As I was browsing the toy aisles this holiday season for a girl for my girlfriend’s nephew, I couldn’t help but scoff at the poor plastic construction of the selection. Nothing against Tonka trucks - because you can bet I spent a surplus of hours playing with them when I was just a lad - but let’s face it; I can do better. I’m John freaking Malecki.
So I decided to make the world’s coolest wooden toy truck a two-year-old has ever seen. Timeless and sure to get plenty of play time, I knew this would be the best gift for Jack. This build was just challenging enough to have a lot of fun with it and is one of my favorite bite-sized builds ever. Take a look!
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Building a toy like this isn’t as hard as it looks. It goes a little like this:
Sketch the shape of the side of the truck on a piece of 1/4″ plywood or cardboard. Use a bandsaw or jigsaw to cut out the template. This will save a lot of time and effort compared to putting this directly on the wood you’re using.
Prepare the stock you want to use for the build. For mine, I chose a large chunk of white oak I have had sitting in the shop. I knew it was the perfect size for cutting out any and every piece I needed. Plus, all the wood would match for a really clean, timeless finished product. If you don’t have a magnificent piece of white oak laying around, use a long piece planed to your desired thickness.
This step sounds a lot more gruesome than I intended. I apologize.
Using your template, lay out and cut the side panels for the truck. Cut outside the lines using your bandsaw, being sure to leave some room to sand the piece to its final size. Once cut, shape your two sides on a spindle sander and begin cutting the interior parts to your desired width.
Rough cut the wheels from the piece of stock you choose. I made the wheels roughly 2″ wide, and re-sawed from a piece of 2″ stock. This isn’t necessary -- if I were to make this again, I would cut 8 total wheel parts from flat stock at 1″.
Once the wheels are cut to final dimension, use a straight edge to make 8 lines through your wheel that intersect in the center. Using your table saw and miter gauge, align the gauge to 60 degrees. Where the blade meets your extension fence on the gauge, drill a hole for a dowel and the tire to rotate around. Create a mark on the back of the extension and use the marks on the wheel to your piece of wood and cut the treads.
Glue up the wheels using the center hole for alignment. Then clean up the outside of the wheels using your hand plane and sander, cutting the center recess for the hub using a Forstner bit.
Next, glue up the truck body using CA (Cyanoacrylat) and traditional wood glues. Once dried, sand and shape the truck to the look you want and begin adding details. I added a bumper, sidestep, headlights, and smokestacks all using CA glue. I also added Jack’s name onto the tailgate using a V bit and a palm router.
Once assembled, sand the piece and apply a finish! For this project, I chose to use Minwax stains and Minwax Water-Based Poly-Acrylic for the finish. Both are products I enjoy and have been using for years. I know they will provide a high-quality finish, and hold up well over years of abuse from a young little truck driver!
And there you have it: the classic wooden toy trucks build! If you loved this project, check out some other home projects!
Want to try this build out for yourself? Download the digital plan now for step-by-step instructions, measurements, and a detailed look at how to punch this project in the face.