Toy Truck Project


I’ve decided that it’s time to build a toy truck for my grandson.  Not one to just put some wheels on a chunk of 2 x 4 and paint it, I’ve been doing some research.  What does a typical dump truck look like, how big is it, what size tires does it have, etc. Research

A few hours went into the notes I made and then I started working on what scale would work to make a toy truck the right size.  The conclusion is that a scale of about 1:20 will make a dump truck about 16″ long, which sounds about right.  A rough sketch was made:

Rough Sketch

From here I got out my drawing board (yes, when I go back to the old drawing board, there is actually such a thing) and made a scale drawing and started working out the details and size.  So far this is it:

To Scale

Already I’ve “x’d out” the front fenders and have a separate drawing for them.  And also one for the fuel tank detail.  Like I said, it’s not just going to be a 2 x 4 with some wheels attached.  It’s going to take a while, so be patient.  I’m old, and slow.

Yesterday I went out and got a desperately needed band saw and set it up.  Making cuts on small pieces of wood isn’t too safe on a standard table saw, and something tells me this won’t be the last toy I make for the grandson.

Today I got out to the shop and cut out some wheels with a 2-1/2″ hole saw.   This makes wheels about 2-3/8″ in diameter.  Also I did the first sanding on the wheels.

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I made a few extra while I was cutting out wheels, I’ll probably screw a few up as the details are added.  Note the bolt in one of the wheels, clamping the wheel between two large fender washers.  This allows the wheels to be attached to the drill press and then it’s simple to sand them smooth.  Just hold a sanding block against them as they turn.  Makes them nice and round as well as smooth.

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Now we have to make them look more like tires and wheels than wooden hockey pucks.  This is done with the help of a router and some patience.


The first step is to use a spade bit in a router to remove some of the wood to make it look more like a tire on a wheel.  To make the ones on the left look like the ones on the right, on both sides of the wheel.

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The trick is to get the router set up just right.

Hole for wheel alignment

Finding the right place to drill a hole so this happens took me a few tries, but I finally got it.  This is how it looks when you begin to rout the wheel.


It’s necessary to have a bolt long enough to be secure in the base of the router table (this is just the jig I made to cut large circles clamped securely into my portable work table, not a real router table, but it works) and at the same time hold the wheel securely over the router bit.  Then lower the wheel slowly onto the table and rotate it 360 degrees.


Then just flip it over and do the other side.  Pretty simple, but there are a lot of wheels to do.  Before too long they are all done.


Next we make them look even more like tires on the wheels by using a 1/8″ round over bit on the outer edges of the wheels.


Another strategically placed hole and a round over bit with a bearing make it pretty simple once again.


Do both sides of each wheel.  Now the wheels are beginning to look like actual truck tires on wheels.


I can almost imagine the truck beginning to take shape:


So far so good.

The next step in this project was to find a way to make this truck *NOT* look like a few chunks of wood glued together.  Most wooden toy trucks suffer from the fact that you can’t buy stock wood less than a half inch thick.  The remedy for this is to make your own 1/4″ or less stock to work with.  This comes about by laminating strips of thin cut wood together.

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An inexpensive piece of framing lumber, this was a 2 x 6 ripped down on a table saw produces a lot of 1/4″ thick strips.  I won’t go into the push blocks and safety issues addressed needed to make these strips without shedding blood because of an accident involving a table saw.  As you can see, a short piece of 2 x 6 turns into a couple nice, wide, easy to work with pieces of wood, by using some scrap wood to make a jig to glue these together.

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Be sure to line the jig with wax paper so the finished laminate isn’t glued to more than itself.  You can use any good wood glue, but the Gorilla wood glue (NOT the foaming original Gorilla glue) seems to be the latest and greatest glue on the market today to laminate wood.  Clamping it right and waiting until it is set up is very important.


It’s a little rough at this point, but you can sand it smooth with a belt sander or, as I’m fortunate enough to have a planer, a few passes and the wood is ready for the project.

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In with the rough, out with the smooth!

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The frame rails got cut to size while I was working on the table saw too.  The fun part, actually building the truck, is getting closer all the time.

Another day’s work has this project starting to show some progress.

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The parts of the frame were cut to size and glued together.  The undercarriage parts, i.e. the axles and the parts that hold the axles to the frame were cut, sanded and installed the frame.  The off set for the rear dual wheels was probably the most difficult.  A simple box frame could be used if there were only single rear wheels, but I’m trying to keep it as close to the look of a real dump truck as possible.  My grandson is worth the extra effort.

Now it’s time to make little pieces out of those sheets of laminated wood I made a few days ago.  Starting from the front, I’ll make the cab of the truck first.  Once the cab is done the box in the back should be pretty simple.

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The small pieces are dry fit together, then it’s time to get out the glue and clamps to turn the pieces into something that resembles a truck.  The cab is assembled a few pieces at a time so it can be clamped securely as the glue dries, then the next piece or maybe two are added.


When the glue is dried enough I did some sanding to shape the cab and then started making the hood assembly.  The square corners of the frame are cut to a more pleasing angle and this makes the hood a little harder to fit, but it will look much better when done.  Lots of angles to cut and fit.

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Now the parts of the body are being fit to the frame.  Some sanding has been done to soften the edges and details are added.

IMG_0174crop The front grille adds to the look.

IMG_0176 The cab gets glued to the hood and frame.

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Cab and hood attached to frame, now for the fenders over the front wheels.

IMG_0184crop First rough fit of a fender.

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The fenders and bumper make the front look even better.  Now to make another batch of laminated boards and get to work on the box for the back.

After another session of cutting, gluing, and planing to make more of the thin board stock I need, the box for the truck begins to take shape.  A simple box would take no time at all, but I add details by cutting and gluing strips on the sides to make it look more like a real truck again.

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Fitting pieces and then gluing takes some time, but it keeps me out of trouble.

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The box is just set on the frame to see how it looks at this point, and I think this project just might work.  It still needs the fuel tanks and the dump box permanently mounted, and then some finish sanding and paint.  but at least it’s looking like a truck now.

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Time to add some details, attach the box to the frame and have it actually dump.  I found out that the rear of the frame had to be reconfigured and some parts added.

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Small blocks were added to the frame and to the box of the truck.  Holes were drilled to accommodate a dowel inserted from each side so a hinge was formed.

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The dowels will be glued into place and trimmed after it all gets painted.  Now we have a real “dump” truck.


The rear gate of the box has detail added, holes drilled, and dowels glued into place so it swings open and closed.

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Finally the running boards and fuel tanks are cut, fit, assembled, and glued into place.  As usual, clamped until the glue sets up.

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The underside of the box also got a few additions to be sure the box aligns with the frame when it it lowered, and so has sufficient clearance for the hinge to work properly.

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All that’s left to do is the final sanding, all by hand, with fine sandpaper.  This is where all the detail work is done to assure that there are no sharp corners, and so it is ready for paint.

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Even the wheels had to be hand sanded.  A few hours were spent shaping and smoothing.  The project now moves to the painting stage.  I’ve lost track of how many hours this kept me out of trouble, but it’s down to the final step.

The first day in the paint shop.  A side note on the paint.  When making toys one has to be sure to get non-toxic paint.  I use paint manufactured in the USA and avoid the imported stuff, especially from China.  Just to be sure it really is non-toxic.

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The first coat of paint is a good primer, worked into all the cracks and crevasses with an artist brush.  Fine work compared to painting walls.

A couple more days in the paint shop shows some real progress.


Those hockey pucks I cut out now look more like wheels and tires with silver centers and black tires.

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The dump box, the frame and part of the front grille all got two coats of black paint.

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Some Frog tape was meticulously applied to mask off the already painted areas so the cab could be painted.  Blue metallic seems like a good color for this project.


The first coat didn’t cover very well, but doing two more over that makes it look good.


Then we start adding the details.

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I found some stick on rhinestones that make really good lights and did some red painting to simulate reflectors.  The fuel tanks and steps were painted silver.

More details are needed on the front end and the axles and wheels need to be installed, but this project is winding down.

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Another search provided some amber/yellow “lights” for the turn signals and clearance lights.  The windshield and side windows are painted on.  Yellow “reflectors” are painted on the box and the yellow rhinestones installed.


The last step is to install the axles and wheels.

The under side of the truck shows everything installed.  I lubricated the axles where the wheels will turn with some paraffin wax before gluing the axle caps on.


Now for some pictures of the finished project.  The only thing I might do is try to repaint the black trim around the windows when my hands are a bit more steady and paint the axles underneath black to match the frame.  This getting old has its drawbacks sometimes.

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All these pictures can be enlarged, just click on them and they should open to show details.

I sort of got carried away with the details on this truck.  Probably not something the grandson will be able to play with for a while, he’s not quite one yet.  So I see a more “toddler friendly” vehicle in my future soon.  This can sit on a shelf somewhere until he’s old enough.  Something to remind him of grandpa.






3 thoughts on “Toy Truck Project

  1. Looks real nice. I don’t paint any of my trucks, but that one looks real nice. Very down to earth

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