The name ‘Teddy bear’ was first given to toy bears made from mohair and other fur-like fabrics. The name originated from an incident in Mississippi in 1902 when the then President of the USA, Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, went bear hunting. After a fruitless trip, an American black bear was cornered and presented to the President to shoot as a trophy, but he refused to kill the exhausted bear, deeming it unsportsmanlike. Later, a cartoon depicting the incident appeared in the Washington Post, showing the president and a bear cub captioned as Teddy’s bear.
At the same time, in Germany, the Steiff firm began to produce toy bears. By 1906 Teddy bears were being manufactured by many different toy makers.
Since the first teddies were made there have been versions in all shapes and sizes and made in many different materials as diverse as silver, plastic and, as in this article, wood.
Any kind of wood can be used to make a jointed wooden Teddy. In this example, Scots pine was chosen, in the hope that the grain of the wood would imitate the fabric versions. Enlarge the drawings so that the bear is 195mm tall. All the other templates will then be to scale.
Things you will need…
• Hand saw
• Electric drill
• 76mm length of dowel
• Disc sander — optional
• Range of planes and abrasives
• Coarse tungsten carbide tipped drum burr, or similar
• 12mm drum sander
• Pitch pine oil-based stain
• Kitchen towel
• Pencil and protractor
• Two-part epoxy adhesive
• Elasticated hairband
• A pair of dividers
• Decorative eyes
• Length of 2mm wire
• PPE due to power carving: face mask, respirator/dust mask and extraction
1. Mark out both adjacent shapes on the relevant pieces of wood. Notice that the shoulder and hip parts are on the flat part of the wood; this will be the bearing surface for the joints. These joints are made by drilling and inserting plugs — sections of dowels — which will locate into holes on the body.
«The arm and leg joint holes in the body have to be drilled after band-sawing the body shape».
2. Using the template, mark the position of the holes and drill them about 5mm deep, with a 16mm Forstner or sawtooth bit, ready to accept a short length of suitable dowel. Also drill the body block from the neck end to within 12mm of the base of the body. The arm and leg joint holes in the body have to be drilled after band-sawing the body shape.
3. You can now drill the head block about 12mm deep.
4. Use a band-saw to cut the side profiles of the arms, legs and body. Leave small bridges of wood — arrowed — so that the face at right angles to the other side, which has the other template outline on it, is retained for sawing that face.
5. Cut out the side profile of the head and legs and the side of the body.
6. The sides of the body have to be prepared accurately because they are the other bearing surface for the arm and leg joints. First, cut off the angled shapes with the band-saw. The two facets on each side have to be flattened either on a disc sander, or by hand with planes or abrasives.
7. Once the body facets are prepared, hold the body in a vice and horizontally drill each facet in turn until the drill bit breaks through into the central hole that was made in step 3.
8. Mark out the top view of the bear’s head using the template provided. Remove the waste with the band-saw or hand saw.
9. Around each of the joint holes mark a 25mm diameter ring. This will give a band about 3mm wide which will be the bearing surface for the joints and must not be removed during the carving process.
10. Mark along the high line along all faces of the arms and legs.
11 Shape the arms and legs with a coarse tungsten carbide tipped drum burr or a similar cutter.
When you are preparing the timber for this project, lay out the pieces and try to have the grain mirror matching so that in the finished carving, it looks symmetrical.
Keep all the offcuts from sawing out the shapes; these may be useful for colour testing later in the project.
Keep all templates until the end of the project — if you make a mistake, then it will save time when you make another unit.
12. Shape the head, remembering to keep all the forms flowing into each other to give a soft feel to the shape. Shape the body, taking care around the joint holes and carefully shaping the typical teddy bear’s hump.
13. Once the main shaping is complete, further sanding can be carried out with a 12mm drum sander and then by hand with coarse — 100 grit — abrasives.
14. The effect of machining and sanding on timber is that the wood fibres are crushed and torn, and will revert to their earlier shape if not correctly treated, leaving a rough surface. To remedy this and achieve a smooth finish, use the ’sand and soak’ technique; after each grade of abrasive, soak the carving, allow it to dry thoroughly and continue to do that until the final sanding. Sand with 120 grit abrasives to remove scratches, then soak.
15. The final sanding with 180 grit paper. In this instance I wrapped around a piece of dowel to help get a good surface around the ears and face.
«Stain the parts of the bear to a colour of your choice….».
16. Once the sanding is finished, cut a length of 16mm dowel into 10mm sections for the arms and leg joints and one about 15mm long for the head/neck joint. Stain the parts of the bear to a colour of your choice — here pitch pine oil-based stain was applied with a small paintbrush and then wiped dry with kitchen paper.
17. Next, glue in the dowel plugs that form the joints into the leg, arm and neck sockets, using a strong glue. I used a two-part epoxy adhesive.
18. The limbs and head are held in place with an elastidsed hairband and this is attached by hooks in the joint plugs. Either buy small hooks or cut off screw eyes to form the hooks.
19. To facilitate fixing the hooks into the joint plugs, drill a pilot hole just smaller than the thread on the hooks. Put a piece of tape on the drill as a depth guide.
20. Use a two-part epoxy adhesive on the thread and screw the hooks into the joint plug on the arms, legs and neck.
21. Establish and mark the positions of the eyes, using dividers.
22. You can now fix the eyes in place using a two-part epoxy glue.
23. Thread an elasticated hair band through the leg holes then make a small hook with 2mm wire.
24. Reach the hook through the neck aperture and pull up one strand of the elasticated band, holding it there temporarily with a small stick.
25. With the hook, reach in through an arm hole and pull out one strand of the band and hook on the arm, and repeat this on the other side.
26. Hook on the neck section and withdraw the temporary holding stick. The head will locate in the hole as the elastic tightens.
27. The completed Teddy bear should look something like this.
Stain is more easily absorbed into end grain than side grain and may cause a blotchy effect. Therefore, it is important that any stain you use has been tested for suitability beforehand.
One way of minimising the blotchiness is to wet the wood first with water to raise the grain, sand it and then allow it to dry. Once dry, apply the stain or dye as required.
One misconception is that colouring things covers everything up. It does not!
The colouring process will show up any torn grain and will also highlight sharply any faults in contour and flow of body line and so on. Of course you do not have to use any colour at all, but the application of colour offers more possibilities for you to explore.
Remember, any good well proportioned design can be scaled up or down to suit your individual needs.