Tough-Enough Bulldozer

Build an earth-moving playtime favorite.

Overall Dimensions: 10 3⁄4"w × 15"l × 8 3⁄8"h

Whether pushing sand in the sandbox or blocks across the playroom floor, this mighty mover does it all. A lifting blade allows for easier maneuvering and the realistic treads lay down tracks just like the real ones. Expect to work with a lot of small parts. That means extra caution is in order. We’ll walk you through the part making and assemblies one step at a time.

Note: For the tread, we went with 1⁄2"-wide tanned and oiled Latigo leather. It’s supple and ideally suited for outdoor uses such as saddle parts. See the Convenience-Plus Buying Guide.

Ordering Other Tough-Enough Toys

To view and purchase the downloadable plans for the Tough-Enough Truck, Front-End Loader, and Road Grader, go to

Start with the frame and motor

1 Laminate two pieces of 3⁄4 × 1 3⁄4 × 12" maple together face-to-face to form a blank for the frame (A). Now, joint, rip, and crosscut the part to 1 1⁄2 × 1 3⁄8 × 10 1⁄2". (See Figure 1 for reference.)

2 Cut the motor sides (B), hood (C), and grill (D) to the sizes in the Cut List. (We used a miter gauge, auxiliary fence, and stopblock, starting with extra long stock for safe cutting.)

3 To cut the grill grooves, install a flat-top blade and a zero-clearance insert (ZCI) in your tablesaw, along with a miter gauge and auxiliary fence. Raise the blade 1⁄8" above the saw table. Lay out the groove locations (Figure 2), and cut the grooves.

4 Drill a pair of 7⁄32" holes in the grill for adding the headlights.

5 Using double-faced tape, adhere the motor sides (B) inside face to inside face, and drill the 7⁄16" and 3⁄16" holes where shown on Figure 1.

6 First dry-fit the motor assembly pieces (B, C, D), and then glue and clamp them together with the edges flush. Rout a 1⁄4" round-over along the top edges of the assembly (C, D). Bevel-rip the tapered bottom edge of the grill at 45° at the tablesaw.

Using the shank holes in the motor sides as guides, drill 7⁄64" pilot holes into the sides of the frame. Screw the motor to the frame (Photo A).

7 Cut the platform (E) to size. Drill the 12 mounting holes where shown on Figure 2. Cut the centered groove and rabbets at the tablesaw where shown, using a dado set, ZCI, and pushblock. Screw the platform to the top of the frame, flushing the back edges.

Add the cab and fuel tank

1. To form the cab sides (F), mill a piece of maple to 1⁄2 × 3 5⁄8 × 8". To form the cab (window) dividers and cab corners (G), cut a 1⁄4 × 1⁄4 × 24"-long piece of walnut stock. To cut the cab front and back (H), mill a piece of maple stock to 1⁄2 × 3 × 8". 

2. Referencing Figure 3, cut a 1⁄4" groove, 1⁄4" deep, on one face of the blank for the cab sides (F). Cut the 1⁄4" rabbets, 1⁄4" deep on the cab front and back (H) where shown.

3. Crosscut an 8"-long piece from the dividers and corner blank for parts (G) and glue it in the groove in the cab sides (F) blank. 

Crosscut two cab sides (F/G) to length from the blank. Cut the remaining walnut stock for the cab corners (G) to 3 1⁄2". Crosscut the cab front and back blank for (H) to 3 1⁄2". Now, glue and clamp the assembly together (F, G, H) in the configuration shown in Figure 3 and Photo B. Make sure that the groove is 1 1⁄2" from the assembly’s back side.

Tip Alert: After assembling the cab, we taped a sheet of 120-grit sandpaper to a flat surface and rubbed the top and bottom of the assembly on it to even the edges and remove glue squeeze-out.

4. From 1⁄4"-thick walnut, cut the cab top and bottom (I) to size. Glue these pieces to the cab assembly. Rout 1⁄4" round-overs on the cab where shown. Note where the rear cab corners (G) are not rounded over to accommodate the fuel assembly. Cut the cab roof (J) to size, and rout 1⁄8" round-overs along all edges.

5. Cut the fuel tank sides (K) and back (L) to size, cutting the length of L to the same width as the assembled cab. (I laminated 3⁄4"-thick stock for the back tank.) Glue-join the parts and let them setup. Then, bevel-cut the top back edge of the assembled tank at the tablesaw using a pushblock. Drill a 7⁄32" hole in the back (L) for adding the fuel cap later. At the router table, rout 1⁄8" round-overs, where shown on Figure 1. Edges that touch the cab assembly or platform do not get round-overs. Screw the fuel tank assembly to the platform (Photo C).

6. Finish-sand and apply finish to the frame assembly (A-E, K, L). (We sprayed on Watco Lacquer, Satin.)

7. Center, glue, and clamp the roof (J) to the cab assembly (F-I). Finish-sand the assembly. Screw the cab assembly (F-J) to the platform (E). Sand a 1⁄8" round-over on the back two corners of the platform to match the fuel tank assembly. Note that the fuel tank fits flush with the end of the platform. Apply finish.

Fit the fuel tank assembly onto the platform and flush at the rear end. Screw it in place.
Screw the blade lift arm to the pivot pin through the motor assembly.

Build the blade lift assembly

1. Cut the two blade lift arms (M) to the shape shown in Figure 2. Mark the three hole centerpoints on each and drill the holes.

2. Cut the handle (N) and pivot pin (O) to length from dowel stock noted in the Cut List. Drill a 1⁄16" pilot hole centered in each end of each dowel. (We used a center finder.) Glue and screw the handle and pivot pin to one of the lift arms (M). Apply a finish.

3. Cut the two front spacers (P) from 3⁄4" walnut dowel stock. Drill a 7⁄16" hole centered through each. Cut the lift pin (Q) to size from 3⁄8" dowel stock. Apply finish to the remaining parts (M, P, Q).

4. Slide the lift pin (Q) through the blade lift arms (M). Fit the front spacers (P) onto the ends of the lift pin.

5. Fit a 3⁄8" nylon washer onto the pivot pin (O). Position the blade lift assembly onto the motor by sliding the pivot pin through the holes in the motor assembly. Fit a nylon washer onto the opposite end of the pivot pin. Screw the remaining blade lift arm (M) to the handle (N) and pivot pin (Photo D).

Cut the axle parts

1. From 3⁄4"-thick maple, cut the front axle (R), rear axle (S), and track roller axle (T) to size. Cut a 1⁄8"-deep dado in each where shown on Figure 2.

2. Mark the locations and cut the adjustment slots and holes in each axle part (R, S, T) to shape. I drilled 3⁄16" holes at each end of each marked slot and scrollsawed the waste between the holes. Sand a slight chamfer on the bottom edges of R, S, T.

3. Mark the locations and drill the axle-peg holes in R and S and a pair of pilot holes in both ends of T. 

4. To make the eight 29⁄16"-diameter outer wheels (U), cut a 3 1⁄2 × 30" blank from 1⁄4" maple. Mark the centerpoints for the eight wheels on the blank. Insert a 3⁄8" brad-point bit in your drill press, adjust the fence to center the bit on the centerpoints and drill 1⁄8"-deep starter holes in four of the eight centerpoints. These will become the outer faces of the wheel assemblies. Using a 2 3⁄4"-diameter holesaw on your drill press, cut the eight outer wheels to shape.

5. To make the four 2 3⁄16"-diameter inner wheels (V), cut a 3 × 15" blank from 9⁄16"-thick maple. Mark the centerpoints for the four inner wheels on the blank. Using a 2 3⁄8"-diameter holesaw, cut the four inner wheels to shape.

6. To bond an inner wheel (V) between two outer wheels (U), select one outer wheel with a 1⁄8" recess and glue it to an inner wheel. Add a non-recessed outer wheel to the other side of the inner wheel. You don’t want glue squeeze-out at the joint lines so use a minimal amount of glue. Next, insert a 1⁄4 × 2" bolt through a washer, the hole in the wheels, through a second washer, and tighten the three pieces together with a nut. Repeat for the other three wheel assemblies.

7. Install a 3⁄8" brad-point bit in the drill press. Using the tool’s fence and a stopblock, clamp the wheel to the fence, inserting the drill bit into the wheel’s 3⁄8" “starter” hole. Redrill the hole so an axle peg can slip through it. Repeat for the remaining wheels, and apply the finish.

8. Cut the center frames (W) to shape. Drill five axle peg holes and two screw shank holes in each, where shown on Figure 2.

9. Working with 1" maple dowel stock, bandsaw the 10 track rollers (X) to 1⁄2" thick. Now, drill a centered 1⁄4" hole in each roller. Sand to remove any bandsaw marks.

10. Using the configuration shown on Figure 4, assemble the front axle assembly (R, U, V) and the track roller assembly (T, W, X) with axle pegs, screws, and nylon washers. To make the bulldozer treads, see below.

Construct the tracks

1. From 1⁄2" walnut stock, cut the track shoe blank (Y) to 3" wide by 22" long.

2. To cut evenly spaced kerfs, make an auxiliary miter-gauge fence with a protruding 1⁄8 × 1⁄8" finger 3⁄4" from the blade. (We used the flat-top blade.) Use scrap stock to verify that the kerfs are cut exactly 3⁄4" apart. Cut extra scrap to verify the test cuts in Step 3. Now, cut 1⁄8" kerfs, 3⁄8" deep and 3⁄4" apart, along the entire length of the blank. See Figure 5A.

3. Lower the blade for a 1⁄16"-deep cut. Next, slide the auxiliary fence over so that the 1⁄16" kerfs to be cut for receiving the cleats (Z) will be accurately centered between two 3⁄8" deep kerfs. Now, using the test pieces made in Step 2, cut 1⁄8" kerfs, 1⁄16" deep. Once verified, cut the kerfs in the track shoe blank, as shown in Photo E.

4. Cut enough 1⁄8 × 1⁄8" walnut for the 24 cleats (Z). Now, at the bandsaw, crosscut the cleats to 3", and glue them into the 1⁄16"-deep kerfs. Remove any glue squeeze-out.

5. Bandsaw two equally wide strips from the 3"-wide blank, using a fence to ensure accuracy.

6. Bandsaw each strip to 1 1⁄4" wide, trimming the edges opposite the bandsawn edges from Step 5. 

Sand the edges of both strips smooth to remove the saw marks. 

7. Cut a 9⁄16" groove, 5⁄32" deep, down the center of each 11⁄4"-wide strip.

8. Drill two rows of 3⁄64" holes through the center of each cleat (Z) 15⁄32" from the edge of the tread blank. Bandsaw two track shoes from the end of each strip.

9. Cut the support jig base to the size shown on Figure 5B. 

Cut a 1⁄4" groove, 1⁄8" deep, down the center of the support. Cut a 1⁄4 × 1⁄4" rib to fit into the groove. Glue the rib in place.

10. Using a sharp utility knife, crosscut two pieces of 1⁄2"-wide leather to 24" long for the tread leather (AA).

11. Center the trimmed track shoe blank (Y) onto the leather strip (AA). Using 3⁄4" brads, drive a brad through each hole to securely nail the track to the leather strip (Photo F).

Bend the brads over to secure the treads to the leather strip.
Use a pushblock and sideblock to support the long track shoe strip when cutting.

12. Flip the track assembly over and bend the brads toward the center of the track (Photo G). Lightly pound the bent ends flat into the leather. 

13. Set the saw blade height to cut along the bottom edge of the leather, but not into the leather, to create the track shoes (Photo H).

14. Bandsaw the final four track shoes from the piece cut in Step 8.

15. Using a sharp utility or razor knife, split then notch the mating ends on the leather strip nailed to the walnut tracks, as shown in Figure 5C and Photo I.

Note that the notches are mirror images of each other.

16. Using Tanner’s Bond Craftsmen Contact Cement, adhere the two mating ends of the leather together using small clamps. Allow the glue to get tacky.

17. Using 1⁄8" -thick spacers for even tread placement, brad the two remaining track shoes over the notched leather ends (Photo J). Clinch the ends as before.

Blade lift arm

1. Cut the pusher main frames (BB) to shape (Figure 2). Mark the 7⁄16"-wide slot locations, drill holes at each slot end, and cut out the waste at a scrollsaw. Now, drill a 7⁄16" axle peg hole and the 3⁄16" shank holes in each. Rout a 1⁄8" round-over on all but the front edges of BB.

2. From 3⁄4" maple dowel, crosscut the rear spacers (CC) to 1⁄4" thick, and drill a 3⁄8" hole centered in each (Figure 1).

3. Cut the blade-mounting bracket (DD) to size. Rout an 1⁄8" round-over on the top and bottom inside edges. Clamp that part between the main frames (BB), centered top to bottom with the front edges flush. Use the shank holes in each BB to drill mating pilot holes in each end of DD. Part AD will be added later.

4. Finish-sand (BB) and (DD). Apply finish to all but the front surfaces of (BB) and (DD) where the blade will attach later.

With the tread tightened against the wheels, screw the front axle assembly to the frame bottom.
Spring clamps work well to clamp the blade to the blade mounting bracket.

Create the blade

1 Cut the blade bottom blank (EE) and blade blank (FF) to the sizes noted in the Cut List and shown in Figure 6, bevel-ripping one edge of EE where shown. Glue the two pieces together.

2 Bevel-cut the ends of the blade assembly (EE, FF) at 15°. Cut the side plate blanks (GG) to size (Figure 2). Glue one to each end of the blade assembly. Sand the side plates flush with the front and back of the blade. Finish-sand the blade assembly.

Final assembly

1. Position the bulldozer upside down on a soft cloth on your workbench to prevent scratching the cab top. Screw the rear axle (S) to the frame bottom 1⁄4" from the back end.

2. Position, but don’t screw, the track roller assembly (T, W, X) and front axle assembly (R, U, V) on the frame. Place the two track assemblies over the front axle and track roller assemblies. Slide a 3⁄8" nylon washer onto each end of the lift pin (Q). Now, add the pusher main frame pieces (minus the blade mounting bracket [DD]) to the rear axle as shown in Figure 1, gluing the axle pegs into the rear axle (S). I applied glue into the holes in the rear axles (S) with a Q-tip, making sure the wheel assemblies turned freely.

3. Snug the track assemblies to the front axle assembly (R, U, V) with a small clamp. Then using the slots in the front axle assembly as guides, drill a pair of 7⁄64" pilot holes into the bottom of the frame, positioning the bit in the middle of each slot. Drive the two front screws as shown (Photo K). Center the track roller assembly between the front and rear axle assemblies and screw it in place.

4 .Screw the blade mounting bracket (DD) between the pusher main frames (BB).

5. With the blade lift assembly vertical, center and glue the blade assembly to the front of the main pusher frame (Photo L).

6. Mask off the front end of the bulldozer and apply finish to the blade. Let it dry and turn the toy over to the up-and-coming builder in the family. 

About Our Designer/Builder

Urbandale, Iowa, resident Tom Whalley has been a woodworker for over 40 years and is the current president of the Des Moines Woodworker’s Association. His award-winning designs have been featured in several national woodworking publications. Creating unique “one-of-a kind” projects is Tom’s focus.

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