A Toy Box For Ailyss Ann Rose

by Dan Phalen

So, what do you do when you become a great-granddad? I mean, after you exhaust your bragging rights.

A month after my granddaughter popped a daughter, I had to start a project. This one isn't my usual furniture job, and it sure as heck isn't for the shop. Painted kidz toys are new for me, but this one looked fun to make.

The picture below left is from the plan I discovered on browsing the web. Nothing else was as kidsy-cute, so I popped for it. The picture on the right is how it turned out in my hands.


Wood Selection Rationale

The pine used in the original was out. I've worked enough soft wood in my day. So, 3/4 poplar was the choice mainly because I intend to paint the whole box.

I reminded myself this dude is going to take a beating over the years, so fine hardwood would be wasted here.

When I left the ship after my sea duty a lifetime ago, the ship's carpenter made me a sea chest of pine. It became my son's toy box until he outgrew toys, and then a tool chest for my garage shops over the next 30 years. It held up great, but really got beat around. I doubt a baby girl will be as hard on this one, but you never know...

Cut Out Patterns

18 July. This was a matter of tracing the full-scale drawing first to paper and then transferring to 1/4" hardboard with pencil. The plans came as a single sheet, 32" x 64" with full-size templates for the side panels and pieces.


Used the bandsaw to cut approx. 1/16" outside the pattern lines, then sanded the edges to smooth out the curves.

The large pattern in the middle below serves two needs: for the "S" curve on both ends of the sides, and for the "belly" slot, which is referenced from the left corner. Doing it this way saves pattern material.


Here they are again, drilled for dowels.

Materials List


Cut and Join Side Panels

19 July. Since I'm in love with my biscuit jointer, I cut an 8-foot 1x12 poplar plank into four 28" lengths for edge joining. The actual overall width of each elephant side will be 26 7/8" (see "Side" from list above).

Each of the two pairs will be butt-jointed using the biscuits for strength and alignment (see inset) to form a side.


Ten-inch blade falls short. As you can see from the following image, my cheapie crosscut saw (not a slider) doesn't have a big enough bite to slice through 12" material, so I had to make two cuts. But no problem, as the ends will be trimmed.


Remaining stock. After cutting the sides, my poplar stock is a few pieces to cover the box ends, the bottom, the caster mounts (which I probably won't use) and the cleats. That tall piece in the middle is a 2 x 6 cedar plank left from another project. Probably will become the elephant's trunk.


Cut Side Shapes

4 August. The next step was to apply the "S" curve pattern to the panel ends and to the cutout between the side legs.

Down near the "belly" you can see screw holes for the cleat that will support the bottom.

The glue surfaces for the biscuit joins are taped prior to applying the primer coat.


Cut End Shapes

Now we're ready for the end panels. The left panel (inner side up) shows a pencil line near the bottom where the support cleat will be attached with screws. The same was done for the inner side of the panel on the right (shown outer side up) primed except for glue surfaces where the trunk will attach. Note also the dowel holes for attaching the trunk at glue-up time.


Cut Pieces From Pattern

Next, I cut the pieces for the ears, eyelids, eyes and tusks. Here they are, laid out after cutting on the bandsaw and sanding.

Roundover. To soften the exposed edges of these pieces, I routed the edges with a 1/4" roundover bit.


Cut Trunk From Pattern

The trunk is cut from a piece of 8" x 2" pine from the home center. After cutting on the bandsaw, I saved the opposite side of the cut to give the clamps a parallel contact surface during glue-up with the front panel.


Mark and Cut Biscuits

The end panels are joined to the side panels with biscuits.


Prep For Dowels

4 August. This was a good exercise for me. Although there is ample glue surface for the side appendages, I decided a pair of dowels for each piece would improve stability and strength. I'd never worked with dowel centers before, so this was a new skill.

I decided on 3/8" dowels, plenty adequate for the task. I might have been influenced by the four feet of 3/8 dowel lying loose in the shop.

Using a 3/8" brad point bit, I drilled the holes reachable on my little Ryobi benchtop drill press. Then I had to drill one or two holes with a hand-held power drill. I set the depth to 9/16", as I cut the dowels to 15/16" in length.

To be honest, I had to creep up on the drill depth after several tries fitting the elephant's ear flush to the side panel. Any gaps in the holes that result from overdrilling will fill up with glue anyway.


Dowel Alignment. After drilling all holes in each side panel, I inserted a dowel center in each hole, then aligned the work piece with the pencil outline and pressed it down onto the tips of the dowel centers, applying just enough pressure to make a dimple in the backside of the work piece.

After dimpling with the dowel centers, I took each piece to the drill press and drilled matching holes in the work piece. Did the same for each ear, eyelid, and tusk.

The eye will get a different glue treatment, as it butts up with the eyelid for a glue joint there.


Initial Assembly

11 August. The first assembly step is to give the inside surfaces of the box a prime coat. Masked off a 3/4" strip in advance for the biscuit join at each end, as shown above.

Glue Up. After a dry fit test, I glued the biscuits in the end pieces, applied a corresponding ribbon of glue to the elephant's left side, and clamped up. Now this toy box is beginning to resemble an elephant. And it seems as sturdy as one too.


Ears and eyelids are glued in place. I've got the eye location masked off before I apply the prime coat.

Lid Assembly

12 August. The lid is a piece of birch plywood edged with 3/4" x 3/4" poplar mitered at the corners and fastened with #20 biscuits.

After gluing all four edges, I softened the oversized edging with a flush trim bit using a cobbled up jig to hold the lid vertical against the bit.


Painting Process

13 August. All in all, this was a hugely successful experiment for me. I bought the Rockler HVLP spray system yesterday, but had to make two trips to the store because the hose coupling wouldn't fit. They gave me another and today was no problem.

Notice the PVC-and-dropcloth spray booth. I should have mentioned earlier that the booth was a full day's project in itself. Today it all came together. Because I'm using latex paint and primer, I'm not concerned yet about flammable situations, so I dispensed with the 20" box fan for now.


Below, you can see how it looked afterward. A true baby blue elephant, raised only in the wilds of Oregon. At this stage the box is half-way through the final finishing process, with the masking tape removed for gluing the eye and tusk. Haven't painted the toenails white yet.


Hinge Mortises

17 August. Cut the mortises on the body first, using chisels, then the lid. The hinge mortises in the lid are inset from the edge by 1/2" to allow for overhang.


To make the lid fit flush with the body when closed, I cut a deeper channel for each hinge barrel.




18 August. Here it is all painted with the lid and hinges complete. The lid prop is spring-actuated to prevent slamming little fingers. Pull the lid down to about two inches above the edge and let go--it eases down to closed position. Thanks, Rockler!




You can still buy the plans from Meisel Hardware Specialties.

Click Here

Thanks for looking, and I hope you enjoyed your visit.


EB Cover

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