How to Paint a Wooden Train

Written by sam jones
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How to Paint a Wooden Train
Painting your own toy train can be a lot of fun (rabbits image by anna karwowska from

Toys made of wood that don't do anything on their own might seem to be passé these days, but that doesn't mean you can't give them to your own kids --- especially when they are little. Wooden trains, for example, especially those that go along with a book, are a lot of fun and even more fun if you paint the train yourself so you won't have to worry if the paint has anything dangerous in it.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Toy train
  • 12 sheets fine (240-280 grit) sandpaper
  • Cotton cloth
  • Plastic tarp
  • Krylon H2O Latex White Primer
  • Krylon H20 Latex Cans of spray paint
  • Rubber gloves
  • Jars of acrylic paint
  • Small paint brush
  • White spirit

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  1. 1

    Move the train to a good work area. A garage is good, but any room with good ventilation will do. You'll likely need a bench or table as well to put the train on as you're working. Be sure you have enough room to set the whole train down with space between the cars. Lay down the tarp before starting work to keep sawdust and paint from making a mess.

  2. 2

    One by one, sand the wood of each car smooth with the sandpaper. Remove all nicks, scratches, dents or previous paint.

  3. 3

    Wipe the wood. Moisten the cotton cloth slightly with tap water, then use it to wipe the sawdust off each car. Let the train sit for an hour to make sure the wood is dry.

  4. 4

    Apply the primer. Pick up and spray each of the cars with the white primer. It will seal the wood and create a good surface for the paint to stick to. Roll each of the cars against the table to make sure the paint hasn't caused the wheels to stick. Let dry for two hours.

  5. 5

    Spray on the paint. Choose which colour you want to spray each car, then spray each car as you did with the primer, being sure to completely cover the areas you wish to have covered. Roll the car against the table again to ensure the wheels aren't sticking. Let sit for two minutes; repeat. Let dry for a day.

  6. 6

    Hand paint details. Use the brush to "draw" images, symbols or characterisations onto the cars. Blowing on them as you go helps the paint to dry faster which helps to prevent smearing.

Tips and warnings

  • When sanding wood, always go with the grain.
  • Using rubber gloves when spray painting will make cleaning up go a lot faster.
  • If you have parts of your cars that you don't want painted, cover them with painters tape.
  • Krylon paints don't need to be covered with an extra finish, but if you're worried about a lot of abuse to the toy, you can apply a shellac over the top to provide a barrier. Shellac is non-toxic.
  • Always use a non-toxic paint for toys as little ones tend to put them in their mouths.
  • Acrylic paints are almost all non-toxic, but just to be sure, buy paint that specifically says non-toxic on the bottle.

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