Children love to imitate things from the ‘real world’. This little van gives the child somewhere to put different size parcels and letters for playing ‘postman’ and can also be used to store books and toys. To avoid the problem of pinched fingers and broken hinges I used magnetic catches such as are used to keep fitted-cupboards doors shut, to hold the side door in place.

The axles and handle assembly are made from Nordic redwood and the van body is made from plywood.

Handle and axles

1 First make the front and back axle blocks that hold the wheels and steel axles in place. Mark out the shape on your timber including the curved centre portion. Carefully cut out each block, using a coping saw to remove the curved piece.

2 Drill the holes to take the steel axles, being careful to keep the drill at 90° in both planes. On the front axle block, mark and cut out the halving joint that is needed to accommodate the hitch bar for the towing handle.

3 Mark and cut out the hitch bar. Drill the hole to take the dowel that attaches it to the towing handle. Then mark and cut out the second stage of the halving joint you started on the front axle block. Finally, mark out the slot for the towing handle. Cut down both sides with a tenon saw, then use a coping saw to cut the waste piece off at the base. The coping saw frame can be swivelled at different angles to the blade which makes it an ideal tool for this sort of job.

4 Now for the handle itself. Start by marking and cutting out the basic shape.

You now have to work on the handle to give it an attractive and smooth shape and there are a variety of tools you can use to do this. Whatever you decide to use, do be certain that you remove all sharp edges and any possibility of splinters.

5 Check that the handle fits snugly into its slot in the hitch bar. Work on the pieces with glasspaper. if necessary, to get a comfortable fit.

Holding the handle in place (a helper is very useful here), drill through the hitch bar and handle in one operation, keeping the drill at 90° in both planes (see page 93), to create the hole needed for the dowel rod pin.

Cut the dowel rod to length and glue it in place so that the handle is firmly attached to the hitch bar. Make sure that no surplus glue gets on to the handle and dowel rod, otherwise the handle will not move freely.

6 As the wheels are tucked under the body of the van, spacer blocks of wood are needed to give them adequate clearance. Simply glue and screw the back wooden axle block on to its spacer block and, at a later stage, glue (and/or screw) it on to the van base.

7 The front axle is slightly different as it is designed to swivel for comfortable manoeuvring up and down garden paths. For this reason it is attached to its spacer and the van base by means of a coach bolt (see page 94).

Tape the spacer and front axle together and drill the hole for the coach bolt Now separate them and counter bore the hole in the top of the spacer (see page 93) so that the head of the coach bolt will be flush with the wood, enabling you to glue and/or screw the spacer to the underside of the van base. Assemble the front axle, spacer and coach bolt, using a washer under the nut, and when you have done the nut up tight ‘burr over’ — i.e. blunt the thread — with a hammer to prevent it coming undone.

The van body

The chassis of the van is basically four pieces of plywood glued together, with compartments inside. Do make sure you mark and cut out all the sides and partitions accurately — otherwise you’ll have terrible trouble when you come to glue them all up.

1 Cutting plywood.

2 Clamp the roof, floor, front and rear pieces together in the correct position to check for fit. You can either use very large ‘G’ clamps for this or the Stanley Webb strap. If all is well, glue the chassis together and. while the glue is still wet, check it is ‘square’ by placing a dowel rod diagonally from corner to corner. Make pencil marks on the rod where the corners are. Then place it across the other diagonal and gently adjust the plywood chassis until the corners and pencil marks line up.

As plywood only gives you a thin glueing edge, you may find it easier to fix the sides on with plastic corner blocks instead. There is a variety on the market and they are very easy to use.

3 Now fit the interior partitions. You don’t, of course, have to follow my choice of dividers, but however many you decide to fit, do cut them out accurately and glue them carefully in place.

4 Fix four magnetic catches — one in each corner of the van body — to hold the door in place. Mark and cut out the two grab handles, and then shape them with a spokeshave (page 91) till you have nice rounded edges. Glue the handles in position at each end of the door.

5 I also cut out and shaped two pieces of timber for the roof of the van. These are optional, but when glued in place at the back and front do add to the character of the finished toy. Also, because I rounded them off with a spokeshave, they are safer than the sharp corners of the plywood chassis.

Final assembly and finishing

1 Glue the wooden spacers which you have already fixed to the axle blocks to the underside of the van chassis. You can add screws for extra strength.

2 Now you are ready to finish the van with polyurethane varnish — I use three coats to get a really good result, but do not leave this toy outside.

3 Finally, fit the steel axles and wheels.

Cutting list

Body panels Make from 1554-x 610 x 9 mm (60 x 24 x 3/8 in) Plywood

Axle blocks 2 off 254 x 67 x 38mm (10 x 25/8 x 1½ in) Timber

Spacer blocks 2 off 222 x 67 x 38mm (8¾ x 25/8 x 1½ in) Timber

Hitch bar 1 off 229 x 67 x 32mm (9 x 25/8 x 1¼ in) Timber

Handle 1 off 502 x 70 x 22mm (19¾ x 2¾ x 7/8 in) Timber-

Roof shaping 2 off 305 X 47 X 22mm (12 X |7/8 X 7/8 in) Timber

Grab handles 2 off 508 x 47 x 22mm (20 x 17/8 x 7/8 in) Timber

Hitch pin 67mm (25/8 in) x 16mm (5/8 in) diam dowelling


4 off 159mm (6¼ in) diam road wheels

2 off 318mm (12½ in) x 9mm (3/8 in) diam steel axles

2 off 9mm (3/8 in) spring dome caps

1 off 76mm (3in) X 6mm (¼ in) coach bolt and nut

2 off 6mm (¼ in) ‘penny’ washers

4 off Magnetic catches

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