Toymaking Tips For Beginners


In addition to the info below, we also recommend you read a great Toymakers Forum post on Toymaking Tips for Beginners.

Most of our toys require a scroll saw to build. Scroll saws vary in price, but even an inexpensive scroll saw for under $200 will work. You can buy a scroll saw on Amazon or you can pick up a used scroll saw on Craigs List for under $50. For straight cuts such as the truck trailers, we prefer a band saw or table saw. You can cut the long straight cuts on a scroll saw but a table saw or band saw insures an easier cut, but a wide scroll saw blade will make a straight cut similar to a band saw. You'll also need a hand drill or drill press for axle holes, and woodworking glue and sandpaper. Here's an article on how to choose the best scroll saw blade for your projects:

Tips we recommend for painting and assembling:

1. If the Parts are painted prior to assembly we recommend masking the area that will accept glue. You can mask those areas with painters tape. The mask doesn't have to be perfect. The goal should be to mask a large portion of the surface area on the Part but the mask doesn't have to be the exact shape of the Part.

2. Paint or stain weakens a glue joint so it's best to do what's recommended in #1.

3. You can use any common woodworkers glue. Elmer's makes a good woodworking glue. The label should say, "woodworkers glue".

4. Rounding the edges is optional and not necessary. We think a toy looks best and feels best in your hands if the outside edges are softened with 400 grit sandpaper. You can make a pad of sandpaper by folding the sandpaper twice then placing the pad in your hand and running up and down the outside edges.

If you're new to toymaking you may want to make your first toy with natural and unpainted wood. Many of our toymakers like to finish the toy with a Non-Toxic Beeswax Paste that you can make yourself: Depending on where you live, if you can't find mineral oil you can substitute baby oil in the recipe.

Another fantastic resource for building and finishing our toys is our Toymakers Forum: There's a lot of great info on the Forum from toymakers all around the world. You can even post your build photos and ask for tips as you're building. The Forum is free but if you'd like to participate, and we hope you will, you'll need to Sign Up for the Forum to post. John Lewman, owner and toy designer regularly posts in the Forum. He always posts new toy prototypes and the Forum members participate in finalizing the designs. It's a lot of fun. We'd love for you to participate! 


All toy parts should be sanded before applying any paint/stain finish and before gluing the parts together. If you're planning on staining or painting your toys we recommend you apply the stains/paints before assembly, but you should mask the surfaces to be glued. The glue surfaces are masked off to preserve the bare wood for a good strong glue bond. You can mask the surfaces with masking tape, The tape doesn't have to be perfect. For the tightest bond between the parts don't apply any paint or stain to the surfaces that are to be glued. This doesn't need to be exact but try to avoid painting or staining as much as the glued surfaces as possible. Gluing parts that have been completely painted can result in parts coming apart because the glue bond won't be strong. Other toymakers assemble the toys, prime them 3 or 4 coats, sand them with 220 grit paper between coats then add the colors. Colors are 3 or 4 coats sanded between coats with 400 grit paper. Final coats are 2 or 3 coats of Krylon Triple Thick Clear for a high gloss coat paint job.

When gluing parts it's recommended that you apply a thin coat of woodworkers glue to both surfaces to be glued. For small parts, you need only apply the glue to the surface of the smaller part. Then using a scrim such as an old credit card or putty knife, scrim off the excess glue so that you have a thin and even coat of glue. Then when positioning the surfaces to be glued, first press them together but move them around slightly as your applying pressure. This will insure a tight bond. If you find some of the glue has seeped out of the edges, clean the excess off with a damp cloth. Small parts don't necessarily need to be clamped but they do need to be dry before gluing more parts. 
If you're new to toymaking you may want to consider applying a simple, easy to make Non-Toxic Beeswax Finish over sanded natural wood:

We also recommend using woodworkers glue. There are a variety of brands including Elmer's Carpenter's Glue. You can find wood glues at your local Home Depot or Lowe's.

Please check out our forum: There are hundreds of posts by toymakers on how to paint. The Forum is free and you can ask questions of the community and get answers quickly. You'll need to join the Forum if you'd like to post photos or ask questions. It is a really fun community.

The steps below refer to painted toys:

If you only want a high gloss clear finish over unpainted or stained wood then we like to use Krylon Triple Thick Clear in a spray can and we usually apply 3-4 coats sanding lightly with about 400 grit sandpaper between coats.

1. The wood material for the painted parts is usually MDF (medium density fiberboard). We have used it for over 40 years on tens of thousands of toys the oldest of which are still being played with today. Tight-grained hardwoods or softwoods also work well when the grain is sealed.

2. The toy parts are pre-painted before assembly (with the glue surface masked - see Step 4).

3. Krylon brand spray can gloss enamels over Krylon spray can white primer is used for high gloss finishes. 3 coats of primer is applied that is sanded between each coat with 220 grit sandpaper. 3 to 4 coats of enamel are applied that are sanded with 400 grit sandpaper between each coat except the last coat. Sanding blocks and strips of various sizes are used for a flaw-free flat painting surface. For a super high gloss a final coat of Krylon spray can Triple Thick Clear is applied. It gives a candy-apple depth to the finish. All Krylon products are non-toxic when dry. You can also use any of the non-toxic acrylic crafts paints found at hobby stores such as Hobby Lobby for painting the toys. Also, we've used house paint available in quart containers with great luck too.

4. The glue surface of each part is masked when painting the part. We use Regular woodworker’s white glue like Elmer’s glue is used for assembly with easy to make masks. The mask on basic surfaces is created with masking tape. For example, a fender attached to a body will have masking tape on the glue side as it is primed and painted. An Xacto knife with a number 11 blade is used to cut the surplus tape from around the outside edge of the part to be painted. The other wood parts that receive the painted fender are also masked over the glue area to prevent paint from covering the glue area. A durable mask the exact shape of the glue area is scrolled from 1/8” hardboard or the masks are cut from thin stock like paper with an Xacto knife. The edges of the cardboard masks are sanded with fine sandpaper on a sanding board or block. The applied spray adhesive is allowed to set up until it isn’t wet but is tacky to the touch. Spray Mount leaves no residue on the masked area when it is used properly. It requires some experimenting to get it right. Once the masks are in place on the wood toy part to be painted the wood toy part is  spray painted as described in Step 3.

5. Spraying small parts: A strip of two inch wide masking tape with the adhesive side up is stapled to a piece of scrap white wood. The small parts are pressed onto the masking tape with the sides to be painted facing toward the paint spray nozzle. There will be no residue from the tape on the part when the part is removed from the masking tape.

6. When painting stripes and other details over the painted toys or parts a special masking tape called striping tape (pronounced stripe-ing tape) is purchased at an automobile paint supply store. It is flexible and leaves a perfect clean knife cut edge at the point where the striping tape edge separates the painted colors. This type of tape is flexible enough to follow a tight curve, leaves no residue and is a lot of fun to work with.

7. Assembling the painted parts to create a final assembly: Clamping the painted parts together while gluing is accomplished with either spring clamps, tape or weights. There is no problem with slipping parts during the gluing process when using the masking method to prevent paint from covering glue surfaces.