How to Build a Toy Wooden Carousel

Updated July 06, 2018

A wooden toy carousel can be made with a platform, canopy, poles and animals. Build it on a lazy Susan or a wooden cone if you want it to spin. You can purchase wooden animals or carve, paint and embellish them yourself. If you make animals yourself, they can be simple, flat outlines of zoo and circus animals or mythological creatures. You can also make them as realistic as you wish.

Place one animal at a time in your drill press work rest and tighten it enough to hold the animal upright. Don't mar the wood.

Drill a 1/8-inch long hole all the way through the animal's body, as close to the centre point between the head and tail as possible.

Apply carpenter's glue in the hole using a watercolour brush. Push one of the 1/8-inch diameter, 12-inch long wooden dowels through the hole in each animal. Center the animal on the stick.

Math Open Reference advises using a compass and ruler to find the centres of your lazy Susan or wooden cone and your plywood circle. To do this, draw two straight lines across the left and right sides of each circle, angled toward one another but not touching at either end. Place the point of your compass at one end of one of the straight lines and make a mark on each side of the straight line as you turn the compass from left to right without marking across the line.

Place the point of your compass at the other end of the same straight line and repeat making marks on each side of the line. Cross the marks you made in the previous step.

Draw a straight line between the two sets of crossed marks, extending almost to the opposite edge of the circle.

Repeat the same actions for each end of the second straight line you made. This will create a fourth straight line that crosses the third line you made in the previous step. The point where the third and fourth lines cross is the centre of your circle.

Drill an 1/8-inch diameter hole halfway through the centre points of your lazy Susan or wooden cone and your plywood circles. Drill four holes 1 inch from the outer edge of your lazy Susan or wooden cone and your plywood circle. Make them as equidistant from each other as possible.

Apply carpenter's glue in each hole with your watercolour brush. Insert the 1/8-inch diameter, 12-inch long dowel in the centre hole in the carousel base. Insert the dowels for the animals in the other holes along the edges. Push the top and bottom together so all the dowels are firmly in the holes.

Paint your carousel as desired. Spin the lazy Susan or twirl the carousel on the cone to make your carousel move.


Making the animals move up and down requires a system of gears and pulleys. This system was developed by English engineer Frederick Savage in 1866. Gustav Dentzel, who built the first carousel in the United States in 1867, was the son of Michael Dentzel of Germany. None of Michael's carousels survived intact, according Dentzel Solar Menagerie Carousels. The last carousel was built in 1934 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, according to the International Museum of Carousel Art.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 wooden or plastic animals 5/8-inch wide or wider, 6 to 8 inches tall, 3 inches long head to tail
  • Drill press, 1/8-inch bit
  • Watercolour brush
  • Carpenter's glue
  • 5 wooden dowel rods, 18-inch diameter, 12 inches long
  • 12-inch diameter, 1-inch thick wooden Lazy Susan or 2-inch to 5-inch high, 12-inch diameter wooden cone
  • 12-inch diameter, 1-inch thick plywood circle
  • Circle compass and ruler
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About the Author

Jane Smith has provided educational support, served people with multiple challenges, managed up to nine employees and 86 independent contractors at a time, rescued animals, designed and repaired household items and completed a three-year metalworking apprenticeship. Smith's book, "Giving Him the Blues," was published in 2008. Smith received a Bachelor of Science in education from Kent State University in 1995.