Making “retro” wooden toys like the ones in grandpa's day is a fun, creative recreational activity that comes with a lot of advantages. From simple building blocks to doll cradles to car and trains, there are all kinds of wooden toys that you can make to delight your child. Although some safety measures need to be considered, what you need to know about making wooden toys is really quite simple.
Wooden toys are more durable than other kinds of mechanical toys and have the warm, homey feeling that comes from using natural materials. Making your own wooden toys ensures that no potentially harmful paints or treatments have been used. It also makes the toy more special for the child, knowing you have handcrafted it for him with care. You can buy good-quality wood, or you can recycle wood from old furniture for best conservation practices. Involving older children in the process can teach them about woodworking.
Making wooden toys requires using woodworking plans. Wooden toy plans, projects and instructions are available online, sometimes for free, or can be purchased in book form. For larger toys you may want to order real-size paper plans, suggests RetroToys.com. Whichever method you choose, make sure to read and follow the instructions carefully. Since so many plans are available, it is best to start with a simple one and get more advanced as you improve your skills.
Once you have a toy plan, you will have to select wood for the project. It is important to use real wood rather than a composite material like plywood, RetroToys.com advises. Hardwood, such as maple and ash, without knots or cracks, is an appropriate material, according to the site. The tools typically needed to make wooden toys are a drill, a sander, a router, a small hammer and at least one saw and file, according to RetroToys.com. Specific projects may use different or additional tools, but for most wooden toys you will need to have some wood glue handy.
Making wooden toys requires special considerations, especially if the toy is for a small child, who is likely to put it in her mouth. Certain types of wood should be avoided. Cedar splinters can be toxic, and oak has a tannin that should not be ingested, according to Faux Grain.com. Some exotic hardwoods may also be toxic. Be cautious with imported lumber, Barclay Woods.com advises, and do not use treated lumber. Concerns about toxicity of paints and finishes also arise when making wooden toys. Fortunately, like the selection of wood, these issues are within your control when you make wooden toys.
Paints to use on wooden toys include acrylics or watercolors with the “AP Non-toxic seal,” milk paint (except in case of dairy allergy). Toys may be left unfinished as long as they are well-sanded and smooth, although unfinished toys will get dirty more easily and will have no protection if they get wet. Natural oils, such as almond and walnut oil and linseed oil, are a good option for wooden toys. Almond and walnut oil may trigger nut allergies. Boiled linseed oil dries faster but includes petroleum solvents and metallic drying agents. Many natural toy makers use mineral oil, made from petroleum, as a finish, and it is inexpensive and a good choice if you are concerned about allergies, according to Make Baby Stuff.com.