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Toy Tugboat

Toys that are mechanical facsimiles or contrivances, cheap and poor, confuse and dull the pure energy of childhood, and we cannot afford that. -Susan Evans McCloud

I have bought my share of "cheap and poor" toys for my kids. Some of our most recent toys have been particularly miserable--to the point of embarrassment, actually.

When I was little, we couldn't always afford these "cheap" toys, so my dad would sometimes make us toys out of whatever was available. I had my own rifle and pistol fashioned from an old broomstick and some bits of wood. Those were pretty good compared to the junk we now import from mass-production commodity toy makers. 

Here is a toy tugboat that I made for my son's second birthday present. I used only materials that I had available at home, so this project didn't cost me a thing.

The hull is only 6.5" long. You can see the drawings I used for getting the shape right. I found these on the Internet at the Berkeley Engineering site, and I enlarged the grainy images to the size I wanted.  This toy is based on an actual tugboat design that hobbyists can build from the Berkeley Engineering plans. I shaped and clamped solid blocks of poplar for this part.

Here I am adding some deck planking from strips of walnut veneer. I put in a walnut tow post and engine box.

Here I have put on the cap rail, built the cabin, and created a little console and ships wheel that is ready to install.

The interior of the cabin has been finished. I painted and waterproofed as well as I could.

The cabin cladding is installed as well as the roof and visor. I put some little cleats on the bow and stern.  The toy is ready for painting. I left some details off, specifically the little mast and flagpoles. I expect rough play from my two-year-old.

Here is the finished toy. I painted it with some craft acrylic paints and then used my can of polyurethane to coat the whole thing. I wanted to make a durable finish. This toy boat floats just fine!

Play time!