Make Wooden Mechanical Toys

Written by jane smith
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Make Wooden Mechanical Toys

Many of the most popular and longest lasting wooden mechanical toys in the United States are of European origin. One of the most popular wooden mechanical toys is the jumping jack. A series of strings runs through tiny brass eye hooks to make the arms and legs of the toy move. The toy moves when a beaded string attached to its other strings is pulled. The flat wood pieces of the toy's body are easy to make and store.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Body parts template for your chosen toy (colouring pages work well)
  • Clear overhead sheets
  • Overhead projector
  • Easel pad or tracing paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • 8-inch by 10-inch or larger sheet of 3/8-inch plywood
  • Pliers
  • Carpenter pencil
  • Jigsaw
  • Jump rings
  • Package of 1/8-inch diameter brass eye hooks
  • 1/4-inch wide satin ribbon or embroidery floss
  • 8 mm pony beads
  • Coarse, medium, fine and extra fine sandpaper
  • Acrylic paints in a variety of colours
  • Clear acrylic wood treatment

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  1. 1

    Print your desired jumping jack template from the colouring pages onto clear overhead sheets. Use an overhead projector to enlarge your templates to the size you need by projecting them onto a piece of tracing paper or easel paper taped to a wall.

  2. 2

    Cut out the jumping jack templates. Glue the template pieces onto your sheet of 3/8-inch plywood, close enough together not to waste wood, but far enough apart for the jigsaw to run between them without twisting the blade.

  3. 3

    Cut out all the parts of your jumping jack. Lay the parts on the table the way you want them when the toy is assembled, so that the arms overlap the shoulders and the thighs overlap the lower body. Use a power drill and a 1/16-inch diameter drill bit to drill a hole through each shoulder and arm, and through each leg and lower body. Attach arms and legs to body by putting jump rings through the holes and pinch them closed with pliers.

    Make Wooden Mechanical Toys
  4. 4

    Screw an eye hook to the back of the lower body between the legs, a second eye hook at midwaist and a third hook on the back of the upper body, between the shoulders. Screw eye hooks to the back side of each shoulder and each hip.

  5. 5

    Tie embroidery floss or thin ribbon to the right shoulder eye hook and thread it through the eye hook between the shoulders, then down through the eye hook between the legs. Repeat for the left shoulder.

  6. 6

    Run the leg thread from the left hip through the eye hook between the legs. Repeat for the right hip. Pull all four strings together and tie them through a pony bead. Pull the string and make sure that the arms and legs jump outward from the body together. If they do not, restring the body parts.

  7. 7

    Sand all parts of your jumping jack using coarse, medium, fine and extra fine sandpaper in order. Paint your jumping jack with bright acrylic paints. Allow paint to dry overnight. Apply several coats of clear acrylic wood treatment over the pain, allowing the acrylic to dry completely between coats.

Tips and warnings

  • If you decide to use a colouring page image that is not ready to cut into moving parts for your template, find an image with arms and legs that can be cut away from the body and reassembled.

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