Tag Archives | toys

Road Tiles

As I’m sure you know in previous posts, my son loves playing with cars. He loves lining them up and “obeying the rules of the road.”  He likes drawing and making roads for his cars to drive on.  I’ve always wanted to create a road system where he can create an infinite number of road configurations. I imagined it like an interlocking puzzle that had roads and city elements. Since I like working with wood, I just assumed that’s how it would be made. The only thing holding me back would be the precise nature of cutting each segment perfectly so the pieces would fit, no matter how it was arranged. I’m far from a perfect cutter, so the idea would remain in the back of my mind.

I was walking through Michaels the other day and came across a puzzle mat made of foam (the same material as craft foam). It can interlock, no matter the configuration. That’s when I had my “Ah Ha!” moment. I can simply paint my roads on this material and give my son the road system I’ve always wanted!

It turned out that it was really easy to make. The first step was to make sure that all the roads would follow some basic rules so the roads connect no matter which way you turn the tiles. Each tile had four sides, which means four possible entrances/exits. I stacked all my tiles so they lined up perfectly and marked the side of each tile where the road will enter/exit. This was my base pattern. From here, I can decide on each tile where a road would go. Sometimes I’d use all four points, others I’d only use two. Some roads would curve and connect adjacent sides while other roads would fork. As long as I stuck with the system, all the tiles would connect to eachother to complete roads.  For the points that I didn’t have a road going through, I turned it into a dead end with barricades (my son loves dead ends).

I got my son involved, he’d tell me what to put in and I’d paint it in for him. We both had a blast and he was very anxious to try out his new roads.I simply painted on the roads with craft paint. No prep work, no top coat, just paint. I’d add in trees, bushes, flowers, lakes and rivers . I didn’t want to get too finicky with the detail.  I free-handed everything, used quick brush strokes and didn’t labor over the color.  In fact, I opted to mix most of my colors instead of using pure pigment to give variation and add to that “hand-made” look.  I like it better that way, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It took awhile to paint. I didn’t get too concerned about making it perfect. All he cared about was having a place to drive his cars. In the end, he got an amazing toy with endless possibilities to stimulate his imagination. I can assure you, he’s going to have more fun with this than anything you can buy in a store.

Category: Craft

Train Bank – Part 1

I’ve been promising my son I’d make a Train Bank for him for awhile now. He’s been collecting money in anticipation of having someplace to put it. Since I got some good shop time in last weekend, I thought I’d get started.

The Train Bank is from Scroll Saw Woodworking & Crafts Holiday 2008 and was designed by Paul Meisel.

First I photocopied all of the patterns from the pattern insert. Since it was so large, I had to tape the copies together to get the complete pattern. The design calls for 3/4″ material that is glued up in 4 sections to create the body of the train. I think he used pine, but I went with MDF since it was going to be painted anyway. The roof and window accents were in 1/4″ MDF. I spray-mounted the pattern to the wood and got everything lined up.

I used my scroll saw for all of the cutting on this project. I used a #5 scroll reverse to cut the pieces. I had to cut each of the train bodies individually, but I stack cut the windows and roof details. I wasn’t too concerned about accurate cuts. I figured once I got everything glued up, I’ll finesse the lines with my spindle sander. That way all 4 layers will be even.

And now for the glue-up. Since the outside pieces are slightly different than the outside peices, I glued up the inside pieces first. Here’s a little tip to keep things aligned: Tap in a small brad into two corners. Don’t go too deep, just enough for it to stay in the wood. Then with some wire cutters, snip off the rest of the brad. A little bit of metal will remain proud of the surface. Place your next board on top. When you have everything aligned, press down. This will create a little dimple into your mating piece. Now when you glue it up, you’ll find your mark and your wood won’t slide all around while clamping.

So I finished gluing the body of the train (with perhaps too much glue). I didn’t add the accent pieces just yet because I wanted the body of the train to sit flat on my spindle sander while I smooth everything out. The photocopies of the patterns must have been off, because nothing fit very well. I was about to throw the piece away, but I decided I’d try sanding it and see if I could salvage it. Lucky for me, I was able to get everything to line up with a lot of sanding. The end result was pretty far from the pattern, but nobody will notice.

After I got the edges sanded flush, I added the accent pieces as well as the round plugs at the front of the train. Then with some hand sanding, I eased the edges.

Now I’m at a stand-still. The belts on my drill press were ruined from misalignment from my last project. So I’m waiting on UPS to bring me my replacement belts. Then I can drill the hole in the bottom, a mortise for the train’s smoke stack, and the hole for the axle and wheels.

Category: Woodworking