The Dale C. Maley Family Web Site

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Toy Carousels Made in 2016

The December 2015 issue of Woodworker's Journal magazine has a neat pattern to make a toy carousel.

Also included is a link on how to make the colorful 12-sided top.

I decided to make 2 of these carousels.


I entered this pattern into Sketchup, which is a challenge. I could find no way to accurately draw the wavy ring that actuates the 3 horses.  I approximated it using stairsteps:

Wood Selection

I decided to make 1 from walnut like the plans, but to use red oak on the 2nd one.

I bought some walnut and cherry from Rockler:


 I got the O-rings from my local Fairbury Ace Hardware.

Crank Handle and Wavy ring

For the crank handles, I modified some spindles I already had in stock, as shown above.

To make the wavy ring, I glued the paper pattern to the inside of the rings, then cut them using the upside-down jig saw like the pattern suggests.   I modified the plan by making the inner shaft bearing piece removable with 2 screws as shown above.

12-sided Roof

I used the linked video to help make the roof.  I first checked the angles in the video using an online calculator:

The angles used in the video did match the online calculator.

I decided to make a trial piece out of pine.

37 degree angle

The first step is to saw a 37 degree angle on the long edge of both blanks. 

I used the digital angle finder that my brother-in-law Steve from Hawaii gave me as a Christmas gift to set the blade as close as possible to 37 degrees.

I used a piece of sacrificial pine to keep the blade from hitting the aluminum fence.

Next, you attach scrap blocks to two T-squares or bevel gages for the saw.  I have two, so no problem there.

Once you get the 12 pieces sawn, you attach them together with blue masking tape..

This all was going ok until I noticed the finished roof was too big for the carousel.

I went back and I goofed up on 1 dimension.  The linked video said each wedge should be 1-15/32" wide, and I mis-read it as 1-15/16".  I guess that is why you do a sample first

Out of Walnut

I did not order enough walnut for 2 carousels.  I had some left over raw walnut firewood that I machined into boards.  This took a while.

Lots of Wedges !

I made sure I had plenty of wood blanks when I set up the saw again to make the carousel top wedges.  I ended up with enough wedges to make 3 carousel tops....that is a lot of wedges !!

I used a small artist's brush to make sure each face of the wedge was coated liberally with Titebond glue.  I used a wet rag to remove the excess glue from inside the carousel top after it was final taped.

These 3 carousel tops came out a smaller diameter as expected when I used the correct wedge width dimension.  They must fit into the wavy ring, so you must reduce the final diameter to match the ring ID.  I used a combination of scroll saw and stationary disc sander to reduce them to the right diameter to fit into the ring.

Acorn Finials

I received the finials I ordered, and they were perfect for these carousel tops. First, I used the Wagner Saf-T-Planer on the drill press to make the top of the carousel flat for the finial.  You can try sanding this by hand, but if you are not perfectly horizontal, you will see the finial move excessively as you rotate the carousel.

I just "kissed" the top with the planer, to avoid tearing up wood with an excessive rate of stock removal.

Wavy Ring

I scroll sawed the wavy ring slightly larger than the pencil mark, so I could drum sand the OD and ID on the drill press drum sander.  Then I put the ring in my vise to keep it vertical, and sanded in the shape using my 2 inch drum sander.

Top and Bottom 6 inch bases

My Sears router will not make a 6 inch circle, it is too small for the radius attachment to work.  I got out my new little router, and it has an attachment to allow  you to go smaller.  It is brand new, and I had to rework the locking pin so it would lock while tightening the collet nut.

You can use a 1/4" dowel as the rotation point with this router.  I got some burning on the cherry, and had to take it out with the drill press drum sander.

Because I got the burning and had to sand it out, I switched to scroll sawing the 2nd set and finish sanding to the line on the drill press drum sander.

Lathe Work

The top 6 inch base needs a groove cut in the OD to allow the wavy ring to set on it. I used my lathe to do a trial & error fit until the fit was right.

Finished Carousel Top, Top Base, and Wavy Ring

Half-Round 1/4" Dowels

You need to make the top 1 inch of the pony rods half-round.  The magazine plans call for using a table saw and feed the 1/4" dowel in 1 inch.  I would think this would cause the end of the dowel to blow up.  I chose to sand half the dowel away using the stationary disc sander.  This worked safely and relatively quickly.  I could also do trial & error fitting to the half-round block on the same sander.


I decided to use padauk for a red pony, yellow heartwood for a yellow pony, and purple heart for a purple pony. Here is the first pony I made.  Plans say to make them 3/8" thick, but that only leaves 1/16" on a side with the 1/4" dowel hole.  I made mine 1/2" thick to allow for the 1/4" hole not being perfectly on center or drilled straight.

Nearing the End

 As I started final assembly of the carousels, I had an issue with one carousel where the center 3/4" pole was not perpendicular to the horizontal.  Found out my drill press was 1.5 degrees out of perpendicular. I drill a new main bearing block closer to 90 degrees.  I also used the miter saw to slightly angle the bottom of the main bearing block also.  It is a good thing the center bearing block is removable, so you can adjust it until the 3/4" pole is vertical. 

The Bell

Unfortunately, the magazine article did not give a source for the bicycle bell.

I searched online at Amazon, googled it, and checked at my local Ace and Big R stores.  I could not find any bells like the one used in the magazine.  The best choice I could find was at Wal-Mart.

This bell is bigger physically than in the magazine picture, but I made it work.

I used a 2 inch OD disc about 3/4" high, to mount the bell to the base.  I mounted the 1/4" dowel on the vertical carousel shaft just above the bottom base.

I used (1) 1/4" dowel plus 1 screw to attach the 2 inch OD to the base.  I used the 2 machine screws that came with the bell to attach it to the 2 inch OD.

You need to account for the right heights with respect to the bell height, the spring length, and where the 1/4" activation dowel are located, as shown in the picture above.  The 1/4" dowel has to be high enough to clear the 2" OD bell mounting base.

I bought a package of springs from my local Ace Hardware.


The only stain I used on the carousels was Golden Oak for the red oak parts.

Finished Carousels

Closing thoughts on this project

It took a lot of man-hours to build these 2 carousels, but they are pretty neat when you get them done!  For the bell, I used a bicycle bell from Wal-mart, and the spring came from Ace Hardware.

November 2021 Update

The 2 carousels I built in early 2016 have been played with by my grandchildren, plus many adults at shows.  I recently noticed one of them did not work right, and I found the top of the dowel for one of the ponies had broken off.

Failure Analysis

I originally made the 3 vertical dowels from regular dowels, which are relatively soft wood.

The dowels fit into a split-block piece of wood that has a 1/2 round hole..........and the top 1" or so of the dowel has a flat spot on it.  I noticed I did not make the block hole 1/4" diameter to match the dowels, it was about 3/16" maybe...........which then caused me to have to remove material from the top of the dowel........making it more likely to break.

I am going to replace the birch dowels with 1/4" oak dowels.  I used the Dremel with a very small straight router bit, to enlarge the block hole to match the dowels.