In the mid 1980's, I built my son a foot powered wood tractor using a 1980 paper plan from U-bild.
32 years later in 2017, I can vaguely remember building this tractor. I remember making the wheels, and the steering mechanism was a unique design using rope wound around a wood dowel. We later moved 3 times in 4 years, and somewhere along the line, my wife sold this tractor at a garage sale.
Now, I want to build another one for my grandson, and grand-daughter(s) to play with.
I still have my 1980 paper plan. I entered it into Sketchup.
The plan calls for using 5/8" thick plywood. I checked a couple of the big box stores, and they only carry 1/2 or 3/4" plywood. I decided to substitute 1/2" thick versus 5/8" for my new build of this foot powered tractor.
My grandson has a lot of fun putting together and taking apart wood toys. I am going to modify the design to allow this tractor to be taken apart. The main panel on the right side will be removable using bolts.
I started building the toy tractor by first making the 2 main vertical side pieces. Then I started at the front corner and worked outwards making the pieces that fit between the 2 side panels.
During the summer of 2017, I discovered they make a very small square drive trim screw. I am using these to screw the plywood joints together as I build the tractor. I am using yellow Tite-Bond glue on the permanent joints.
Rather than using 1/2" thick plywood for the semi-circular fender supports, I chose to use 3/4" pine. The pine gives a better backing material for the small trim screws. I soaked 2" wide Luan plywood strips for 3 hours in hot water and Downy fabric softener..............then I was able to bend the Luan around the backer board.........and attach with the small trim screws.
As I was assembling the fenders, I noticed my seat is too small................
I checked my Sketchup drawing, and I made a mistake on the seat design............so I fixed the drawing...........and made a new seat.
From the driver's seat, the RH main panel will be removable. To remove it, you must pull out on the panel at the headlight, until it clears the headlight. Once it clears the headlight, you can pull out the piece under the seat. To give enough clearance under the seat, I left a gap in the seat support piece on the RH side.
For the front steering assembly, I used common 3/4" thick pine for the long horizontal piece the axle will mount to, and also the 2 vertical curved supports. It is much easier to screw the 3/4" thick pine together than the 1/2" thick plywood.............because the plywood wants to split.
The original plans call for gluing up 2 thicknesses of 5/8" plywood, to give a wheel width of 1-1/4". Since I am using 1/2" versus 5/8" thick plywood, I used 2 layers of 1/2" plywood and 1 layer of 3/16" Luan.
The plans call for 4 decorative holes in the big rear wheel that are 2-1/4" thick. I have Forstner bits for 2" and 2-3/8"..............so I used a 2" Forstner bit to drill the plywood.
You can use the inner circle waste from the big wheel, to make the small wheel.
I used the compass, and concentric rings to align the 2 main pieces that are glued together.
I used cotter pins on all 4 wheels to retain them.
The plan called for 1" diameter wood balls. I had some toy wood barrels, so I used them instead :)
The plans called for drilling holes in the 1/2" steel shaft and using bolts to attach them to the plywood. I decided to use copper clamps designed for attaching 1/2" copper pipe to wood. I had to rebend the clamps because the 1/2" steel has a smaller OD than the 1/2" copper pipe. These copper clamps should hold up ok over time, if they don't, I can replace them with steel clamps made for conduit.
I used (3) quarter-inch diameter bolts to attach the removable vertical side panel to the main body.
I was not sure how to design this feature, so I went shopping at Ace Hardware to see what type of bolt fittings they had available. I found a special 1/4" nut, that has 3 holes for nails to keep the nut from rotating.........
I made a small block of 3/4" thick pine, and drilled a hole in it a little larger than the special nut. I then put in 2 small nails in the special nut to keep it from rotating.
Then I used 2 wood screws to attach the pine block to the inside of the left hand side vertical panel. I could then push in a 4" long 1/4" bolt from the outside of the removable RH side vertical panel, into the special nut, and tighten the removable side. It worked pretty slick.
I found some 1/4" rope and 2 pulleys at Ace hardware......
The plan calls for using a wood screw to hold the pulley, mounted on the inside of the vertical panel. I did this on the LH side.
But, I want my RH side vertical panel to be removable, so the pulley can not be mounted to it.......because the attached rope would prevent the panel removal. I added a wood block inside the RH panel, and mounted the pulley to it.
This steering mechanism works remarkably well. My hat is off to the person that dreamed up this concept!!!!! It is simple and works well.
I decided to use oil based enamel paint on the tractor, because it gives a much shinier finish than water based latex paints. Enamel paint takes longer to dry, and I will probably use the oven at 115F to help me speed up drying of the parts. I used 1 white primer coat of Zinsers, plus 2 coats of the enamel.
After completing the build of 1 tractor, I measured and there is about 40 inches of the 96" long sheet of plywood remaining. This means it takes more than 1/2" sheet of plywood. I used some 3/4" pine pieces instead of plywood, so if you made all parts from plywood, it would take a little more of the sheet.
1. Paint the whole wheel yellow, 2 coats
2. make 3/4" long dowel plug that matches 1/2" axle OD, Make center with awl. Drive plug into axle hole. Use big compass to mark border between inner yellow and outer black.
3. Tape off the outside black portion
4. Apply 2 coats of black paint to the outer portion
5. Remove tape
Hopefully, the black enamel will not seep under the tape onto the yellow inner wheel. If it does, I will have to carefully hand paint the border.
The masking tape method worked very well. One wheel had 1 spot where the tape has loosened, and I had to touch up the paint, but otherwise............the tires really look nice!!
I almost forgot to install the smokestack on top. I made it from 3/4" red oak dowel, with a rounded top for safety.
I used a 1.5" diameter plastic circle template, and my white paint marker from stained glass projects, to outline the white headlights on the 2" wood diameters. Then I taped them to the circle, and painted white.
When I made the 1st tractor back in the mid 1980's, I was young, poor, and hardly owned any tools. I probably made this 1st tractor using a saber saw and 3/8" electric corded drill. It was probably a little crude looking, compared to this latest tractor (now I have about every woodworking tool known to man).
The rope steering design still fascinates me. It works remarkably well on this latest tractor, and it is a very simple design.
Substituting 1/2" thick plywood for the 5/8" thick plywood called for in the plan, worked out ok. I did use some scrap 3/4" thick pine pieces to reinforce some joints.
My design for making the RH vertical panel removable using 3 bolts works fine.
Hopefully, my grandchildren, and their young cousins will have fun playing with this latest tractor.
In June, I decided my grandson Caleb was big enough to play with this tractor, and help take it apart and put it back together again. He really likes the very responsive steering on the tractor, and played with turning the steering wheel back and forth for quite a while. He helped Grandpa take it apart and put it back together again.