Tail-Thumping Beaver

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Build this simple slaphappy push toy.

Overall dimensions: 2"w × 91⁄2"l × 45⁄8"h

Ever since I designed and built my first animated toy three decades ago, I have strived to make toys that not only capture the look of an animal, but also have a little life of their own. Unlike Pinocchio’s Geppetto, the trick to making a toy waddle, chomp, or thump isn’t magic, but simple mechanics.

This beaver is one of my easier projects, but despite its simplicity, the design still delights both young children and the young at heart. Thanks to a cam hidden within the solid-wood body, the tail rises and falls as it’s rolled in either direction. (When the toy is pushed quickly, the tail makes a hard slapping sound, much like the real beavers that I’ve startled on canoe trips.) You could carve some additional detail into the tail and body sides if you are so inclined, but I prefer not to go overboard with finishing and detail work. I don’t want to make toys that are too pretty to play with.

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