Toy Makers Shop - How To Get The Wooden Wheels On Your Toys To Roll Well

Wooden Toy Wheels Nylon Washers and Axle Pegs Ready For Assembly
Wooden Toy Wheels Nylon Washers and Axle Pegs Ready For Assembly
I have don't some extensive testing with my grandson building cars with many methods of mounting wheels to see which ones worked best and if they didn't work well why. Using the techniques outlined below, I have built Play Pals that can compete with Hot Wheels cars on a Blue Track.

Washers behind the wheels are essential. They act as a spacer between the wheels and the body. Without the washers, the wheels will rub against the body. Friction between the wheel and the body of the toy will slow the toy down and eventually damage the finish.

Nylon Washers In A Storage Bin Used For Bearings and Spacers Behind Toy Wheels

I use nylon washers behind the wheels on all my rolling toys. I tested several washer materials, and nylon is substantially better than any of the metal washers. The nylon acts as a crude bearing with the added benefit that wood glue will not stick to it. If you get a little to much glue that squeezes out on the back of the wheel, it will not glue the wheel to the car.

Wooden Toy Wheel Nylon Washer and Axle Pegs Ready For Dry Fit
Wooden Toy Wheel Nylon Washer and Axle Pegs Ready For Dry Fit


Drilling your axle holes square and true is very important.  If the axle holes are not parallel to each other they work against each other. Axel holes also need to be drilled at 90 degrees to the surface. A drill press is a great help getting the holes straight. Your stock needs to be flat. Construction (cheap/free) lumber is prone to cupping, bowing, and cupping. Drilling the hole straight and true is difficult if the wood isn't flat.


Handmade Wooden Toy Bat Car Example of a Toy Car With Axle Pegs
Handmade Wooden Toy Bat Car Example of a Toy Car With Axle Pegs

Axel pegs work better than solid axels that go all the way through the body. They work better because of the wheels operating independently of each other. They also tend to roll straighter.

Wheels on your toys should be mounted as close to the body as possible being sure to leave a small gap. You can ensure the gap by making a jig from a thin plastic card that is notched to fit around the axels.

Wooden Toy Wheels Waiting For Glue To Cure In A Shop Made Jig
Wooden Toy Wheels Waiting For Glue To Cure In A Shop Made Jig



Glue the wheels on one end of the axel first and let the glue cure enough to hold the wheels tight. No more than twenty minutes, but it depends on the working time of your glue. When the first set of wheels is ready to assemble everything, wheels, axles, washers, and spacers, press everything up snug and pull out the spacers. It is essential that everything fits closely else the wheels will wobble and slow down the toys.

Wooden Wheel Axle Peg and Nylon Washer Ready For Gluing
Wooden Wheel Axle Peg and Nylon Washer Ready For Gluing


Dry fit your wheels and axels. When you have glue on your parts is not the time to find out that the dowel does not fit the hole in your wheels.

Using a bit of wax on the axles helps but not as much I initially expected. It is somewhat challenging to wax the axels without getting the was somewhere you don't want it. Wax prevents wood glue from bonding.

You can use polished nails for axles and get toys to roll even faster. Plastic wheels roll better than wood. However, I don't use plastic wheels or nails. I prefer to stay as close to 100% wood as I can.

Summary:
If you want your toys to roll well, washers between the wheels and the body are a must.

Nylon washers work better than any metal.

Drilling everything straight, accurate, and square to the sides is essential to keep the wheels running true.

Axel holes must be parallel to each other. The more axels the toy has, the more critical this gets.

Axel pegs work better than solid axels, and you can pin them to keep them from coming out.

Wheels should be mounted as close to the body as possible without touching. Use a jig made from a thin plastic card to keep the space.

Glue the wheels one side at a time, making sure they are square to the axels. Let the first wheels cure before adding the second set of wheels.

A bit of wax on the axels helps, but be sure to keep it off the places where you need glue.

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