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Project Ideas: Fun & Games

How to Build Wooden Robots


Combining the love of my childhood interest of robots and having access to a lot of scrap lumber, I decided to work on a project of constructing toy-size wooden robots.


If done right, these little fellas can be perfect gifts for children or just anyone interesting in having them sitting on your shelf. 


To construct your very own wooden robots, you'll need the following tips in this post to ensure you build something unique and unforgettable.


To get started before anything, take the ideas in your mind and transfer them by way of drawing/sketching/doodling them. 

 photo 6b2841a9-9a66-4db8-ab94-3cfe84efb924.jpg


Drawing them at this step means you can get basic ideas and see what can work. Plan at this stage what size you want the final robot to be. For mine, I chose nothing over 12 inches in height as a starting reference. 


Note that the final design won't exactly or at all look like your original sketches, just use it as a starting point/guide.


At least for materials, you really don't have to look much further than your workshop and/or junk drawer in your home, if you have one.


While plywood and dimensional lumber (2x4's) can work great for body/torso parts, I find that small dowel pieces work just as effectively. One surprising shape can be found in old Kid's Workshop kits. This robot was built using just that, with the 'car' body being it's body.


Essentially, anything that is scrap lumber can be of use. Of course, any jagged or irregular edges must be smoothed out before assembling.This is for safety reasons and so that everything can hold together nicely.


For getting the pieces to a specific size, always safely use a circular, table, or jig saw to make the cuts. Remember that while your local Home Depot can do basic cuts, smaller ones are best done at home or at the workshop for accuracy.


With your original sketch in hand, proceed to take your wooden pieces to assemble them in a way that you like. Be mindful that these were really a mixture of old and newer wood pieces, alongside unused screws, washers, and bolts.


Note that some materials, like MDF wood, can be sanded down via a power sander to give a unique shape. Shown below, the upper body of this robot was used in this fashion, adhered together by wood glue. 


Most of the square and body pieces were used with birch or select pine. Try to avoid low quality lumber, as it can easily split and warp, which can be unsafe. 


Also of note, any screw holes or fasteners require you to drill a pilot hole via a drill bit so it won't warp or damage the wood, as shown below in the image.



Pilot holes are important for anything being fastened, including eye bolts shown below.



In terms of a glue to use, any glue rated for wood can work. One that worked exceptionally well was Gorilla Wood Glue alongside clamps to securely everything in place.



Clamps and glue are the essential materials to really make the robot build go smoothly, and sometimes even more so than any screw or nail.


For the assembly of the parts where bending will occur (arms and legs), opt for just using screws. For one of the 6 robots I created, using just coarse threaded drywall screws worked great. To see one of them in action, please click here for a video.


For materials, opt for using not-to-typical materials like jute string for connecting arms to the body. Shown below, tie the knots to join pieces together. 

Even with your tools, go creative with angles and bends of where certain parts will go. A good example in the picture below; I slowly cut thin kerfs via a compound mitre saw on the body of one of the robots so that the head could be recessed into it.



To give it a really personal look, take careful note of using screw heads, bolts, or thumbtacks to give eyes and a mouth to your wooden robot. For the smallest wooden robot, I simply drilled two small holes for eyes and used a hand saw to lightly saw through the head to create a mouth.


Just like the other parts, place it before gluing to ensure it be successful before committing to adhering it permanently. 


Also, having access to drill bits allow you to place large bolts and screws onto the robot to decorate it, like I did for one shown in the image below.


For anytime the robot's parts will move, like an arm or leg, careful consideration must be taken so that when finished, it will remain balanced and standing once completed. You can always opt for a second or experimental pieces of wood to practice this.



Of course, depending on what materials and tools you have will determine what size and how many robots you can make.




At the end of the day, make them as unique as your imagination wants them to be. Each one of my 6 I created has its own character and shape. 


It just takes planning, the right tools/materials, and some imagination to make your very own wooden robot.  For this particular project, there isn't really a 'step-by-step', just a general guide since you can assemble it as you wish as well as using other materials.


In fact, you can even use threaded metal or PVC pipe from your local Home Depot's plumbing department for parts as an example. You can really do an infinite amount of approches to construct your very own toy robot.


This project makes for great gifts and conversation starters, or you just want to do something creative to those scrap pieces of lumber laying around the shop. All 3 options were the case for me.


And lastly on a personal note, in the long time I've worked at The Home Depot, this project was the most fun and creative I've ever done, and I'm highly pleased with the results. 


For any particular questions regarding the build or planning of a wooden robot, please do not hesitate to ask.


Joseph


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Posted 2015-12-23T23:36:17+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL Joseph_HD_ATL
 
 

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