Just in time for the holidays, here are an assortment of homemade toys the handyman or -woman can assemble from materials either readily at hand or easily obtained.
Anyone can make and enjoy this simple, inexpensive, down-home toy. The only things needed are string and large buttons. But, a fancier version can be made by cutting 1/8- inch wood or hardboard discs in 3, 2 1/2, and 2-inch diameters. Drill the holes 1/2 to 1 inch apart and use two 3-inch pieces of wood dowel for the handles. Drill the holes for the string and thread the handles and disc. That's all. Pull the handles and the "button" spins and hums.
For some easy ole-time music, find a straight piece of cornstalk and cut four slits from joint to joint. Then whittle a notched bridge, lift the "strings" with your knife point and slide the bit of wood into place. A smaller length of stalk does fine for a bow.
Whittle a Whammydiddle
Here's a mountain toy that any kid old enough to manage a jackknife can muster up in a few minutes. The only store-bought item necessary is a small 1/2-inch nail or sturdy pin. That's it! Find a couple a 1/4 to 3/8-inch caliper hardwood twig. Cut them into 8"- to 10" lengths. Cut evenly-spaced notches in one end of one stick. Whittle about 4-inches of bark off the other. Now find a 2-inch piece of hardwood. Push your nail or pin through the middle of it, then attach that to the end of your notched stick like a propeller. Move the whittled stick rapidly across the "washboard" notches and watch the little fella spin!
Build your very own sailboat using scrap lumber and other recycled materials.
For the hull you'll need a 20-inch piece of 2 x 4-inch pine board. Lay out the shape of the boat and carefully cut out the form on a band saw. Drill four 1/4-inch holes for the mast, two joining dowel rods and the rudder shaft. Plane or sand down the bow sides equally and shape the underside of the stern with a band saw cut.
Make the cabin and keel out of 3/4-inch pine-board and join both units to the hull at the same time with two 2 1/2 x 1/4-inch dowels, matching those holes already drilled in the hull. Make sure the centerboard is both perpendicular to the hull and parallel with the ship's sides.
Next, position and glue the mast on the deck and slide the rudder shaft through the hole in the stern. Finish the rudder assembly.
Meanwhile, have Mom make the sail from a bright scrap of lightweight sewing fabric or an old sheet.
Connect the boom to the mast with two small screw eyes and a bit of string. Drill holes and fasten two bolts with several heavy washers to the base of the keel for ballast. Hang the sailcloth and head for the water.
Take along several washers for extra ballast and use monofilament fishing line tied to the rudder shaft to return your craft to port.
Remember this one? Just grab the end section, move it back and forth and watch the other squares tumble down the line. To make your clatter blocks, you'll need a package of twill tape and seven 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 1/4-inch plywood squares. Sand the blocks smooth, weave the two outer apes loosely around the sections and staple the tapes to the top edges of the squares. Then weave the center tape through the other way and staple it to the bottom edge of each section. That's it!
This simple toy can be made entirely from recycled materials. For the chute itself use an old handkerchief, worn-out scarf, or goodly square of lightweight fabric scrap from Mom's sewing drawer—but be sure to ask her first!
Next, tie a one-foot piece of string (or longer for bigger chutes) to each of the fabric's four corners, and the free ends to a bolt or other small weight. Prepare for lift-off and landing!
This old-timer is guaranteed to help keep the young 'uns occupied while you finish the chores.
The hardest item to find these days while gathering materials for your racer is a large wooden sewing spool; plastic just doesn't make it! You'll also need a 1/4-inch dowel three inches long, a large bead (bigger than the spool's hole) ... leaving enough of each nail exposed to hold the rubber band. Wrap the band around the nails, thread it through the spool and bead, and slip the dowel through the protruding loop. Now you're ready to race.
Wind the rubber-band motor, place the toy on a smooth surface and watch it go!
For this old favorite, cut a 5-inch disc with a band saw from an inch-thick pine board. Drill a 3/8-inch hole in the hole center. Insert a 5-inch long dowel rod narrow enough to fit through the hole but wide enough to be secure. The dowel shaft should stick through about an inch or so. Glue in place. Round off the end, or drive a small domed nail into the tip. Now drill a hole in the longer side of the shaft. Insert a string through this hole and wind it around the shaft. Pull the string and watch the top go!