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Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #1 
what generally are good woods used to make toys?
Thank you,
cynthia lewman

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Posts: 354
Reply with quote  #2 

Hi johnnyw,

Depending on where you live in the world will determine the wood types you have access to. Here in the United States a very common and inexpensive wood that we like to use is White Pine. You can really use any type of wood you'd like.

To get the different darknesses of wood we like to use stains. Here in the US we use MinWax stains. They come in a variety of colors and can make White Pine look like Cherry wood or Mahogany or whatever color you prefer.

I don't know what home improvement stores you have access to but in the US we buy our wood at Home Depot or Lowe's. They also carry premium project panels in a variety of thicknesses. Here's a few tips:

·         Our toy plans use varying thicknesses of wood including 1/8", 1/4", 1/2" and 1-1/2" (which can be two 3/4" pieces laminated together or you can use common framing lumber). You can really use whatever type of wood you like. We like to use the Baltic Birch Plywood Panels available at Home Depot or Lowe's (if you can't find them in the store ask customer service since they sometimes are hard to see when browsing the aisles). We also like MDF (medium density fiberboard) project panels. Usually both are available in 2' x 4' panels.

·         If your new to the scroll saw or are used to cutting thinner woods we recommend reading our article on choosing the correct scroll saw blade:

For finishing the toys you can paint them (do not paint the surfaces to be glued - if you need more detailed information on our painting techniques please let me know), or you can finish them with our very popular easy-to-make Non-Toxic Bees Wax Paste that's applied over bare wood. You can watch the How-To video here:


Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #3 
Thank you, I live in Ohio and was not sure it was better to use hardwoods or if it even matters. I saw the video on making the bees wax paste and it is a great video.
Thank you - John
cynthia lewman

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Posts: 354
Reply with quote  #4 
Hi John,
   Yes, you can use hardwoods or soft woods when building toys. The only time it matters is if you're giving the toy to a baby then you want to use a very hard wood such as hard Maple since babies will chew on the toys. We sell a plan set Playful Baby Teethers Ornaments where we recommend using hard Maple.

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Posts: 1,179
Reply with quote  #5 

Hello jonnyw: Selecting what wood to use depends on a lot of variables. Will I be making one or many? I start with reviewing what wood would suit the toy and where will the toy be used. Indoors or outdoors determines what glue type to use. Next I have to ask myself will the toy be painted, unpainted or include stained components or will some components be cooked/heat tinted. Is the wood I wish to use readily available or do I have to make up the panels myself? If the wood thickness is not readily/locally available,  take a look at WTN (Wood Toy News) Oct 9/13 article which discusses using various push blocks to make thin wood strips and the accompanying video which demonstrates their use .  Once you have cut your thin strips you may find the additional WTN dated Sept.17/13 of interest, and its accompanying video which demonstrates how to glue many thin strips to create wide panels and how to make the Wide Board Glue Jig. The tools you have access to or own in the shop are also a contributing factor. If you are fortunate to have access to or own a band saw, board thickness planer , table saw and jointer, just to name a few,  then you can make any thickness and width you wish. You really do not need all of these tools to make any of the plan sets. The plan sets are focused on using common tools usually found in a workshop and use materials which are locally/readily available meaning wood types and thicknesses. As Cynthia has mentioned, your geographical location will also play an important part.   Woods like Oak, Maple, Pine, Popular and MDF of various thicknesses are available to me locally at big box stores and fortunately I also have a specialty/exotic wood supplier local also. Baltic birch plywood is also an excellent choice and is available in three (3), five (5) and nine (9) layer constructions. If you are looking for longevity and durability, hardwoods are the way to go and certainly walnut is great for the colour. Locally available veneered plywood is also an acceptable wood to use along with framing lumber and its counterpart dressed lumber like Pine. Last contributing factor in wood selection is your pocket book. Hope this helps. I would like to solicit the help from Forum Community and ask them to jump in and post their wood selection for the plan sets they have constructed. It would really help in creating a database for members to reference.


Posts: 5
Reply with quote  #6 
I was thinking of using walnut and oak or maple. I have all the tools from making furniture to get the thickness I need and a supplier to get rough sawn stock.
Thank you for all he help. Thank you - John

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Posts: 238
Reply with quote  #7 
hi johnnyw 
   i use a lot of pine in my toys i use hardwoods on some of the sets and birch plywood i like to use  pine as its easly to work with fairley low cost and in the uk you can get it from any of  the diy stores. i do sell some of  my toys so using pine dos keep the cost down.

Gary Wisbey

Posts: 95
Reply with quote  #8 

In Australia I tend to use the following:Cypress pine (cheap as!!)
Camphor Laurel
Australian or Red Oak
New Zealand beech
Silky Oak
occasionally some exotics but NEVER pine or Meranti


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Posts: 20
Reply with quote  #9 
Johnnyw, I also live in Ohio (Columbus) and I prefer to use hardwoods for most toys as I do paint them. A low cost hardwood that takes paint well and has very fine grain to give a smooth finish is popular. I do buy mine from a sawmill in rough board form and mill it down to the needed thickness myself, but it is available at Lowe's also. Even the end grain is very tight and easy to prime for a great finish. I have used pine but the difference between the early and late wood, the light and dark streaks, makes painting a bit more work
Bruce R Smith
1/2 of The Woodsmiths

Posts: 3
Reply with quote  #10 
   I use recycled pallet wood in making my toys.  I find pine, fir, cedar, oak, maple, and mystery woods.  I have to clean it up, mill it to size, and glue together to get required thicknesses.  It is a lot of work but the wood is free and can be easily found.

Posts: 71
Reply with quote  #11 
   I prefer pine because a 2 x4 x 8 is $2.00 and a 2 x 6 x 8 is around $5.00 (on sale )...Kind of a pain ripping them but you have a huge margin for error when you miss cut a piece [smile]
Black Wolf
Laurie Smith

Posts: 13
Reply with quote  #12 
   I notice there is wide spread use of MDF in toy making, including here in Australia. Its use worries me because Wikipedia lists MDF as a possible carcinogenic. Am I being a bit of a worry wart.
john lewman

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Posts: 1,792
Reply with quote  #13 
Hi Laurie,

MDF solids are thought to be carcinogenic if swallowed or breathed as dust in large quantities over an extended period of time. The sawdust from MDF can be a problem for those with allergies which is true of any wood, and a dust mask should be worn if processing without a vacuum attached to the woodworking tool.

In my opinion, teething type toys for infants should never be made from MDF or any other wood product, with the exception of hard maple. Hard maple makes a great teething toy. A teething toy should never be constructed of MDF because the child creates dangerous splinters while chewing it. The splinters  become lodged in the mouth, throat, stomach and intestines.

MDF has been used in the construction of millions of kitchen drawers, shelves and cabinets for over 40 years. I love to cook and I am very health conscious, and all of my pots, pans, dishes, utensils and food items that are stored at room temperature are in cabinets made from MDF. 

Since 1970 I have personally created over 30,000 toys of all sizes and shapes using MDF as the main material and that includes tens of thousands of MDF wheels that I made using a custom wheel tool on a drill press. None of the toys were for infants. Many of the toys are still being played with every day. I've even seen a few of my toys in antique shops. That is a sobering experience! 

I have made several hundred day nursery farm toys for the National Dairy Council that have been a great success and are loved by both the Council and the children who have played with them. All of the animals, vehicles, wheels and farm workers are sawn and carved in MDF. The barn and milk houses are made from Poplar lumber, another favorite wood of mine for making toys.

I have suffered no ill effects from my massive exposure to MDF in my kitchen and in my workshop from 1969 up to today. I am confident that MDF is a safe, economical, easily worked and durable material for creating wood toys. I really enjoy working with it. It is similar to oak in weight. That's a plus for small toys because it adds a feeling of substance and quality.

It is good to keep in mind that almost all woods pose serious health risks when injested into the stomach or into the lungs.The rule of thumb isIf it is MDF or wood, you should not chew on it or eat it. If there is MDF or wood dust in the air, you should wear a dust mask.

I wish you the very best with your adventures into toymaking. I have enjoyed it since I made my first wood toy at my mountain home in Oregon in 1949. I hope that you will find the joy that I have found in this wonderful craft. It has inspired and sustained me throughout my life.

Happy Toymaking!
Laurie Smith

Posts: 13
Reply with quote  #14 
   Hi John, Experience is a great teacher, and your experience over a long period combined with sensible handling of MDF does make me feel better about the product. John, my toys could not be considered works of art, but are strong and colourful and I get satisfaction donating to where they are needed. I love this forum and certainly will gain from it, and maybe contribute now and again.  Cheers Laurie.

Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #15 
Thanks.....I have been experimenting with MDF, but wasn't sure how it would hold up.  Your insight and years of experience really helps.
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