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BadBob

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Reply with quote  #1 
I see questions about this turn up here and other places from time to time. Enough where It should be at the top of a list somewhere in a toy makers FAQ.

Commercially made wheels are turned on a lathe with the sides of the wheel being across the grain. Wood expands and contracts as the humidity changes.

Shop made wheels are usually made from flat sawn wood cut from boards with a hole saw or other means of cutting a circle and sanded round some are turned on a lathe.

Wood is a natural material that expands and contracts according to the amount of moisture in the wood. Wood adsorbs moisture at the rate of about 1% for every 5% change in humidity.

Wood does not expand the same in all directions. This photo illustrates these differences.


Wood Movement.jpg 

It should be easy to see why the wheels could go out of round. As the wood absorbs or looses moisture it doesn't do this evenly. In a particular wheel this could make a noticeable change. Fortunately for us this isn't a problem for most of our toys but it is easy to see where it could occur. If you were to take you callipers and measure a large pile of wheels you would probaly not find many if any of them that are perfectly round.

Another place you might see the wood expansion cause a problem in toy making is with dowels. You should always test fit you dowels to be sure they fit the holes you want to use them in. A 1/4 inch dowel is not always exactly 1/4 inch but you drill bit is always a 1/4 inch. Axel holes should lean toward a little loose as opposed to a little snug. A snug fitting axle can stop turning if it is exposed to a moist environment. If you are using axle pegs and a wheel shrinks a little it may stop turning. If you are using water based finishes you may have noticed that things fit a little tighter after you paint. Or you find a dowel that fit the hole fine until you put glue on it and it expanded just a little.

I find expansion form water based paints a real problem when using MDF. The moisture from the paint causes the holes to swell shut so much that I need to redrill all the holes after painting. This is such a problem that I'm considering drilling after I paint. MDF is especially prone to issues inserting dowels with glue. The  wood fibers on the dowel swell a little and the MDF swells a lot more and the dowel need to be pressed in with a clamp or vise at the risk of damaging or destroying the toy.

I've got to the point where I dry fit and test everything before assembly Because it is difficult to fix a wheel that doesn't turn right once it's glued together.

Nick Engler's page on wood movement and moisture.

Manufacturing a Toy Wood Wheel - Maine Wood Concepts



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toynut

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Reply with quote  #2 
Here in AZ, much of the year is dry, about 16% humidity. Then there is monsoon which is very hot and humid. (up to 112 with 97 humidity) So, here, humidity definitely enters the picture when making wheels. I make my wheels during the dry periods and immediately seal them with shellac. If the wheel is going to be glued on the axle I first put a tight fitting dowel through the hole. If it is to spin free, I shellac the hole as well. The axle hole can be modified to fit, if necessary, at toy assemble time. This procedure has worked very well.
BadBob

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Wow! That's a big swing. I lived in California in the 60s for a few years. I remember the humidity being so low that we could not paint cars because the paint would dry so fast it was dry before it hit the surface. You just blew dust around. I'll bet shellac dries  super fast at 16% humidity.

Here in Tallahassee FL we regularly start the morning at 100% and decrease to around 40% in late after noon. It pretty much does this year round tending toward more humidly during cooler weather. The humidity causes me with finishing issues. 


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Actually, shellac isn't all that hard to handle, especially in the wee morning hours before sun rise. There is usually plenty of working time to coat toy wheels or a small toy. However, clear poly and most glues are next to impossible. I try to do  my more serious painting and assembly projects in the fall and spring when the temp is 65-90 and humidity 30-40%. (a rather short period of time)
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