What power tools do I need to make precision wooden children’s toys? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 58 Old 12-04-2015, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
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What power tools do I need to make precision wooden children’s toys?

What power tools do I need to make precision wooden children’s toys?

About 30 years ago, I had a fully equipped, full-sized hobby woodworking setup of power tools that filled my basement at the time, and included an original 1940s DeWalt radial arm saw, and Delta or Powermatic shaper, joiner, planer, drill press, sanding machine, etc.

It was for purely hobby use, and I made intricate all-wood children’s toys whose features included, for safety reasons – and just because “I could” – no screws or nails (all press-fit parts), colors provided by the natural colors of the hardwoods used, very “tough” in terms of durability during child play, and an edible oil finish. I gave some away and sold some through boutique shops, and had a GREAT time doing it!

Then I got too busy with my career and kids and other hobbies that required smaller chunks of time and space, and weren’t a danger for the kids.

Now, I’m retired and want to do it again, but this time there are serious restrictions:

- VERY limited space

- The space cannot be used full-time for woodworking, so all equipment must be realistically portable (nothing over what one strong but unassisted man can carry or roll on a portable stand)

- One or more household moves are likely within the next 5 to 7 years, so portability also means “movability”!

- I have to be able to do planing, ripping, crosscutting, mitering, beveling, compound bevel/miter cuts including steep angles (ideally up to 60 degrees), drilling, sanding, pressfitting, and polishing

- The toys I like to create are small, typically averaging in overall ASSEMBLED dimensions 3 to 6” wide by 9 to 18” long, and 1” to 6” thick. The largest individual component pieces of wood I need to handle are probably going to be 2” thick by 6” wide by 48” long, and the 48” length is only because I like to make duplicate multiples of some toys with minor variations, and handling the raw lumber in longer (multi-toy) initial lengths makes some operations, like ripping, a lot safer. The “finished” length of any individual component piece is rarely going to exceed 18”, and is usually under 9 or 10 inches (Is there any woodworking machine other than a table saw that can safely rip pieces that are only a few inches long, without requiring hand or hands near the blade? The exposed blades of table saws intuitively scare me a bit!)

- Precision is pretty important, as the toys typically have multiple compound angular facets, and cuts that are slightly off become highly visible and many cannot realistically properly be corrected via sanding or other rework

- Drilling operations also have 2 prominent challenges: They have to produce PRECISE diameter holes (the toys are assembled via pressfit dowels of multiple standard diameters), and the drill press has to have enough power to push Forstner bits up to 1-1/2” in diameter through up to 1” of depth, in ANY wood I might use, which includes some of the harder exotic hardwoods, without butchering the wood (or the bit!). Smaller diameter bits, typically ¼” to ½” diameter, need to go as deep as 4” in hardwoods. The drill press cannot allow significant run-out, because that would very adversely affect both the assembly dowels and other rotating assemblies. The drill press "throat diameter" need only be a maximum of maybe up to 8” (that means 8”/2 = 4” of clearance between post and drill bit) – certainly no more. So if I get a small enough throat drill press, machine distortion should be minimized, leaving only the need for a great chuck and a low tolerance spindle setup

- For space reasons, I’d like to avoid the need for a jointer, so the quality of the saw cuts on ripping needs to be pretty good – good enough for sanding to do final smoothing

- The planer is required because many of the exotic woods I use are not available in S4S or S2S, but remember the board size is relatively narrow and never more than 2” thick

Because of the above constraints and needs, I am thinking that I need “very compact” and “benchtop”, but good quality, versions of:

- A small planer (to plane the raw boards)

- A table saw (to do ripping because I can’t think of anything else that can do ripping properly and safely, but not using it to do much else because I consider table saws inherently the most dangerous tool in a shop)

- A dual sliding 12” crosscut/miter/bevel saw (to easily and more SAFELY set up and execute all those compound angle cuts that are a prominent feature of my toys). This needs to be able to hold precise angles rather closely. I would also strongly prefer a design that enables me to clamp a workpiece before cutting it, for safety reasons, and I am willing to use wooden fixtures to enable that where necessary

- A drill press that has the precision and the power to handle the drilling tasks described earlier

- A sanding machine (For my application, do I need both a sanding disc and a belt, or ? A belt SEEMS like a better solution so I can sand with the grain consistently)

- A small arbor press (to push the assembly dowels in, and to push individual doweled components into other components with matching dowel holes)

- MAYBE a band saw (to do non-linear cuts, but one of the identifying features of my toys in general is the use of hard compound planes versus soft curves; the minimal soft curves I need can easily be created by sanding adjacent hard surfaces so they “blend”)

- MAYBE a jointer (if you guys and gals tell me that simply ripping won’t be good enough, but then it needs to be a pretty tiny benchtop model)

The budget is a bit flexible, but I cannot afford to fill the mini-shop-space with Festool products.

It's been 30 years since I last did this, so I am certainly open to hearing about new techniques and tools that may have become available or common since then!

Given all the above, and keeping the space, portability, and benchtop preference requirements in mind, what suggestions can you make?

Jim G
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post #2 of 58 Old 12-04-2015, 11:39 PM
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I am usually hesitant to suggest these since things that do everything normally don`t do anything well but it seems well suited to your situation.

http://m.hammacher.com/Product/Defau...n=CJ&sku=86468
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post #3 of 58 Old 12-04-2015, 11:45 PM
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I think you know better what you need than us. I would definitely want a good quality scroll saw.
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post #4 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 12:22 AM
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shop around at Grizzly

You've pretty much given us "the list".... bench top planer, small job site table saw, 10" bandsaw and scrollsaw. I would also want a 4" X 36" bench top belt sander. In addition I recommend this:
http://www.grizzly.com/products/Comb...tachment/G0516

You can get all of the above at Grizzly and if you have any issues they are very cooperative.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #5 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 12:36 AM
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Don't you suppose, with hindsight, that little kids don't give a damn over precision? Their delight is in activity and interaction. Go ahead and impress the parents, the kids care less.
My twin grandsons are 2+. I've made all sorts of simplistic blocks to exercise their imaginations.
They can stack, pile, smash and build with the hundreds of blocks that I cut.

Yeah, the day will come when the outgrow that stuff. I've told my D2 and SIL to shovel the whole works into the fireplace. Breathe in, breathe out, move on.

You might want to buy them the Lee Valley daVinci Ornithopter kits.
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post #6 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 09:20 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by GISer3546 View Post
I am usually hesitant to suggest these since things that do everything normally don`t do anything well but it seems well suited to your situation.

http://m.hammacher.com/Product/Defau...n=CJ&sku=86468
Wow, that's quite an integrated design! I see a few issues though:

- I can't see battery powered tools having the power required for many of the hardwoods I would prefer to use

- The set comes with only one battery (see feedback below the description of it), and there is proactive wording about a 2nd or 3rd being readily available

- A circular saw based solution won't have the linear cutting ranges I need.

But the packed up size is certainly a major achievement! I didn't know such solutions existed. It makes me glad I posted and asked you guys!

Jim G
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post #7 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 09:26 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Robson Valley View Post
Don't you suppose, with hindsight, that little kids don't give a damn over precision? Their delight is in activity and interaction. Go ahead and impress the parents, the kids care less.
. . .
The precision serves two purposes:

1. The most important one is that it gives me a lot of pleasure in the design and construction of the toys!

2. The secondary one is that when sold at a boutique shop, adults buy them for themselves BECAUSE of the precision! The toys are thematically simple, but the tight execution grabs the shoppers' attention.

Jim G
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post #8 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
Grizzly G0516 - Combo Lathe w/ Milling Attachment


That is one hell of a machine for woodworking, but wow that thing would be perfect for "Precision Toy Making" and oh, so versatile for other things.

Thanks a lot woodnthings, I thought I was done buying machines. You just added a big one to my wishlist...
I'm going to be drooling over that thing for months now.
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post #9 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 09:38 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by woodnthings View Post
You've pretty much given us "the list".... bench top planer, small job site table saw, 10" bandsaw and scrollsaw. I would also want a 4" X 36" bench top belt sander. In addition I recommend this:
http://www.grizzly.com/products/Comb...tachment/G0516

You can get all of the above at Grizzly and if you have any issues they are very cooperative.
You raise some good questions I should ask:

- Why specifically a 4" x 36" belt sander? I'm thinking you mean that a 36" belt produces both an approximately 14" flat sanding surface and a 4" or so diameter curved end sanding surface. is that why?

- I can see where the bandsaw comes in, but why also specifically the scroll saw?

The combo lathe / milling center is a an individually costly but intriguing addition! I have not ever done any turning but am willing to learn, and that milling capability certainly makes a lot more possible. And the 8" stroke on the milling head makes deeper holes practical. But, did you catch the WEIGHT of that Grizzly rig? It's 556 lb!! That's a deal killer with my need for real portability. :( The concept is so good though that I need to find a lighter weight milling machine!!

Jim G

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post #10 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 10:02 AM Thread Starter
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Woodnthings: You are right about Grizzly having multiple choicess for virtually any kind of woodworking equipment! I've been enjoying browsing their website. However, while they offer "compact and light" versions of saws, planers, jointers, drill presses, etc, they apparently offer no light weight benchtop bandsaws. Still looking though!

Jim G

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post #11 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 10:20 AM
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In your case, I'd splurge on the table saw and go with a SawStop. I'm not a SawStop guy: I think they're too expensive, it's dumb that it ruins a blade when it trips, and the founder guy is an absolute shyster.

But everything you've indicated points in that direction. You consider it a dangerous tool; you're working with small parts where your hand could be closer to the blade than you're comfortable with. It is, by every account I've seen, a quality precision tool. And the mobile base it comes with is excellent.

For your sander, look at the Ridgid combination belt/spindle oscillating sander. It's quite compact and yet the table is big enough to be usable. It's also cheap at $199. I don't have one yet but it's on my short list of things to get.

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post #12 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 10:27 AM
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As for Grizzly drill presses, they have benchtop (which are basically shorter versions of their stand alone DPs) and the "baby" type. The baby one may work, but their quill travel is less than 2" if I remember right. I don't know that you'll get one a lot smaller.

I've dinked around with them at the Grizzly showroom and in person their quality seems a lot better than the picture in the catalog suggests. They look sort of generic in the pictures but in person they're sturdy, made of good materials, and seem just as smooth as a Jet which costs a lot more.

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post #13 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 10:37 AM Thread Starter
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In your case, I'd splurge on the table saw and go with a SawStop. I'm not a SawStop guy: I think they're too expensive, it's dumb that it ruins a blade when it trips, and the founder guy is an absolute shyster.

But everything you've indicated points in that direction. You consider it a dangerous tool; you're working with small parts where your hand could be closer to the blade than you're comfortable with. It is, by every account I've seen, a quality precision tool. And the mobile base it comes with is excellent.

For your sander, look at the Ridgid combination belt/spindle oscillating sander. It's quite compact and yet the table is big enough to be usable. It's also cheap at $199. I don't have one yet but it's on my short list of things to get.
Mort, I hadn't looked at the Sawstop website because I thought all their saws are "fullsize", and I absolutely need portability. But, I'll have a look to see what they offer these days. I do love the idea of the automatic blade stop, as yes, I am pretty focused on safety for a couple of reasons:

- My dad was a carpenter and then contractor for his whole career, and he had at least one bad hand injury acquired on a radial arm saw (which I regard as safer than a table saw because the material is not being pushed (except on rip cuts), and because your one hand on the pull handle is far from the blade, and on cuts on small pieces, your other hand can be off the table altogether after clamping the piece to be cut)

- In a 13 year manufacturing management career that preceded my IT project management career, I was usually the company's safety executive, responsible for both the safety programs and management of the incidents that resulted when safety was forgotten and someone got injured or killed. In those 13 years, I had one employee who lost much of his right arm in a rubber calendering mill when he broke an inviolable rule, and an electrician who had failed to properly lock out and test a machine he was working on was actually killed by his error. Both incidents made vivid impressions. I had to drive the rubber worker's wife to the hospital at 2am, and he never worked again.

Jim G
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post #14 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 10:41 AM Thread Starter
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As for Grizzly drill presses, they have benchtop (which are basically shorter versions of their stand alone DPs) and the "baby" type. The baby one may work, but their quill travel is less than 2" if I remember right. I don't know that you'll get one a lot smaller.

I've dinked around with them at the Grizzly showroom and in person their quality seems a lot better than the picture in the catalog suggests. They look sort of generic in the pictures but in person they're sturdy, made of good materials, and seem just as smooth as a Jet which costs a lot more.
Yes, I have the unfortunate combination needs of compact benchtop size but 4" stroke, and enough power to push 1-1/2" Forstner bits into exotic hardwoods, which does make it tougher!

Jim G
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post #15 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by NickDIY
Grizzly G0516 - Combo Lathe w/ Milling Attachment That is one hell of a machine for woodworking, but wow that thing would be perfect for "Precision Toy Making" and oh, so versatile for other things. Thanks a lot woodnthings, I thought I was done buying machines. You just added a big one to my wishlist... I'm going to be drooling over that thing for months now.
I have a much larger metal lathe and milling machine. I like both machines and use them a lot, but very rarely for woodwork. I fail to see what makes this a hell of a machine for woodworking.

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post #16 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 10:47 AM Thread Starter
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. . . I like the versatility of the milling machine, but I rarely use it for woodwork. I fail to see what makes this a hell of a machine for woodworking.
A milling machine enables the MANUAL execution of everything that a CNC machine can do!! That means virtually any cutting, shaping, drilling, and sanding that you can dream up, limited only by the need to physically get the toolhead into whatever tiny working area you have to work within!

And while a CNC is more accurate than a manual milling machine, it also converts the design and execution process into a computer programming process, which, for me, takes too much of the joy out of the entire process! I love that execution phase of the process. Very relaxing. :)

Jim G
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post #17 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 10:54 AM Thread Starter
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Ok, check out this Grizzly radial drill press:

http://www.grizzly.com/products/Radi...ll-Press/G9969

What a machine!! You can drill at vertical or at up to 45 degree angles while leaving the workpiece clamped flat, and you can bring the spindle right up near the column or up to over 22" out!

Too bad it weighs 375 lb (net, over 500 lb shipped). . .

This one, while a bit short on stroke, might work because it is SO much lighter in weight:

http://www.grizzly.com/products/5-Sp...ll-Press/G7945

Jim G

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post #18 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 11:13 AM
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without quoting all the above posts ....

I recommend the lathe/mill for small "precision" toys " because there are times when you will want to turn small wheels, make slotted holes, drill vertically or at angles, etc. I have a 9" South Bend metal lathe and a 13" SB also and I do use it occasionally to turn wood or plastic.

There are times when I really wish I had a small vertical mill, but I can get by with a metal cutting vertical bandsaw, a grinder, and a belt sander and some files for what I need. My 20" Jet drill press will make a 1" hole in any material I have, but I use my small 10" Craftsman for a whole lot of woodworking tasks like Forstner bits and hole saws.

As far as bandsaws, I have a 10" Craftsman which I use to cut smaller radius curves. The larger 14" Craftsman I use for general woodwork and for resawing I use the 18" Minmax. You may want to look at the 10" models by Craftsman and Rikon... they are identical, but the Craftsman may be cheaper. I have a Ryobi (read cheap) scrollsaw which I rarely use, but my projects don't involve inside cuts or very tight radius curves.

If you want your entire shop to be a benchtop shop, there are certainly many models to get you there. I have a Bosch 4000 job site saw 10" table saw (the older model) that is very powerful, quiet, and has a decent fence. I used it to make tongue and groove flooring repairs with an 1/8" dado and rabbets on all 4 sides of the pre-finished (read cheap) flooring a friend had purchased and needed replacement.


A 4"x 36" belt sander is used very frequently in my wood shop with a 9" disc right beside it. The disc gets clogged readily with fine (read 120 or 150 grit) paper on it, but the belt sander is used for roughing with a 60 or 80 grit belt. It would be perfect for small parts for toys. I use belt sander in a horizontal position for easy working of flat surfaces.

Just get started ...... you will find out which machines you really need most.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #19 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 11:21 AM
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I have a bench top drill press I bought at Northern Tool. It has a 3/4 hp motor and works pretty well. I have used some big Forstner bits to bore holes/recessed in hard maple with fair success. You can bog it down. But for most stuff, it works just fine. I built a cabinet with drawers that store everything drill press. Very handy and instant storage. I also built a table for the drill press. That works great. The plan was in Shop Notes, but I modified it a little. Lots of clamping possibilities with the tracks and slots.

So, my suggestion is 3/4hp minimum.

And...band saw, table saw, miter saw, sander...basically the whole enchilada in a work shop. It doesn't really matter if you are building small stuff or big stuff. Having the tool available saves a lot of frustration in the long run.

Oh, and a router table for handling the round or curvy parts.

Good luck.
Mike
Note: I do all of my work in a one car garage. I have all of the tools mentioned earlier (except for scroll saw) and build everything from yard art to kitchen cabinets and everything in between.
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post #20 of 58 Old 12-05-2015, 11:22 AM
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I have a much larger metal lathe and milling machine. I like both machines and use them a lot, but very rarely for woodwork. I fail to see what makes this a hell of a machine for woodworking.
Hell of a machine = overkill (not needing that level of precision). Sarcasm.
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