Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Making a Spool Racer (aka Spooldozer!)

Growing up in the DC area, I used to spend a fair amount of my time watching Channel 20. By "fair", I pretty much mean every waking moment.

Afternoons, in between Captain 20's gerbil races and "Banana Splits" episodes, Channel 20 would run Jhoon Rhee commercials and some odd little 30 second to 1 minute long "how to" films for kids. One of them that really stuck with me was "The Spooldozer."

Maybe it was that I still had "Killdozer" on the brain, but something about the Spooldozer spot really grabbed me. Basically, it is just an old folk toy that usually gets called a "Spool Racer" or a "Spool Tractor." There are a lot of variations of this simple toy and it really only takes a minute to put together. So let's make one.

  You'll need
  A wooden spool
  A rubber band
  A push pin
  A short piece of dowel or a pencil
  A washer or any small disk to sit between the dowel and the spool.

Thread one end of the rubber band through the hole in the center of the spool. I find that using an un-bent (de-bent? re-bent? un-bendified?) paperclip with the end as a hook works well. Just fish it through and pull the edge of the rubber band through. Secure it with the push pin.

Now, working on the other side of the spool, thread the rubber band through the washer (in this case a 1" toy wheel I happened to have around) and then over the dowel. The washer can be made of anything and greatly reduces friction.

I used a 4 1/2" piece of 3/16" dowel, but you could use anything from a pencil to a chopstick for this. Have the front of the stick be about flush with the front of the spool.

So here is the finished push pin side:

The finished washer/lever side.

The completed Spooldozer

Now here is the scary part... you're done. Seriously, it is time to start playing with it. Just wind the dowel clockwise a few dozen times until it starts to get tight and then set it down and let it go.

Now a few things to keep in mind (and dare I say... ponder...)

  • The weight and length of the dowel/pencil will impact how fast and straight the toy will run.
  • It gets better traction on carpet than wood. On wood it tends to spin in place if it has wound up too much. (No doubt there is a physics lesson in here somewhere...)
  • Small rubber bands can be placed around the ends of the spool to improve traction.
  • Remember though, kids don't mind if it spins out and acts all crazy. It is a toy.
So there you go. About as simple as it gets.

You know... maybe this is too simple. A wise crustacean I used to work with operated under a guiding principle that stated -"Why make it simple, when you can make it complex."

Let's just say, with a little bit of wood from, ummm, maybe a clementine box, and a lot of time, a more complicated version can be made. However, that is for a different day and a separate posting.

  1 comment:

  1. C'mon,you are slippin' dude!You can attach the coffee stirrer propeller to the end of the spooldozer,and then attachify it to the pop pop boat hull,and them Barbies''could Rip acrost the pond!!!!12 yr old mad scienteeeest adds 2 cents!( Hey,I just noticed there ain't no old fashioned C with the line thru it"cents" sign on the keyboard no more!) NYAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!


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.