As one of his first toys, my son had a wooden rattle fish. I thought it was wonderful! No plastic – 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. That’s when I decided to make more wooden animals for little Budster.
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 had the tool that I needed, so it was a shame not to use it. That’s how I met a scroll saw for the first time.
A scroll saw is a great tool! It has a very thin blade, designed to cut tight curves. If you want to make 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. You will be able 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.
1. For making a wooden animal, I sketch a silhouette design on a piece of card stock and cut it out with scissors.
2. I 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. Buy a 1×4 maple board. It is the best wood I have tried making toys of: it does not splinter and has pleasant colour and grain.
3. Then I turn the scroll saw on and slowly cut the design.
4. Once the design is cut, I 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 some vegetable oil on top. It 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. Dinosaurs and sea creatures, knights and princesses, and of course, forest animals! Some of them have holes inside for the ease of holding, and others don’t. As I found out with Budster, 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.
Thank you for reading!