I didn't want to pay for cheap, plastic animals for our new nephew, so I decided to make him a set of these Wooden Pallet Animal Toys! I used non-toxic stains and paints as well as heat-treated wood to make them as safe as possible. :)
Tools & Supplies Needed:
- Band saw
- Scroll saw (you could saw by hand or jigsaw too)
- Safety glasses/goggles/face shield, gloves as needed, and respiratory protection!
- Kid-safe Stains (I used PureColor's No-VOC stain products)
- Low-VOC Polyurethane (also used PureColor's product line)
- Non-toxic Hobbycraft Paints
- Small Paintbrushes
- Chip brush
- Plastic cups or mixing bowls
- Wood glue & Clamps (in case of any wood splits - just glue it together)
- Wood filler (optional - could use glue and wood pulp from sanding)
- Hammer & Punch (to remove any nails)
- Wood scraps in various sizes and wood types
- Sandpaper - 100, 220 & 320-grit (or finer if you want them extra-smooth)
- A rotary tool, sanding discs/flaps & pointed carving tool to clean up tight bends or details (I used a Dremel and 80-grit sanding wheels)
- Paper towels or rags
- Bowl of water to clean brushes between animals
- Extra scraps for drying the animals as a side is stained/painted (to prevent sticking to surfaces)
- Pencil or marker
- Woodburning tool & small tip (optional - I did it to give myself a clear definition and to hold the stains in place).
- Templates you've printed if you're not able to freehand draw animals - find free art on the 'net, print them out and either trim them out, glue them onto the wood scraps and then cut, or use carbon paper/tracing paper to transfer the images. I just freehand drew mine, so they're not anatomically correct. :-P
Make Your Own:
- Gather your supplies including your personal protective equipment. **Be sure to read your tool manuals and follow all safety guidelines**. Additionally, do the same for any of the chemicals you're using, and protect yourself accordingly.
- It's a LOT easier to do most of the surface sanding first. If you're using bigger pieces of wood for consistency, plane them first so they're all nice and even. Mine are all different because I just fished pieces out of my scrap bins.
- Draw your animals out onto the wood, or transfer the images accordingly.
- Cut out your animals carefully. I began them on the band saw and moved to the scroll saw for the tighter detail work.
- Sand all the edges! Attention to detail is critical here - little ones will be using these!
- I wood burned some of the details onto my animals (such as the patches on the giraffe, eyes, hooves, etc.), but this is an optional step.
The Funs In The Details:
- Stain your animals however you choose (OR you could paint them at this point or leave them totally natural - if you're careful with cutting, they'll be adorable at this step!). I used PureColor's line of NON-VOC stains because I was able to custom-mix colors and use various tones to create high- and low-lights. About 90% of the color on this project is all NON-TOXIC, KID-SAFE stains! The hobby paints are mostly for details such as the eyes.
- Place your animals on small scraps to keep them elevated if you don't want the stain to bleed onto your work surface (or place a protective barrier down). Allow them to dry completely.
- Flip the animals over and repeat the coloring.
- Now is the fun part - the details! Paint any glitter, metallic details, coloring in the eyes, feathers, manes, tails, shine on hooves, etc. Have fun! It doesn't matter if it's perfect or accurate. If you want your elephant to have blue eyes, then go for it! :)
- Use those scraps again (particularly if you were painting along the edges) and let the animals dry.
- Flip the animals over and repeat the detail painting.
Protect Your Hard Work:
When dry, begin coating them to protect all of your hard work. I used PureColor's line of low-VOC polyurethanes in a satin color. As of this posting, they'd only had one coating of polyurethane. I plan on three coats.
**Note** My animals have small metallic dots showing on some. That will be revealed in a larger project that these critters are part of. You'll have to stay tuned to find out. Mwahaha!
And don't forget - Safety First with projects for kids!