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How To Make Old Fashioned Mechanical Toys Yourself

Updated on March 31, 2011

Why Making Toys Yourself At The FIrst Place?

Considering you can buy toys for $2 or $3 bucks from the local store why would you want to make ones yoruself? The answer is not to save money. Here is why:

  • Making toys is fun. When was the last time when you actually created something by hands, not by keyboard?
  • Handmade toys are unique. If you want your kids to have that no one else has, make them yourself. Otherwise they'll play with the same toys like another few million kids.
  • Often they are higher quality. Cheap toys are just that, cheap. They are not created for long term use. On the other hand, handmade toys are often passed from generation to generation.
  • You choose the materials. Whether it will be wood or coke can, you know where it comes from and how safe it is. With the toys you buy from the store you can only guess or trust the label.

I can keep going on but for now that should be enough. Ready for making mechanical toys?


Why Mechanical Toys?

Can you make a radio controlled electronic toy yourself? I guess no. But that's not the only reason. Mechanical toys have plenty of other advantages:

  • They need no electricity. No money spent on batteries, not dirt in the nature, no power down exactly when it's most fun.
  • Their simple mechanics can be exposed to the children and provoke interest in science
  • When something breaks, it's usually easy to fix.
  • They can be a lot more impressive than the RC toys regardless of their simplicy.
OK, let's see what kind of mechanical toys you can make:


Wooden Mechanical Toys

Wood is the first choice of the toy maker, especially the one who begins. Easy to work with, natural, cozy, safe - it's the source of all kind of shapes and forms.

Wood is used to make simpler and large mechanical toys, push and pull toys, cars, trucks and so on. They can be colored or have the natural wood color, can contain moving parts and some pieces of metal.

Enoguh theory, let's get onto some guides:

Sounds good? Go check the pages and start building wooden mechanical toys!

Cam and Crank Toys

These are not necessarily different than wooden or tin toys - cam and crank toys actually are often made of wood and sometimes of tin. The material is not important here, important is the mechanism. These toys use cranks, cams and cam followers to transform rotation motion into some other kind of movement. 

This sounds a bit dry. Why don't you check this hatching cam toy tutorial to get a better idea? Then, have a look at these guides about cam and crank toys (called often automata):

I guess you have enough stuff to work on. 


Tin Toys

But wait, before you start making wooden toys with cams and cranks, learn a bit about the toys made of tin. You may find out that tin is more appropriate for some mechanical toys than wood. For example, what about a wooden robot? Not impossible, but doesn't make much sense.

It's much better to make a tin robot like some of these. And before you ask where do you get tin from, let me tell you that one of the often used sources are coke cans.

Here is a nice guide for making giant tin toys and a whole old book about making tin can toys.


Ride On Toys

Finally, there is one other type of old fashioned toys you may want to make - the bigger toys that kids can ride. Usually horses, but nowadays they are often motorcycles, rockets, airplanes, or other animals.

Typically you will want to use wood. The most importan thing for these toys is to be comfortable for riding and well balanced.  Here are a couple of guides which can help you:

Now you are really ready to start making old fashioned mechanical toys yourself!


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      Lotek 4 years ago

      I love this. Thanks so much! I will start to make more wooden toys.

      Thanks for inspiring me.

      MEchanical wooden toys are the best of the best!