The Dale C. Maley Family Web Site

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Toy Carousel (This page is obsolete, please use this link to go to updated page)

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.

Google Sketchup

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.

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.

 You use a scrap piece for a length gage when sawing one angle.....

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

You fill the cracks with glue, invert the assembly and squeeze it into shape.


After you get them together, you tape the last joint to hold it all together to dry.

You invert it and fill any gaps with yellow Titebond glue and let it dry.


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.



You sand the top horizontal and add a finial to it.   I ordered the finials and have not received them yet. I could turn it on the lathe, but they are so cheap it is not worth my time.


 To round the carousel top, I switched from scroll saw and disc sander, to just the disc sander only as shown below:


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.








The finials come with a tenon, that I hand sawed off and disc sanded smooth.


 I screwed the finial to the top of the carousel per the plan's recommendation.

The finial really looks nice!


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











A lot of labor hours in making this sub-assembly !!

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 used cherry to make the festoons. I sawed the 30 degree angles on the miter saw, then used the string and nail method to clamp them.


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.


I used hot-melt glue to attach the cam or drive ring to the particle board base.  I usually don't use hot-melt on my projects because it is not as strong as yellow titebond or CA glue.  I thought it would be ok on this project since there is very little stress on the ring.




I glue the paper patterns onto the wood use white Elmer's glue, then when done scroll sawing, wash the paper and glue off with a wet dish rag.

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.



1st Carousel Assembly in the Varnish Shop


 I decided it was easier to varnish the whole assembly as shown above, versus completing the assembly and trying to varnish the entire assembly.

 Washer Weights did not Work

The original plans call for putting 1 or 2 split washers on the bottom of each pony shaft to add weight, and help the ponies go up and down.  I hot melt glued 2 washers to each of the 3 pony shafts. 


 I tried it out, and it did not work!!  The washers hit the vertical piece of wood that supports the crankshaft.  I removed the washers.  It seems to work fine without them.

1st Carousel Completed

Here are photos of the 1st completed carousel........






I made a Youtube video of the Carousel in operation........

All of the hours of labor that went into this carousel were worth it, it is really cool to crank it, watch the horses go around, and up and down, and then strike the bell

2nd Red Oak Carousel

Now, on to completing the 2nd unit. Here are all the parts except the main cover plate, which I have to make next.

And here is the completed carousel........



Closing Thoughts

I actually like the all red oak carousel better than the walnut carousel.  The walnut makes the carousel look too dark compared to the red oak.  Hopefully, these will become family heirlooms that last for many generations!



















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