Cutting perfect wooden wheels is key to making successful wooden toys. Wheels that are not round or are incorrectly sized can detract from the entire design of a toy car, truck or pull along. If you are a woodworker or just a do-it-yourselfer with a good set of tools, you probably already have the solution at your fingertips. With a drill and a set of hole saws, perfectly round, smooth wood wheels can be made in any quantity in a very short time.
Making Wood Wheels
Decide on the proper size of wheel for your vehicle or toy. Take into consideration any fenders or wheel wells that it will need to clear. Also think about the best thickness for the look and operation you want.
Choose your material. Clear grain hardwoods work best. Plywoods can be used but frequently have voids between their layers that may need to be filled to give you a solid edge on your wheel. Make sure that there is enough material to cut the wheels out without getting too close to the edge, which can splinter and ruin your wheels.
Set up the correct size hole saw on your drill. Hole saws can be found in the tool department of any hardware or home store. They typically come in graduated sizes and can be purchased up to several inches around. If you can, buy a set that has several different sizes.
Consult your manufacturer's instructions for specific setup information. In general, the pilot bit will be separate from the saw and looks like a standard drill bit with a threaded nut on it. The hole saw sits on this and the arbor nut is twisted onto the threads to hold it in place.
Clamp your material down and mark the center of your wheel. Place the tip of the pilot bit on the mark and start the drill. Apply steady pressure and keep the drill turning as fast as possible. Avoid tipping the drill to make sure your edges are nice and straight.
Ease up slightly at the end of the cut to avoid tearing the fibers of the wood as the saw punches through. Do not immediately grab the bit to release the wheel if it is inside the saw--the bit will be hot. Use a screwdriver or some other narrow tool to poke down through the vent holes in the top of the saw to push the wheel out.
Use a fine grit sand paper to smooth out the edges and sand the face of the wheel. Detail can be added by rounding over the edge of the wheel on a router table if one is available. The wheel is now ready to be mounted. Use a screw through the center pilot hole, or drill through the toy and use a dowel poked through into the wheel on the other side as an axle. Add a coat of paint or clear varnish to protect the wheel.