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

Tip Truck

The first project out of the workshop is proving to be fun (aren’t they all?) being a tip truck that I am making (and designing as I go).  It is meant to be for a magazine article, but with the combination of trying to get the shed functional, demands of work, and family, I might have missed the deadline.  Never-the-less, it was good to be ‘forced’ to get back to what the workshop is really about.  Murdering electrons while making sawdust.

It has been a great little project to commission the SawStop on, and that has been fun in itself (as my previous post eluded to).

truck-2A number of blade tilts (guard removed for clarity, and in this instance to stop the project hanging up on it, but note the riving knife instead, which worked perfectly).


Making something out of your head is always an interesting evolution – lots of contemplation working out what is needed next, some false starts, but all in all, successful

Given (from the title), it is a tip truck, I needed wheels, and although you can make a round wheel on a tablesaw, I don’t see it being a good practice.  SawStop or no, I’m not sticking my hand that close to any spinning blade.  Instead, I went to my old trusted solution – wheel cutting bits from Carb-i-tool.  I initially made them all the same size, but the front just looked wrong, so they were made with a larger diameter cutter.  The rear wheels were made thick (about 30mm thick), so after the drill press, I headed over to the bandsaw to roughly cut the wheels free, then to the Comet lathe and the pen mandrel as it happens, to finish the job.  As a system it worked well, and the tip of a skew chisel was used to cut grooves around the circumference as tread.


The truck is still “rough and ready” – it’d take about the same amount of time to finish it (which is normal for a project, I find).

I stuck with my standard principle (that I try to apply as often as is practicable) that it is only wood and glue (axles and all).

truck-1It is a good size – about 400mm long, 130mm across, and about 180mm high (to the top of the cab).  Functional too – wheels turn, the tray tips, tailgate swings open.

It will be pretty durable too, but as the weakest component are the axles (both on the wheels and also the tray), and they are simply dowel, easily repaired.  I think it is always good to consider damage and repairability when making kids toys – you want something that will last the distance, even if there are a few repairs required along the way.

The Mesopotamian Advantage

It was not invented in Mesopotamia by any stretch of the imagination, but it was there that the oldest known version of the wheel was found, dating back around 5500 years.

Wheels have not really come a long way since those days.  Sure, they have pneumatics now (mostly)


bearings, treads.  But they are still round (usually!)

0Ok, so they may be the exception to the normal rules, the mainstream wheels are more like this

DSCN4299and as a pretty good rendition of the wheel, this

Hummer-Wheel-clipped-webIt is the last wheel that is of particular interest, for obvious reasons.  If you need to do a double take, go ahead.  Yes, it is a toy wheel, and what’s more, you don’t have to buy it – with a few typical workshop tools, you can easily make a set with a tablesaw, bandsaw, router table and disk sander.

If coming up with the steps required to make such a fine looking wheel looks a bit beyond you, the Toys and Joys DVD provides almost 40 minutes of step by step instructions on how to make them yourself.

Video_1_clipped136357461751467f59e7ffe13669327855179bd32005ccI watched it this afternoon, and now I’m really inspired to go out and make some myself (and the vehicles to go with them!)

FirefoxScreenSnapz002Yes, an excuse to show that Humvee again!  Of course if you want to get ultra-modern, you could make one like the tyre at the top of the post!

The same steps to make these wheels will also make tractor style tread wheels as well.

farm tractor plans

You can get the DVD from Professional Woodworkers Supplies, and I was a little dubious – a whole DVD just on making a wheel?  But I did find it very interesting – a whole range of jigs they use (and show you how to make and use) to produce whole sets of wheels easily, to get all the different chamfers, treads, inserts etc from the gentlemen who are “Toys and Joys” in the US.

So there is no need to buy wheels like this, or compromise your realistic wooden toy with wheels from a wheelcutting bit.  With a few steps, and jigs, realistic wheels are definitely achievable, and it may be that manners maketh man, but it is wheels that maketh the toy.

Toy Story

For those with kids (or are big kids themselves), it ’tis the season for bulky toy catalogues!

Other than living a second childhood, I find one other particular benefit of looking through the acres of pages: toy after wooden toy that I see, not to buy, but that I can use as a source of ideas for ones I can make.

Following a plan, the step by step in a book is fine, but I don’t get anywhere near the same satisfaction that I get by coming up with the method myself, even if the actual product concept is sourced from an existing product.  It will often be that the end result doesn’t look much like the product that inspired it in any case.  The last batch of toy kitchens is one such example.  At first glance it looked something like those in the toy catalogues, but the devil is in the details.

My interpretation is below

Some toys are just so over-engineered, they engineer all the imagination out of play.  Especially the plastic fantastic ones.  Well made wooden toys benefit both from very durable (to the point of being able to be handed down the generations) they have great tactility and physical presence.

Back to the catalogues for me.

Ooh – a lego Star Wars Millennium Falcon.  I’m sure my 5yr old daughter would love that.  If not, shame it can’t be returned once opened!

Item Duplication on the Torque

There are a number of different ways of duplicating a pattern or item in woodworking.  A common method is to screw a pattern to the timber, use a jigsaw, scrollsaw or bandsaw to rough it out, then revert to a pattern copying bit on the router table.  This technique works well, but does have its difficulties, including keeping the template attached to the workpiece (or separating it afterwards, depending on just how strong the carpet tape is!)

The Torque Workcentre offers a couple of unique techniques and solutions to the problem.  The one addressed here is using a pre-cut track to follow a captive pin.  It has consistent results, and is difficult to get wrong.

Step one is to produce the desired track.  You could cut it freehand (and in some cases that would work), but here we want an exact replica of an existing component – in the case a racing kangaroo.

Mount the item to be copied to the underside of the (blank) pattern

Take the object you want to duplicate and fix it to a board.  This may be an existing item, or one you have made up for the task out of MDF for example.  Add a couple of equally thick boards on either side so the pattern has no tendency to rock.  Flip the board over so the original is to the bottom.

Mounting the router

Mount a router bit of equal diameter to the captive pin diameter (which can be seen in the first photo, already mounted in the table)

It is worth noting here the ease for removing and replacing the router, including in this case a Triton 2400W.  The mount is different to that for Makita and Hitashi, but the actual attachment method is the same.  The router plunge base is removed (which is very easy), and the router mounts directly onto the Torque by using the plunge mount shafts.  It was one of the first things that made me sit up and pay attention to the whole Torque Workcentre – using the plunge mount, and especially using the plunge lock to secure the router onto the Torque was such a simple and clever solution that I was suitably impressed (not always an easy thing), and wondered what other clever ingenious things went into the TWC.  I’m a sucker for good engineering.

The router is mounted back into the Torque, and set so the router bit is directly above the copy pin in the table, and its position fixed (there is a lock for both the X and Y axis).

Creating the track

Plunge the router lightly into the surface of the blank pattern, and by holding the original (underneath) directly up against the pin carefully create a channel all the way around.  When you have gotten around first time it gets a lot easier, as you then know where the pattern is as you rout deeper.  Repeat until you have a track that is deeper than the length of the copy pin.  This is the captive track that will allow copy after copy of the part.

Depth Setting

Once you are ready to start creating copies, attach the blank on the top side of the pattern (you can screw it down, or use clamps (I use the Walko clamps on the jig))  With the router mounted directly above the copy pin and a router bit that matches the pin diameter (and the width of the track), plunge the router (turned off) so it goes deep enough to pass all the way through the blank and just into the top of the pattern.  Set the plunge lock to this depth.

First pass

Mount the pattern onto the pin, turn on the router and lightly plunge into the blank.  Run the pattern all the way around (you can see here that I’ve take the photo before completing the kangaroo tail).  This gives you a track to be able to follow visually when you plunge the router deeper for subsequent passes.  Plunge the router deeper and run around the pattern again.  Rinse and repeat until you are almost all the way through.

Completed part copy

With the final pass, the new part can be lifted free – a perfect copy of the original.  Repeat the steps to create part after identical part.  The track can be kept so the part can be made any time in the future.  This technique can be used for all sorts of things, including furniture, inlays, and definitely toys!  You could easily set up a little production run in your workshop to create toy after toy (wooden toys are some of the best presents – how many times have you seen an antique plastic toy?! (yeah, I know I’m being a bit facetious, but you know what I mean – plastic toys just don’t last, wooden toys get handed down from generation to generation)).  Fighting back against the plastic toy generation(s)!!

Toy Kitchen Build

Got to kick the build of 2 kids’ kitchens on quite a way, and made extensive use of the Festool Domino in doing so. The precise, and repeatable placement of mortises really came into its own, and certainly helped a great deal with part alignment and project strength.


Module Sides

With 4 modules, all with identical sides it made the job even faster working out the position of the required Dominos, then repeating it for each unit.

To aid the layout, I found the Woodpeckers Story Stick absolutely invaluable.  It is the first time I’ve actually used the Story Stick in anger, and found it so relevant that I’d hesitate to say it is a much have if you are doing this sort of repeat work, particularly for larger constructs. The Incra Rules are perfect for smaller scale projects/jobs, and have also made a constant appearance on this build.  I find the Incra T Rules especially useful – inserting the 0.5mm pencil lead in the relevant hole for the required dimension, then slide the T Rule along the edge of the work to draw a line an exact distance in from the edge.


Using the Story Stick to Accurately Place Dominos


Repeatable Domino Placement

It is not just for dominos, but that was the application I was using it for.


Failed Triton ROS

I recently had the Triton ROS pad fail, rendering my TROS unusable, so had to resort to using an original Triton ROS that fits to the angle grinder.  This was new in packet, and fell apart after sanding just a single unit (poor tolerance control by the looks of it).  Frustration, and it has left me without any random orbital sander at all.  Just goes to show – you can’t have too many spare tools! 😉


Carcasses in Process

So here is where I got up to – the carcasses of the sink (smaller unit) and oven/stove (larger unit) assembled – dominoed and glued.  I’m making two complete kitchens – thus the doubling up.  They are made to the design and specification requested by the respective parents.  The units don’t look like much at the moment, but this is the important part – the frame that the features get added to.


Cutting Shelf Support with the Domino

The Festool Domino really dominated this build – with all the parts making up each unit having dominos to increase strength, and ensure alignment.  Some shelves in the units I wanted to be removable, but still being kid’s furniture, I didn’t want the shelves able to simply be pulled and slip out.  So instead I went with dominos as shelf supports, and then cut a domino slot into the edge of the shelf, half exposed.


Using Dominos as Shelf Support

At this point, I think it simply appropriate to say thanks to all the earlier converts who persevered and persisted, and finally convinced me that the Festool Domino was a machine worth having.  It certainly is. And I never expected to be saying that!

Starting Toy Kitchen Build

With Christmas approaching just way too rapidly, it is well overdue for me to make a start on the two toy kitchens I promised to build for friends of my daughter.  We’ve had a few discussions on what they wanted, and it came down to three individual modules – a fridge, a sink and a stove/oven.  They also intend to fully paint the units (the kids are going to be 3), so the material of choice became MDF.


Breaking down MDF sheets

I priced some different sizes, and 2400×1200 sheets were 1/2 the price of the next cheapest.  Annoying there is such a price difference though.  It is easier to quickly break the sheets down into more manageable sizes using a circular saw, than to try to man-handle them through the tablesaw – bringing the saw to the material, rather than the other way around.  In the near future, the Torque Workcentre will definitely be the method of choice going forward.  Not that it is much different as a concept – a rail of some form controlling the circular saw through the cut.  In the case of the Torque Workcentre, it means a saw with a 1200mm crosscut capability.  In this case, I still have the loan of a Festool rail, which I have fixed to the board with a couple of Lidwig clamps.


Creating Original Side Template

Once I cut out the first side, and shaped it, it became the template for the rest of the sides.  After using a combination of the tablesaw and the bandsaw to produce the initial shape, I then held it in place using some of the MagSwitch featherboards so I could hit it with the drill-mounted Blowfly to smooth the curves out.


Pattern Copying

To then cut the rest of the sides, I used the first side as a template, and affixed it down temporarily using carpet tape.  I then ran around the outside of the pattern with a jigsaw, before moving onto the router table with a pattern copying bit to finish the job.  (A pattern copying bit is a straight cutter with a bearing)


A Temporary Pattern Copying Setup

Given the amount of MDF I was expecting to generate, I had the air filters running at full speed, and the 4″ dust collector hose placed at the optimum position to maximise the collection. (That is a Lidwig Claw holding the hose in position).


1st Kitchen Module

Using the Festool Domino and a bunch of 4mm x 20mm dominos, I then mocked together the first module to see how the design is progressing.  It doesn’t look much at the moment – adding tops and features (taps etc), as well as a door on the front will really improve the look.  I also want to break all the edges – MDF is rather sharp when cut, and rounding over the edges is the best option.

So obviously lots more to do, but at least it is a start.

Sharp Lesson

The blackboard I made a few years ago as a quick demo used blued cut tacks to hold the actual blackboard in the frame (simple rebate).

Finally had proof why cut tacks weren’t the ideal solution. Over time, with the blackboard being used by enthusiastic artists, the tacks worked their way loose- a symptom of being a wedge shape. Because of this, they also can’t be hammered back home and have them become tight again.

So they all were removed and replaced with self-tapping button screws. Much more effective, and a simple lesson learned for next time.

New Carb-i-tool Wheel Cutter

I while back, I was waxing lyrical about the virtues of the Carb-i-tool Wheel Cutter, and more recently again for the wooden vehicle exercise.

Since I acquired my wheel cutters (40mm, 50mm and 60mm), Carb-i-tool have come out with a redesigned cutter to address requests they have received over the years to have a raised hub, rather than a recessed one.

From what I can gather, this new wheel profile will be replacing the old design, so once the original stocks are gone only the raised wheel hub version will be available.

I happen to like both for different projects fwiw.

Old and New Wheel Cutters

Old and New Wheel Cutters

The old profile is shown here to the left of the new cutter.

Please note, as I have pointed out before, that these are NOT for the router, despite the initial appearance to be like a router bit.  They are a large profile, with no anti-kickback features, and are not designed for router speeds.  They are designed to be used with a drill press, and even then if you don’t adequately clamp down the timber they can still grab and spin it at significant enough speeds to really hurt, as my fingers can still testify.


Old vs New Wheels During Cut

Here you can see the old and new profiles being cut side-by-side. You slowly plunge the bit into the timber, cutting the profile, and when it is fully formed, you stop and flip the workpiece over, and using the centre hole as the guide, cut the wheel from the opposite side until it comes free. (Check out the video on Stu’s Shed TV).

New and Old Wheels

New and Old Wheels

Here are the resulting as-formed wheels.  One thing I haven’t tried which will be an interesting exercise, is to use one profile from one side, and the other profile for the other side and see what sort of wheel that produces.

The rim on the edge of the wheel is very thin and easy to remove.  You can carefully snap it off with your fingers, or sand it off (which is how I’ve been doing it recently) by inserting a short dowel as an axle, and gently rubbing the wheel up against a (running) disk sander, tilting it at  slight angle so it sands and spins at the same time.

In any case, these wheel cutters can be used to extract every bit of use from your offcuts, leaving you with a mountain of wheels, and a bin full of religious waste (very holy). Given the profile is solid tungsten carbide, you will get a LOT of wheels from these cutters before they even need sharpening, and with commercially produced wheels costing around $A0.55 for a 38mm wheel $A1.50 for a 50mm wheel and $A2.20 for a 63mm wheel, the cost of the cutter will be recouped in no time at all. (I’m sure there are other suppliers that are potentially cheaper, but that was the result of a quick Google search finding one of the main Australian suppliers).

Hmm $2.20 a wheel – perhaps I should start making them commercially after all – I’d only have to make 20 an hour to have a reasonable income 🙂  However, before anyone else asks – no – I’m not selling wheels!  If you want some – go buy a cutter and make your own!

The wheel cutters each cost around $A115, or 52 wheels.  Given one of my toy trucks needs 18 wheels, that’s only about 3 trucks worth! (Or 13 toy cars – see – it isn’t that expensive)

Quick Toy Prototype

Materials for Project: $1

Tools for Project $substantial!

Total manufacture time: 12 minutes (inc wheels and axles)

Tools used: Bandsaw, Linisher, Drill Press

The feeling from making a wooden toy for a child (especially your own): $Priceless

For everything else, there’s Chinese mass production (and lead based paint)

Toy Car Prototype

Toy Car Prototype

Some fine-tuning required to get it looking a bit better, and on the real model all the edges would have a fine round-over bit.  Axles are thin wooden dowel, but should be pretty strong.  Wheels were cut using the original 40mm Carb-i-tool wheel cutter.  The entire construction is wood (and a little glue).

First tests of the prototype were quite promising.  More ‘testing’ required though before relinquishing ownership! (Because they are fun to play with!)

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