Wood Toy Cars – How They’re Made


How To Make a Wood Toy Car

In 38 Not So Easy Steps

(w/ Illustrations)


Well, I don’t know just how many steps there are, but I bet I’m close.  We make our toy cars and trucks like any other toy we make: Quizzing The Kids about what they’d like to see in a new toy. Then come some sketches which they usually don’t understand, but are enthusiastic to support. Next comes some hand-drafted drawings (see picture below) and the first round of prototypes which The Kids understand well.

( You can see the first prototypes in the picture below in the center towards the top of the drafting board. )

Wood Cars on the Drawing Board.

So the Kids play with the prototype cars for a while and then we hold a panel review session.  It goes something like this:

Me:  “What would you say you like most about this product?”

The Kids:  “They’re great!  Too cool!”

Me:  “What would you say you like least about this product?”

The Kids:  “They’re great!  Too cool!”

This feedback really helps to inflate my ego and solidify my position as Most Awesome Dad.

I play with The Kids, see what other toys are invited to play with the new group, and keep an eye out for rough play that might reveal weaknesses.  Then I take the toys back to the shop for simulated play and abusive testing.  Weaknesses are corrected and the design/look of the toy is usually tweaked.

Then it’s on to figuring out how I’m going to build these things.  It’s one thing to build a one off toy for the fun of it, it’s another thing to make  quality toys for a price people are willing to pay.  It’s a long process and quickly drifts into the weeds of specifics . . .

Pieces for Toy Cars cut and ready for drilling.. . .  so we’ll shorten it up a bit . . . a stack of wood is planed, cut, sawn, cut, sawn, and cut again.  And here at the Bungalow we use hardwoods – not a 2×4 (aka pine, spruce, or fir).  These cars are made from red oak, ash, walnut, and hickory.  Tough enough to be played with by three year old boys and strong enough to survive a random gnawing by a little brother.

Once all the piece are cut, they’re neatly stacked (see above).  All the cars have a base and a top, are the same width, mostly the same length, and are all cut with complementary angles.  Every car gets two holes drilled for axles (see below) and one small hole on the bottom where the tow truck can hook onto.  I use a custom-made adjustable jig for all the drilling.Wood Toy Car on drill press.This operations piles up the saw dust – I depend on my compressed air hose to keep the work-surface clear.  I drill and drill and drill and drill.  You might think drilling holes for an hour or more is boring – but you’re wrong.  I get to sit on a stool while I do it.  It’s hard to be bored in the shop when you’re feet are happy.

All Happy Bungalow cars are equipped with Strong Ox tires, mfg. Cincinnati, Ohio.  They’re cut with a special hole saw.  The wheels are made from walnut, unlike most wood toy cars you see which are made from a lighter toned wood (maple or beech) and look suspiciously similar.  Our axles are cut from walnut dowels.Strong Ox Tires production, mfg. Cincinnati OhioBy now there’s a stack of car parts that need gluing, sanding, gluing, sanding, sanding, a smidge more sanding, and finally some natural wax finishing.  I use power sanders, but a lot of the sanding work is done by hand.  All corners are smoothed over – no sharp edges are left to pester little hands.  I cringe to say this, because it sounds like some lame marketing line, but I do pride myself on craftsmanship.  Well made, well detailed, and finely finished.

Wood Tires waiting sanding.See the end results hereAnd take home your own car from our shop here.