‘Roll up! Roll up! Roll up! Test your strength on this mighty bicep bulging machine! Only the strongest need apply – test your muscle power and stamina. Roll up! Roll up! Roll up!’

This toy is really just for fun, but it does provide a challenge for both boys and girls. After some initial testing, the children will learn that it is not all brute strength, since a certain knack can be acquired when hitting the target area which will literally rocket the disc to the top.

Before letting the children ‘loose’ on this toy, do explain how it works, and that if the mallet is not used sensibly then someone standing by could get hurt. Make sure that ‘visiting’ children understand the dangers of getting hit by the mallet or getting fingers pinched. If you don’t feel certain your children will use it sensibly, only let them loose on it under supervision!

1. Start by making the base. This is made up of a lateral cross bar (i.e. the piece of timber which goes from side to side) and a fore-and-aft base cross member (i.e. one that crosses it at right angles). Where they join in the middle you need to cut a halving joint and also drill a hole right through to take the vertical pole.

When the cross bar and cross member are finished, glue them together Fix a screwed eye into the cross member as shown on the plans.

2. Cut out the two mounting blocks of wood needed for the front of the fore-and-aft cross member. Screw them together and then screw the bottom one to the cross member by passing screws up into the wood via the underside of the cross member. Make sure that these mounting blocks are screwed firmly in place as they will have to take a great deal of pounding when the toy is in use.

3. Now make the pivot beam.

i Cut out the three pieces of timber needed, the main one of which should be made of hardwood such as beech or ash to withstand all the thumping. Glue the smaller pieces of timber to either side of one end.

ii Cut out a disc of plywood for the target area. Glue and screw this firmly onto the wide end of the pivot beam assembly. Secure fixing here is vital as the disc takes all the impact of the mallet.

iii Attach the underside of the pivot beam to the top mounting block using a back flap hinge. Buy one that has plenty of fixing holes and a good stout knuckle joining the two halves together.

iv Now mark out the fork end of the pivot beam on to a piece of plywood. Use a jigsaw to cut out the curves and the slot. Pre-drill the holes for screws that will attach it to the pivot beam. Glass-paper the edges and then screw it in position.

v Fit a screwed eye to the underside of the end of the main pivot beam. Attach a piece of elastic (catapult elastic is best) to this eye and attach the other end to the screwed eye in the fore-and-aft cross member.

vi Glue a thin rubber pad on to the top mounting block to absorb some of the shock.

4. Cut a piece of dowel rod to length for the vertical pole. Glue it in position in the base of the strength tester. Slide a length of plastic overflow pipe over the dowel rod – this will provide a smooth surface for the height-indicating disc to slide on.

5. Cut out the height-indicating disc from plywood and drill a hole in the centre. This should be slightly larger in diameter than the plastic pipe to allow it to slide up and down easily. Drop it over the top of the pole.

6. Cut out the piece of timber for the top arm and drill a hole for the top of the dowel rod pole. Screw a hook in to each end of this arm. Glue the arm on to the dowel rod.

7. Make a scale by painting numbers on to a length of timber. You could also use plastic tape to mark off the sections. I suggest you place the numbers at different distances and make it very hard to reach 4 and 5 on the scale. Drill a hole at the top so that it can be hung on one of the hooks in the top arm.

8. Shape up the mallet head from a block of soft wood. Drill a hole for the dowel rod handle and glue a rubber pad on to each of the two striking surfaces.

Cut the handle to length and drill a hole through the end for a piece of cord. Tie a loop of cord through the hole so that the mallet can be hung up on the other hook on the top arm.

Glue the handle very securely into the mallet head.

9. Glass-paper the toy all over and use bright non-toxic exterior paints and plastic tape to make the strength-tester worthy of any fairground or fête.

Cutting list

Lateral base cross bar 1 off 610 × 64 × 44mm (24 × 2½ × 1¾ in) Timber

Fore and aft base cross member 1 off 610 × 64 × 44mm (24 × 2½ × 1¾ in) Timber

1 off 178 × 64 × 44mm (7 × 2½ × 1¾ in) Timber

1 off 140 × 64 × 44mm (5½ × 2½ × 1¾ in) Timber

Vertical pole 1 off 1475mm(58in) × 20mm (¾in) diam dowelling

Top arm 1 off 305 × 44 × 44mm (12 × 1¾ × 1¾ in) Timber

Height indicating disc 1 off 140 × 140 × 9mm (5½ × 5½ × 3/8in) Plywood

Fork end 1 off 292 × 102 × 6mm (11½ × 4 × ¼in) Plywood

Target area 1 off 140 × 140 × 6mm (5½ × 5½ × ¼in) Plywood

Pivot beam 1 off 457 × 35 × 25mm (18 × 1½ × 1in) Timber

2 off 165 × 35 × 25mm (6½ × 1½ × 1in) Timber

Scale 1 off 635 × 44 × 12mm (25 × 1¾ × ½ in) Timber

Mallet 1 off 127 × 95 × 70mm (5 × 3¾ × 2¾ in) Timber

1 off 508mm(20in) × 22mm (7/8 in) diam dowelling


2 off 20mm (¾ in) screwed eyes

2 off 20mm (¾ in) screwed hooks

1 off 1475mm (58in) × 22mm (7/8in) 1/diam plastic water waste pipe

25mm (1in) steel hinge

1 off 305mm (12in) length 3mm (1/8in) square ‘catapult’ elastic and lashing thread

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