Creating an Heirloom Toy for Your Kids, Part 3

Geek Culture

So progress on the car is once again moving. I’ve got two weeks until my youngest son’s 1st birthday, and I think I’ve got enough time to finish the toy. If you’ve been following the previous posts (Part 1 and Part 2), you’ll know that I’ve cut the fenders and drilled some holes. The holes in the center of the fenders are counterbored so that the machine screws I use to bolt the two fenders on to the main body will be hidden behind two small brass plates I’m having made and engraved — more on those in the next (and hopefully final) post.

Rounded fenders

Today I counterbored the four holes in the fenders that will have 3.5″ machine screws inserted to act as axles for the wheels. I used a piece of scrap wood to get the correct depth — it took four tries. The reason for this is due to the number of components I’m using for each axle and wheel. In order to have enough of the machine screw’s end exposed to add the acorn nut, I have to be careful and drill the proper depth for the machine screw head to go into the fender and leave enough of the machine screw thread exposed on the outside of the fender for all the hardware. (If I drill it too deep, there may be too much of the machine screw exposed and the acorn nut won’t tighten completely and hold the wheel onto the other hardware and keep it from wobbling.)

Counterbored axle holes

First, a single 3.5″ machine screw is inserted from the inside of the fender — the machine screw’s head will be hidden when the fenders are bolted onto the main body. Next, I screwed onto the outside of the fender a nice little bobble called a T-nut. It’s shaped like a T and has a nice circular flange that will look like a wheel hub. It also has three small holes around the edges. I’m hoping to find some teeny-tiny wood screws to put into these holes to act as lug nuts. Each of these was $0.75 from Ace Hardware.

After the T-nut I’ve added a 1/4″ x 3/8″ x 1″ steel spacer. I purchased these from Lowe’s for about $1.27 each. This serves to protect tiny fingers from the sharp edges of the threads on the machine screw. Next a 1/4″ nut goes on… followed by a wheel… and then all of it secured with an acorn nut for a nice finished look.

Axle components

I also used a bandsaw to round the edges on the fenders. They’re not perfect, but some sanding should smooth out the rough edges. I’ll do some rough sanding first (60 grit) and then hit it with some 150 grit… followed by 220 grit. Hopefully that will give the individual layers in the 13-ply birch a nice smooth finish.

You can see a picture here of the fenders with the wheels mounted — the fenders are rough looking and need some sanding. Keep in mind that there’s another 3/4″ thick main body piece to still be cut and shaped and inserted between the two fenders. I’ll probably use some posterboard to cut out some variations on the body and see what I can come up with. I’d like to stay close to the original for the first car, but I’ll likely go a bit crazy for the second car (for my oldest son) and try to create a truck-shaped body — he likes my truck, so I’ll do my best.

Fenders and Wheels

I purchased 8 new wheels — after a bit of experimenting, I decided I did not like the writing on the original wheels. These blue-core wheels cost me $2.00 each and I stole the bearings out of the original wheels. (And I may still use the original wheels for another racer car that I may paint and put emblems on it.)

With the bearings and wheels mounted, this thing is whisper smooth with no wobbling of the wheels and no exposed threads on the machine screw axles. It’s also got a nice heft to it — not too heavy for a little guy to lift, but it definitely doesn’t feel like it will fall apart after a few months of hard play.

One final note — the wheels are clear but the blue core make them look much more solid in color than they actually are.

Almost done

Still left to do: Cut out the main body, drill it with two holes for the fenders to bolt onto, stain the entire thing (natural color) and then coat it with polyurethane, and add the two brass plates, one per side.

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