Waddling Walrus

Comments (0)

This article is from Issue 57 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Clever toy chomps, waddles and rolls.

Since I began designing animated toys three decades ago, I continually strive to make my toys more than what most folks expect from a block of wood. My secret is to incorporate simple mechanisms that make the playthings come to life. This walrus is a case in point. Unlike most other toys that simply roll, this fellow has eccentric wheels that create an ambling gait as he’s pushed across the floor. Thanks to a cam and piston hidden within the body, the tusked head rises and falls as he’s rolled in either direction.

This toy is easy to make, but requires some patience and precise work to guarantee that the parts operate smoothly. Of course, special care should be taken when machining small parts. I’ve provided advice to help keep your fingers away from blades and bits, but if any procedure seems too close for comfort, stop and use another, safer method.

Note: I hope that you enjoy making this toy for your friends and family, but I trust that you will honor my copyright and not make this or any of my designs for sale.

After raising the dado head for each of the two height settings, mark the location of the cutter’s front edge on the table for your stopping mark.
Advance the block until the line on the pattern line meets the stop line on the saw. Wait for the blade to stop before removing the block.

Use a wedge to position the body and a square to verify that the hole layout lines are perpendicular to the table. Then drill the hole.

Make the body

1 Cut out and affix the full-sized body (A) pattern onto a block that’s a few inches longer and slightly wider than the dimension in the Cut List, which will make it safe to hold for initial machining. (I prefer cherry, but any relatively light, strong hardwood will do.) Position the pattern so that its bottom edge is adjacent to the bottom edge of the block.

2 Referring to the pattern, use a drill press to bore the holes for the fins, head, and axle.

3 Referring to Figure 1 and the body pattern, lay out on the block’s front edge the entry end of the 3⁄4"-wide × 11⁄2"-deep stopped groove, centering it across the thickness of the body. Next, set up a 1⁄2"-wide dado head on your tablesaw, adjust its height to 3⁄4", and strike a line on your saw table indicating where the front of the cutter meets the plane of the table. Adjust the fence to saw to one of the groove shoulder lines, and start the cut. When the trailing end of the groove profile line on the pattern meets the mark on your saw, hold the workpiece in place while you turn off the saw and wait for the blade to stop. Next, adjust the fence to cut to the opposite groove shoulder, and make the second cut in the same manner. Now, using the pattern as a guide, raise the cutter to final 11⁄2" height, mark the table again (Photo A), and complete the stopped groove using the same two-step approach (Photo B).

4 Outfit your bandsaw with a 1⁄4"-wide 4-6 TPI blade, and cut out the body profile. Leave the ledge in the front of the head for now, as you’ll need it to drill the piston hole.

5 At the drill press, position the body (A) so that the piston hole layout lines are perpendicular to the table, and then drill the hole (Photo C).

Using a fence to guide the initial straight cuts ensures a neck of consistent thickness.
Prop the neck section on a 1⁄4"-thick block, and then saw each shoulder with a single, sweeping cut.

By attaching a short half-dowel to the belt sander's platen, tight curves, such as the shoulders, can be easily sanded to shape.

6 Saw off the ledge, and then sand the edges and both faces through 120 grit. (You can use an oscillating spindle sander, but I prefer a 1"-wide belt sander. To handle inside curves, I ripped a 1"-diameter dowel in half and attached it to the sander platen. See Photo F, at right.) Now rout the entire profile with a 1⁄4"-diameter quarter-round bit.

7 Referring to Figure 1, lay out the shoulder cuts that reduce the thickness of the walrus’ neck section. Use your bandsaw’s fence when cutting the straight neck sections (Photo D), then remove the fence, prop the body on a 1⁄4"-thick scrap, and saw the walrus’ shoulders with a nice sweeping curve (Photo E).

8 Edge-sand the neck/shoulder curves through 120 grit, as shown in Photo F, and then round over all the edges of the sawn area by hand-sanding.

Make the flippers and head

1 Attach two 1⁄2"-thick pieces face-to-face with doublestick tape, and then affix the flipper pattern, positioning its inside edge adjacent to the edge of your stock. Using a drill press, drill the 1⁄4"-diameter holes for the flipper dowels into the edges. Next, drill 1⁄32"-diameter holes through the faces, where shown, to simplify shaping the tight curves.

2 Dry-fit a 1⁄4" dowel into a flipper (B) to provide a hand-hold, and then cut out the pattern on the bandsaw. Finish-sand the edges, then split the flippers apart and sand both faces.

3 Temporarily join two 1⁄2"-thick pieces face-to-face and affix the head (C) pattern. Drill the eye/pivot hole, and saw and sand the profile. Separate the twin head pieces, and finish-sand their faces.

4 Affix the head spacer (D) pattern on 7⁄8"-thick stock. (For safer sawing, use a piece that’s a few inches longer than needed.) Saw out the piece, and then sand the inside edges. Set this piece aside for now.

5 Affix the tusk (E) pattern on 7⁄8"-thick stock. Using a bandsaw, saw out the tusks, but leave a few inches of extra material along the blunt end. Finish-sand the edges and faces, and then cut the notch to create the individual tusks, as shown in Photo G. Clean up by hand-sanding, and then saw off the extra wood on the blunt end.

6 Build the assembly jig shown below. Now apply a little glue on both faces of the head spacer (D) and the mating face of each head piece (C). Position the assembly on the jig, as shown in Photo H, and glue in the tusks (E). When the assembly has dried, edge sand where the spacer meets the outer head pieces. (Be careful not to mar the edges of the tusks.) Hand-sand the assembly through 120 grit.

Use a bandsaw fence to make the initial straight cuts to define the tusks. Then remove the fence to nibble away the waste.
Using the assembly jig to align the parts ensures that the head operates when it’s attached to the body.

Use a slotted 1⁄8"-thick spacer when driving in the eye pegs and wheels so that the parts have adequate clearance to operate smoothly.

Make the mechanism and assemble the walrus

1 Make the cam (F) by drilling into 1⁄2"-thick stock with a 11⁄8"-diameter holesaw. Use dowels to plug the center hole in the cam and each wooden wheel, and then drill offset axle holes where shown on the pattern page.

2 Cut the flipper (G) dowels to length, and chamfer their ends to ease insertion. Put a bit of glue in the flipper holes, a little glue on the edge of the flipper (B) where it touches the body (A), and attach the flippers. (To avoid smearing glue on the body, twist the flippers in place until they’re almost touching the body, then tap them home.) Make sure that the flippers are parallel to the bottom of the body and to each other.

3 Cut the axle (H) to length, and chamfer the ends. Apply glue inside one wheel hole, and tap in the axle. Next, insert the cam (F) in the body (A), and twist the axle through both. Now place the remaining wheel beneath the body, and set the axle just into the hole. Offset the eccentric holes 180° to create the walrus’ waddle, apply a bit of glue on the axle between the body and wheel, and tap the axle into the wheel.

4 Drill a 1⁄8" hole through the center of the edge of the cam (F) and through the axle (H). Glue a 1⁄8"-diameter dowel in the hole. When the glue has set up, trim and file the dowel flush so that it doesn’t interfere with the smooth movement of the piston (I). 

5 Cut the piston (I) to length, and dry-fit the head to test the mechanism. (You may need to adjust the piston length a bit so that the head starts to lift as soon as the cam engages the dowel.) When you have the perfect length, round off both ends of the dowel, reinsert it in place, apply glue into the eye holes, and tap in the axle pegs to attach the head to the body (Photo I).

Finishing touches

I finish most of my toys with food-grade mineral oil because it’s nontoxic and easy to use. Simply apply it liberally with a rag, let it soak in, and then wipe away any excess. Reapply if the wood begins to look dry.  

About Our Author

David Wakefield has been designing and building wooden mechanical toys for more than 30 years. To purchase ready-made toys and learn more about the animals that inspire his designs, check out Wildlife-toys.com.


Write Comment

Write Comment

You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In

Top of Page