It is about 29 inches tall, and about 11 inches wide. There aren't any straight lines, so all the measurements are approximate!

Here is a closeup of the top handles. I don't own a lathe, and have not turned since shop class in the 7th grade. These handles are large shaker coat pegs. Of course, you could turn your own handles if you would like.

The curved sides are made of laminated maple strips, and just for fun I slipped in a constrasting strip of teak, which gives it that brown stripe down the center of the sides.

Here is a closeup of the wheel assembly with all the noisemaker blocks.

I love working with contrasting woods, and this project is a great one for unleashing your inner creativity. I picked four different species of wood for the noisemaker blocks, and if you check the other photos you can tell how I chose different species for the original toy as well.

Here below are a few more photos. The first one shows one of the axle ends. These were hardwood balls that I bought at a craft store. I used the drillpress to burn in a charred ring, for decoration, and mounted them onto the end of the axles. The other photo shows the new pushtoy with the original pushtoy.

I think that the most challenging part of the build is making the curved sides. To make that process painless, I used the BigPrint Program to make a 1:1 plan for the bending form.

With that plan it is a fairly simple process to glue together some scrap plywood, glue the plan to the plywood, and cut out the bending form. This is then sanded and wrapped in packing tape.

I ripped a bunch of thin strips of Hard Maple, and one strip of Teak. My strips were a bit less than 1/8" in thickness. I have a push stick (in the left of the photo) dedicated for ripping super-thin pieces.

I used West System epoxy to glue up the strips to make the laminated curved sides. I was very pleased that none of my strips snapped. It was interesting to compare the Teak with the Maple, as the Teak was definitely more flexible. I used epoxy because I wanted a really strong bond, and as little spring-back as possible.

Here, everything is mostly clamped in place. I made clamp blocks that were also wrapped in clear packing tape, as I did not want to have my clamps stick to the workpiece!

After it was dry I cleaned it up on the jointer, ripped to width on the tablesaw, and cleaned up all the epoxy squeeze-out on the spindle sander.

I drew up the wheels in CAD and also used BigPrint to generate 1:1 plans for them. It makes cutting out the wheels very easy, and also helps with locating all the holes that need to be drilled.

After drilling the holes I then took the wheels to the router table and used a roundover bit to ease all the edges, being careful to NOT roundover the holes that would later receive a dowel.

The wheels are used to help figure out where to cut off the bottom of the cured pieces. I left a bit of space above the wheel to makes sure that the inward-curve of the side pieces would not rub.

After cutting off the bottom I drilled axle holes.


I used the fence on the Tablesaw to help line up the bottom of the curved pieces. I drew a perpendicular line (on a piece of tape) and used that for alining the two tops to make sure that both were the same. Then I marked and cut off the top.

I could then glue the two pieces together. I also needed to add two extra pieces of maple to thicken up the top. My curved sides turned out to be a bit less than 1/2" in thickness and I needed more substance there for when I attached the handles.

I also added decorative and reinforcing dowels above and below where the handle will be installed.

I again used epoxy to glue the handles in place. As I said before, I don't have a lathe. These handles are shaker pegs that I bought at Lee Valley (Link below). The tenons on these pegs are tapered, so I trimed them a bit to make them more round and trust the epoxy to hold.

Now there is lots of measuring and figuring. I measured between the two sides to see how much space is available for the wheel assembly. I allowed 1/8" for space, measured the thickness of the wheels, and used that to cut the noisemaker mounting dowels to size. In the next photo I am test-fitting the dowels and making sure it all fits between the curved sides.

I then measure the space between the wheels and use that to figure out how thick to make the noisemaker blocks. They don't need to all be the same thickness! I had some that where about 1" thick, and some that were just under 3/4" thick. As long as all eight of them add up to enough to almost fill the space between the wheels, you're good.

I also made CAD 1:1 plans for the noisemaker blocks. It wasn't really necessary, but it just makes things simpler. I glued the plans to the stock, cut them out, sanded them, and then rounded over their edges on the router table.

Here the wheel assembly is dry-fitted and placed between the curved sides. Make sure that all the noisemaker blocks swing freely!

The next step is to lay out the spreader bar. Trace the curve from the sides onto the spreader bar and cut it out very carefully. I gave it some touch-up sanding and then glued it into place with Gel CA glue.

I next added two reinforcing dowels into either end of the spreader bar. They're decorative as well, but the main reason to put them there is to hold the spreader bar in place!

On my original push toy, I used wooden "smoke stack" toy parts as the axle stubs. (shown in this photo) These were no longer available here so I had to come up with something else. (They may still be available at Hobby Lobby or similar craft stores in the US.)

Instead I used short stubs of 3/4" dowel, and I bought some 1-1/4" wooden bals to glue on the end. When drilling the hole in the ball I accidently burned a ring into the ball from friction. I liked the effect, so I then did it on purpose on the other one.

For a finish I used Clapham's Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish. This is the same beeswax + mineral oil finish that I use on all my cutting boards. It is a quick and easy wipe-on paste finish. It is also completely food safe, which seemed like a good idea for a kids toy.

I glued the four dowels into one of the wheels. Once the epoxy had dried, I mounted the 8 noisemaker blocks and then glued on the other wheel. When gluing the second wheel I was very carefull with how I placed the dabs of Five Minute epoxy, as I did not want any squeeze out at all.

(Next Photo) And then I glued in the axle stubs, also with Five minute epoxy.


Things To Help You Build This: (Affiliate Links)

West System Epoxy Kits
5-1/8"Shaker Coat Pegs
Other Shaker Coat Pegs
1/4” Cherry Dowels
3/4” hardwood dowels
Clapham's Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish

I bought my handles from Lee Valley - Including the tenon they are just 5-1/8" long. I have provided a few Amazon links for "shaker coat pegs" above, but I don't currently see any that are as long as the ones I used.
(Lee Valley Non-Affiliate Link) Shaker Coat Pegs

Irwin Quick Grip XP600 Clamps
SensGard ZEM hearing protection
Stanley Leverlocks -- love these tape measures
Other auto-locking tape measures
Long Nose Pattern Marker
3M Super 77 Spray Adhesive
DEWALT D26453K 5-Inch Random Orbit Sander
DeWalt DW735 Planer
3rd party blades for DW735
Delta BOSS Spindle Sander

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases you make using my affiliate links.



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See Also:

Theo's Castle

Marble Racetrack

Knockdown Guitar Stand