Wooden Corsair #1

This is not a “how to” site, but I have had a number of requests for a step-by-step explanation for making a simple wooden toy. To that end, I am going to walk you through my process for making a simple wheeled toy. Before I start, let me make a couple of disclaimers: One is that I cannot stress safety enough. Whether it means wearing safety glasses and a dust mask, or simply being careful near any kind of tool with a blade—toy making is not fun if you get hurt. Second, I do not usually work from measured drawings. I know that frustrates some wood workers, but I sketch things out at actual size and design almost entirely by eye looking most closely at proportions.

This is a toy for my youngest nephew and is an airplane pull-toy, specifically: a F4U Corsair.

The first step I take is to sketch out the toy actual size. This allows me to think out how much wood the project will take and what the dimensions of rough stock will need to be. It is also where I start thinking through the construction process. The corsair will be very simple; fixed wings, fixed landing gear, and other than the wheels, no moving parts.

As I draw out the dimensions, I have decided that I will turn the body of the aircraft on the lathe. I will make the wings and landing gear as one unit, and I will make the tail and cockpit as a third unit.

The toy will be varnished wood, with a clear canopy over the cockpit, and a bear as the pilot. If you don’t know why a bear is flying a Corsair you need to read “the whole bear thing”.

The cockpit canopy and the propeller are the only non-wooden parts. Both will be made of clear acrylic.

The rest of this post will concentrate on the body of the aircraft.

The body is made up of several pieces of poplar glued together for the lathe. Once dry, the piece will go through four steps before going to the late. First I will pre drill what will be the front of the plane with a one-and-a-quarter inch diameter hole that is about a quarter-inch deep. Next I will drill an eighth-inch diameter pilot hole in the center of the inch-and-a-quarter hole. The 1/8″ hole will allow me to center the piece on the lathe more easily and will also serve as a pilot hole for a larger hole that will be drilled much later on when it is time to attach the propeller. The next two steps involve making cuts that will allow for easier assembly later.

While the block is still rectangular, I will cut out the notch where the wing will attach, and I will make the long cut in the upper body where the cockpit, after cockpit, and tail will attach. I want to make these cuts now because the rectangular block will present 90-degree angles to the saw making the alignment of pieces later automatic and easy. The last step before the body is put on the late is to take off the corners of the piece and make it eight sided. Thus the piece looks like this:

On the lathe, I will turn the cowling, and the basic shape of the body.

The body of the aircraft on the lathe

The body of the aircraft on the lathe

another shot on the lathe

another shot on the lathe

There we have the first piece:

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