Toy Story

I have often been critical of just how little imagination is needed by kids to play with modern toys.  They come with all the bells and whistles – dolls that talk/cry and have all the bodily functions, dinosaurs that walk, and roar all on their own.

But kids don’t, and shouldn’t need such props to be able to have fun, and treasure the toys they have.

A few visual clues are really all they need, and their imagination fills in all the additional details.

My folks took these photos in one of their recent trips, of some kids playing

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There is an obvious attachment to that toy car.  But when you look closely at it, you realise that most of the details are being filled in by the child’s imagination, not with photo-realistic modelling of the real thing (let alone sounds, lights, remote control etc etc)

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As far as toy cars go, that is awesome.  That is a real toy.

I was over in NZ last week for a bit of a break, catching up with family. I took a few of the CNC models over – a couple for my brother who is a teacher, as I thought his kids would appreciate them.

Unexpectedly, he had the idea that I visit his class, and build the models with them, in person.

The kids were really taken with them, and the experience of putting them together.  We all had a lot of fun.



We made a dolphin and a velocirator in the session, and they are getting painted up at some stage by the class.


If you were wondering about the school uniform – it was a couple of days after the rugby world cup final, and it was “all black dress day”.


Had a young fella visiting with his family today.  I know it was a waste of breath, but I had to ask him “Do you like dinosaurs?”

It’s like asking a human if they need oxygen to live.

So the answer was a given.  But he wasn’t expecting what came next.  I handed him a set of about a dozen different dinosaur plans, and suggested he choose one.  After a meticulous sort and selection (he’s all of about 4!), one was chosen – a triceratops.  Has big horns for hunting I think was the rationale.

No problem, let’s go make it.  So first, camped out on the lounge floor we loaded the plans into the computer, fitted them to the board size (nesting), and set the required tabs.

Then it was off to the shed, with a small entourage in tow.  While the kids watched, I set the CNC up for the job, explaining what I was doing each step.  There was a board placed on the ground a short distance from the work area, and strict instructions that only I could step over that board.  A small step ladder placed on the other side of the board was a very convenient lookout, and it was duly manned for pretty much the entire time.

As each board was completed (this particular pattern required three 900x600x6mm MDF boards) (and yes, dust extraction and air filtration were on), the entourage were involved in popping each piece loose, then each piece was duly handed to me one at a time so I could sand off the tabs on the disk sander.

The young fella was funny.  He couldn’t get over that we were making ‘his’ dinosaur.  Nor that it was going to be ‘big’.  After all, what does ‘big’ mean to a 4 year old?  A big toy is perhaps a foot long? Maybe?  You wonder what they expect, although they are already processing the concept of limiting their expectations so as not to be disappointed.  So ‘big’ is relative, especially when compared to all the other toys that receive the same description.  He kept asking what I was doing now (or more specifically, what the CNC machine was doing now).  He was confused that even after a number of parts were cut, we were still making components for his dinosaur.  Again, you could see it was already exceeding any preconceived notions of scale.

With the pieces cut out, we traipsed back into the house, where the dinosaur was assembled.

That is when eyes got really wide.  Followed closely by a most impressive grin!



All up, took at most an hour and a few sheets of MDF, and that was about it.  Sure beats those tiny 6″ long models made in China that keep appearing in pop-up shops in the various malls.  Nothing is better than a ‘serious’ dinosaur.  Especially one that redefines the concept of “big”.  Better than oxygen.


Plans from MakeCNC

Fast Learner

Here are a couple thousand words depicting progress…..



‘Nuff said! 46100 1/8″ router bit
80″/min feed rate
20k RPM selected (but not sure if that is achieved on the CNC – have to find out what speed range it is capable of!)


The previous week started by being particularly busy, and although it was quieter here I was still writing furiously to finish off the next set of articles for the upcoming ManSpace magazine.

Getting those completed and submitted is always a relief, given I always seem to push the deadline!  So this weekend I have already started actively working towards the next set, (although a significant portion of that is in my head).  Not to say what I have been doing isn’t a small part of it, but not to be distracted.

After putting together the mini kitset dinosaurs from the other day, I looked again at the stegosaurus I made a few years ago, and realised I had glued it together incorrectly.  I could not leave it like that!  So out to the shed it went, and with a bit of persuasion broke the offending parts off so I could remake them.

The original one was actually made from pine and dates back to one of the last Working with Wood shows I did while demonstrating for Triton, where I was showing the capabilities of the bandsaw and thicknesser.  And so I repeated that exercise again for this: taking a piece of 19mm thick pine, resawing it, then running the result through the thicknesser to get new 6mm thick boards.

In this case it was not on Triton tools – those having been sold ages ago.  Instead, I used my 17″ Carbatec bandsaw, and 15″ thicknesser.

The patterns were attached using spray adhesive, then cut out using the bandsaw with a 1/4″ blade.

You will notice in the second photo that the component is double thickness.  That is because I attached a piece of MDF behind to make a duplicate of the piece for a later exercise.

I use a bandsaw for this work for a couple of reasons.

a. I like the smooth motion of the bandsaw, with the blade continually cutting in a single direction, and that also being down into the table, whereas a scroll saw loves to try to make the piece vibrate up and down because of the blade oscillations.

b. I don’t have a decent scrollsaw anyway!

The 1/4″ blade is actually way too large for this task – it is not capable of navigating the smaller radiuses.  But it is all I have to hand (unless I wanted to try to drag my Jet 14″ bandsaw out from storage).  So I made do, which meant a lot more cuts, and a rougher finish which I will sand on the spindle sander.  And probably as early as Monday, I will order some 1/8″ blades.  A 1/16″ blade would be interesting, but I think it is outside the capabilities of the bandsaw.  That may seem strange, but I tried it before on another bandsaw, (again it was below the minimum rated blade size), and I just could not get the blade to track on the wheels.  1/8″ will do for this job.

Once the parts were (re)made, it was all glued together again.

Once that job was done, it was onto the main event.  I have taken the plans and blown them up a bit on the photocopier.  Not a huge amount, just from A4 to A3 (which is about 40% larger)

I am then taking the parts, and using carpet tape, sticking them to a piece of 19mm MDF.

Then by turning this assembly over and holding it against the copy pin of the Torque Workcentre, I am creating a track that will allow me to make duplicates of the part whenever I like with the router.  I could build an army!

Bit of an interesting exercise – potentially quite a bit of work, but then if I was to make a second (or a third), the time saving, and the quality of finish will be definitely worth while.  And it is an interesting proof of concept.

So Santa’s sleigh may be pulled by 6 Allosaurus this year!  At least in my Xmas display 🙂



This Land

“This is fertile land, and we will thrive. We will rule over all this land, and we will call it….This Land.”
Hoban “Wash” Washburne – Firefly

Found these model kits in the Reject shop, and at $5 for the larger two, and $2 for the smaller one they seemed too good to pass up.


They are very cleanly cut, but with no burn marks. I suspect it has been done by water jet, as it is so fine and without the telltale burn marks.

I got them with the idea to see if they can be used as templates to duplicate. They look pretty cool even so. Might end up having a couple on my desk at work (aka, like Wash- character from Firefly). I already have a pteranodon and a tyrannosauaurus rex I made from a dinosaurs you can make book.


One day I want to make one or two of these sorts of models to 6′ to 8′ in size for an unusual Christmas display. In the meantime, I have these models to work out how to duplicate:) (Not to sell)


“Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!”
Wash – Firefly

Work-in-progress Dinosaur #3

Thought I’d post a pic of the dino that I’ve been working on. Currently at the test-assembly stage. You can still see the remains of the pattern from the plans I photocopied, then stuck to the prepared timber. The timber was originally 19mm stock that I resawed on the bandsaw, then ran through the thicknesser until it was the required 6mm thick.

The next step is to sand each part, and glue the sculpture together, followed by a coat of stone-effects paint (for that fossil look).


It is strange, changing from one bandsaw to another. Wouldn’t have thought I’d notice much difference, and it was subtle, but there. (This is between the Triton 12″, and a Jet 14″, both running a 1/8″ blade). Thinking about it, I’m not sure if one doesn’t have finer teeth than the other, that may make some difference. I don’t think that either stood out as being particularly superior to the other, just that it was a different feel between the two machines.

Episode 03 Scrollsaw Dinosaur

Episode 03 Scrollsaw Dinosaur

Scrollsaws are often used to produce very incricate pieces, but a cheap one is perfectly good for making some really cool kids’ toys.

Dinosaur bones discovered in Melbourne!

I was out near my shed yesterday, and discovered……


Made from plans in a book on scrollsaw dinosaurs, it stands around 2′ high, and was made with a combination of the scrollsaw and bandsaw. A video podcast briefly covering the construction will be available shortly.

To finish, it is currently being glued up, and then will be sprayed with a grey undercoat, and then a stone finish spraypaint to give it a bit of (in my eyes) a fossil look. All up, total construction (including finishing) time is approx 5 hours.

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