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Alphabet Train Pull Toy

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Delight Your Child or Grandchild on Christmas Day

Pattern designed by John A. Nelson

Walking through a mall around Christmastime can be jarring to the senses. Store windows are ablaze in flashing lights. Beeping and binging fill the air as electronic boutiques tout their latest video games. Kids tug at parents’ sleeves, begging for yet another video game to add to their collection.

If you’re at all like me, I steer clear of that hoopla. The gifts I like to give and I know children still like to receive are made from wood, like this fun pull toy, the Alphabet Train. Designed by my longtime friend John A. Nelson, it is just the type of project I prefer. It’s easy to make and is made from pine, so it’s not expensive. And it was all cut with my favorite tool, a scroll saw.

Step 1: Select your wood, making sure it is knot-free. Cut it to size, 31/2" x 4" per train piece. Now cut the spacers and the wheels to size using a jig similar to the one seen in the photo.

Step 2: Photocopy your pattern, keeping the original for future use. Spray the pattern—and not the wood—with temporary bond spray adhesive. (See TIP box below to learn a “neat” way to apply the adhesive.) Apply the patterns to cut wood pieces.

Step 3: Drill blade entry holes using the 1/8"-diameter bit for interior cuts. Continuing with the drill, change the bit to the 9/32"-diameter bit and make the holes for the axels to move freely. Keep that bit in place and drill the holes in the spacers. Change to 1/4"-diameter bit for the wheels only. I encourage you to use a jig again to secure the round spacers and wheels in place as you drill.

Step 4: Thread a #5 reverse tooth blade through the entry hole and begin cutting your interior cuts. Continue making all interior cuts, then cut the outsides of the shapes.

Step 5:Sand all cut parts, including wheels and spacers. I find that 220-grit sandpaper works best. Remove sanding dust with either an air hose or a wipe cloth to ensure a smooth surface for painting.

Step 6: Paint your train, making sure you use a non-toxic paint. Acrylics work great and they are kid safe. Spray with a matte finish to give it a professional look.

Step 7: Now it’s time to make the couplings for the train using an awl and eye screws. The awl is used in two ways. First use it to make an indentation for centering the eyescrew. (Pine is soft enough that you just hand screw the eyescrew into the wood.) You can also use the awl to pry open the eye to make the hooks to allow the train cars to connect. Don’t forget to put an eyescrew on the front of the engine to make it a pull toy.

Tip: Alternatives to Buying Wheels

Instead of purchasing wheels, you can make them from 1"-diameter dowels.

Cheap-o Spray Box

Using spray adhesive can be messy. The trick is to contain the overspray. I’ve found that an old 12" x 15" cardboard box works great. Hold the pattern inside the box to spray it.

Materials

  • 28, 3/4" x 31/2" x 4" pine (or scrap wood of choice)
  • Temporary bond spray adhesive
  • Sandpaper, 220 grit
  • 56 eyescrews
  • 1/4"–diameter dowels 21/8" long (axels)
  • 112, 5/8"-diameter x 1/4" wide spacers
  • 112, 1"-diameter x 3/8" wide wooden wheels
  • Wipe rag
  • Acrylic craft paints
  • Craft paint brush
  • Matte spray finish

Tools

  • #5 Flying Dutchman-Scroll Reverse blade
  • Drill with 1/4"-, 1/8"- and 9/32"-diameter bits
  • Awl
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Comments (7 posted):

JohnB on 07/08/2010 20:37:08
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Interesting method, but could cause problems with breakage as there are some very thin cross grain pieces.
wood-n-things on 07/08/2010 21:51:25
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I noticed that as well John. I also noticed the downloads are named incorrectly. They have been reversed.
Frisco on 07/26/2011 06:52:02
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I found the article and instructions pretty well documented, but I have to say it's impossible to drill the center out of 5/8" dowel stock by pushing it into a right-angle wood jig like the one shown here. My solution was to take some 2x6 stock and clamp it to the drill press. Using a 5/8" paddle bit, I bored a 3/8" deep hole in the wood. Then I bored a 3/8" hole the rest of the way through. Now you can press the spacers into the hole, drill it with the appropriate bit and push it back out of the hole with a 3/8" drill bit from the bottom up. Over time the hole starts to wear and the spacers start to spin and stick to the drill bit. You can use an awl to create back pressure against the direction of rotation. To drill the wheels, use a 1" paddle bit and re-drill the hole for the wheels. Rinse and repeat. I recommend painting the wheels and spacers after they are drilled and sanded. Otherwise you run the risk of ruining the finish. It's easy to string them on a long piece of Cat5 wire and spray them. I built three of these trains for my grandkids. They're really cute.
wood-n-things on 07/26/2011 09:41:48
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Thanks for the tip.
boharris on 10/09/2011 19:36:19
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I was hoping i had my glasses on backward, but they aren't. I just cut out some of the letters and noticed the "Z" is reversed. LOL. I was wondering why the paper was on the other side from all the rest. But i guess since i'm cutting these out for my grand daughter with a different name as ZALEY, I guess she can consider herself special too. :smile_old: I have been scrolling years and i have worked for a railroad for 30+ years and i'm always doing train things. This was a pattern i have not seen. But then again i may have been doing this WAY too long and the "Z" may be right after all. haha
JohnC on 11/18/2013 17:39:33
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As a new scroll sawer I liked the looks of this project. My only question as a newbee is how to you attach the wheels so they can turn? I thought of glueing the spacer outside of the wheel to hold in place, but that isn't what the pattern showed.
Jim Finn on 11/18/2013 22:54:51
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How do I get to this article? The link brought me to a page where I did not see anything about alphabet trains there.
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Dale Whisler
Dale Whisler, known as the grandfather of the scroll saw picnics, lives in Stevens, Pa. more