Tag Archives: train

How to drill axle holes in train chassies

I make hundreds of train cars each year. Each has an identical chassis with 4 axle holes. These holes need to be bored quite accurately and in the same plane or the train car will wobble. I use a clamping fixture to align the stock to facilitate this. It consists of two parallel fences mounted on a plywood base. The stock slides between these fences as the holes are bored one at a time. I use plexiglass strips on the near fence to apply pressure to keep the stock in close contact with the back fence. This keeps chips from slipping between which makes for inaccurately placed holes. I also use a pneumatic clamp to apply about 30 pounds of pressure to the stock to hold it securely in position. I bore slowly with a high quality brad point drill bit to prevent the bit from wandering thru the varying densities of the rings in the White Ash hardwood. I also make sure I have a good book to listen to while doing all this boring boring. You can see a video of the process on youtube.

Looking down at the fixture on my drill press table.drill jig for train chassis

“You can discover more about a person in an
hour of play than in a year of conversation.”

Hi John,
We bought our first toys from you—wooden block cart and rocking horse- when I was pregnant with our first child. We met you then—27 years ago this summer—in State College Pa. This Christmas we are delighted to be able to buy the same toys for our grandson and granddaughter. Is there still time to get them for Christmas?
We still have those original toys as well as several others we have bought since and they have been well loved by all .
Thanks for the many years of enjoyment.


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Five train locomotives

train five engines

Five Train Engines were made today and show their fresh Walnut Oil finish in the picture above. They are made from Walnut, Beech, Cherry, Ash and Birch. Walnut oil is a traditional wood finish, used for centuries, and has the advantage of being a drying oil. This means that it avoids the mess and possible rancidity of other vegetable oils and it has the added advantage of being safe to touch and taste. I usually make toys in small groups; groups large enough to gain some efficiency, but small enough to avoid boredom. So my smaller toys are born in single digit litters and the larger toys as twins or triplets. And while they arrive at your door newly born they are fully ready to play.

train building (1)
Two engine chassis in rough form made from American Beech wood. You can see 23 other train cars at my website.

The best friend on earth of man is the tree.  When we use the tree respectfully and economically, we have one of the greatest resources on the earth.

Frank Lloyd Wright

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June 25, 2013 · 10:17 pm

Band-sawing a steam boiler on a wooden toy train.

Band-sawing a steam boiler on a wooden toy train.

This picture shows how I make the boilers on my train locomotives. It isn’t difficult but does take a very sharp band saw blade to rip thru 4 inches of White Ash long grain. Significant operator care helps to prevent blood stains on the wood. They are so time consuming to remove. 😉

I use a 4 tooth per inch, hook style blade. The hook shaped teeth almost draw the wood into the blade lessening the feed pressure I have to exert. A routed, bored and sanded boiler can be partially seen in the lower left of the above picture. An older bandsaw is pictured below showing fewer guards and covers than modern tools.


“Apparently the new high-tech Star Wars toys will be in stores any day now. The toys can talk and are interactive, so they can be easily distinguished from Star Wars fans.”
— Conan O’Brien

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June 24, 2013 · 6:11 pm

Woodworking technique idea

Making the parts to some of my toys gets pretty tricky. One part I made last week was for my train’s caboose. The walnut cupola atop the cherry caboose requires a precise angle to fit nicely. While a table saw can be used for this part I prefer to use my router as it seems safer and more precise. I use a straight bit mounted in my router table and add a couple of auxiliary fences to guide the stock as I slide it over the bit with push sticks. I think the attached “pictures are worth a thousand words” as they say. Getting the stock to the proper angle for machining involves tacking a couple of thin strips (the walnut strips shown in the left of the photo) along the main fence. Some experimentation is necessary to find what strip thickness results in the proper angle.




It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so much by it as to be able to do little jobs myself in my house when a workman could not readily be got, and to construct little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the experiment was fresh and warm in my mind.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin 1757

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