Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wood Woodpecker

The Wood Woodpecker. This was one of those "proof-of-concept" projects that just ended up working well enough that he became an actual toy. He is really simple to make and doesn't take much time to complete.

A good friend and colleague of mine, ummm let's just call her "Martha" (because that is her real name), had this folk toy humming bird on her desk for years. You just give him a little tap and he pecks his way down a 10" pole. The motion is very smooth and the toy is very cute and simple to use. Of course, the first time I saw it I wanted to make one.

The hummingbird is cute but I decided that I liked the pecking action of the toy and wanted to make a woodpecker instead. Afraid that my toy wouldn't be ornithologically correct and I'd lose any chance of ever sitting on the editorial board of "Toy Woodpeckers Quarterly", I searched for some inspiration and came up with this fellow: Picoides pubescens - The Downy Woodpecker. Simple colors and I figured I could make him interesting and fun without spending months to get him to look just right. 

The body on Martha's hummingbird is carved. My carving skills are, how can I put this delicately without hurting my own feelings... well, I stink at it. I tried to carve a little bear once and instead, I really did a number on my thumb. (To add insult to the injury, everyone I showed the finished bear to said, "Oh, is that a pig?" Real nice.) To be safe, I decided to go two dimensional and use my favorite bit of scrap wood that always seems to around - 1/2" pine. (It is the potato of the toy making world. It can be used in just about everything.)

I cut him out with a bandsaw but a coping saw and a little bit of patience would have worked just as well. From head to tail he is 1 3/4" long and 3/4" from beak to back of head. He has a 3/16" hole drilled in his body about a inch down from his head (just a little past his midpoint.) I painted him with acrylics, sealed him with polyurethane and glued on the googly eyes. 

The spring that makes this toy works is 3/16" in diameter and I stretched it slightly to make it...well... springier. As everyone knows I am really cheap and love the idea of reusing found and leftover stuff. This spring was actually one of the few usable pieces that could be salvaged from some obsolete equipment we were getting rid of at my old job. (The funny thing is that those machines originally cost $600 so, in a way that is how much this toy cost. Just, not to me.)

The pole on the hummingbird is smooth but I went with a threaded 12" long 1/8" rod purchased from the local Meglo-Mart. I think the threads help slow him down and it also meant I could attach him to the base using a T-nut. The base is just a block that I had around. It can be any size but mine is 3/4" thick and about 3 1/2" x 4 1/2".
What a T-Nut looks like. Drill a pilot hole in the base and then tap it in.I used a little epoxy to hold the pole in the T-Nut just to be sure it wouldn't wiggle out.

The last thing to do is attach the spring to the bird and to the bead that slides down the pole. I drilled pilot holes and used epoxy to hold it in place. After that dried I put the bird on the pole and then glued another wood bead to the top of the pole so that a) the bird wouldn't take a walk and b) it just finishes it off nicely. The beads are from the craft store and are about 1/2" in diameter. They already had a hole just a bit larger than 1/8" through the center so that worked perfectly.

So, that's that. This toy only took a few dollar and a couple of hours to build but has lasted for years.


  1. You, sir are an artiste. My local library hosts an Artists Exhibition in which Artists are Exhibited - perhaps yours does as well?

  2. my wife is looking for something excaly like this, do you know what this is called to find her one?

  3. katy - Search for "Woodpecker toy" and you'll see a fair number at online wooden toy stores and on sites like Amazon. Or, you could make her one :)


Just Saying...

While we don’t necessarily need more objects, we just might benefit from more making.
- John Dunnigan


About Me

My Photo
Regular guy who likes to make stuff who lives with a very patient wife, three daughters and three cats.