Ever wondered how to make wooden toys for kids at home? We started with teethers and rattles, and there was one tool that was particularly helpful!
As one of his first toys, my son had a wooden rattle fish. As a first-time-mom, I thought it was wonderful. No plastic meant no wondering what chemicals he may be ingesting while chewing on it. I did not even worry about washing it all the time as wood has natural antibacterial properties. It was a very simple cutout, and its simplicity was inspiring. So I wanted to learn how to make more.
I must say that at that point I had not held a saw once. Well, maybe I did hold it to express awe… But that’s about it. I was a complete novice. But my husband made a few animal-shaped cutting boards for us, so I thought he could give me an insight on how I can start. That’s when I saw a scroll saw for the first time.
What Is a Scroll Saw?
It may not be the most popular tool for doing renovations, but it is a wonderful tool for a crafter. The scroll saw has a thin blade, designed to cut tight curves. If you think of making wooden toys for your children, get one – and your life will never be the same because your list of projects will suddenly grow ten times longer. The scroll saw allows one to make an endless amount of intricately cut wooden designs, but also make straight and quick cuts. It is very simple to learn to use a scroll saw, and even though at first it might seem a little intimidating, all you need to remember is to keep your fingers away from the blade, which is the same as when you use any saw – or even a kitchen knife.
Scroll saws are not very expensive. Look at these two: our scroll saw looks more like the one on the left, but a portable scroll saw on the right seems very handy! You can cut wood, but also plywood, acrylic, foam and plastic.
An even cheaper alternative to a scroll saw would be to get a frame saw with blades. It works the same way, except it is a hand tool, so you will have to work harder and longer to make your cuts. I made my first wooden fox using a saw frame, to understand the principles of work. Later I switched to a scroll saw – it was a big time-saver.
How to Make Wooden Toys
1. For making a wooden animal, sketch a silhouette design on a piece of card stock and cut it out with scissors. You can search for animal silhouettes on-line. Pick the ones that have fewer details.
2. Transfer the design onto a wooden board with a pencil. Last time I bought my wood at a local lumber mill, which was a very exciting place. You can look for a local mill, or get boards from a chain store, like Home Depot. That’s where I often get my wood. A little bit on different woods…
For making toys, you will probably want to get some hardwood, since they’re less likely to chip and break. Here are some of our favourites!
Maple: Has a light-yellow colour (a rabbit on the picture above). One of the most readily available woods you can find in the stores. Perfect for making toys in many regards, but a little hard to cut, compared with other woods.
Walnut: Has a dark-brown colour (a dog on the picture above). Comparatively soft and easy to cut. More expensive than oak, cherry or maple.
Cherry: Has a light-brown colour with a red tin (a kitten on the picture above). Often has a beautiful curly figuring. Prone to burning when you cut tight corners.
Oak: Has a light-brown colour, similar to cherry, but doesn’t have the same figuring. Soft and easy to cut. Cheaper than the rest of the hardwoods listed here.
3. Back to cutting! Turn the scroll saw on and slowly cut the design.
4. Once the design is cut, sand all the edges to give the toy a comfortable grip. For this one project a piece of fine sanding paper would work, but if you plan to make more toys, you might consider a hand sander.
5. Finally, I lightly brush pure tung oil on top. I only use 100% tung oil because it is food-safe. The oil gives the toy a satin finish and protects the wood from oxidizing too fast.
A few of my friends had new babies recently, so I made more wooden creatures as gifts for each of them. Knights and princesses, dinosaurs and of course, modern animals! Some of them have holes inside for the ease of holding, and others don’t. As I found out with my son, wooden animals later become the perfect occupants for sensory bins and Waldorf-inspired activities. As soon as your child is ready for pretend games, the animals can start interacting with each other, frolic in coloured rice and go for a swim in the water bin.
More wooden toys?
Thank you for reading!