Project: Toy Bar

My wife asked me a question the other day. Not exactly news, I know. But this one pertained to woodworking. She asked if I could make a bar that would extend across our daughter’s pack and play so we could hang dangly toys for her to play with. I said yes.

Originally, the thinking was to take some 3/4″ flat stock red oak that was laying in the scrap bin and glue and screw some blocks to it to keep it in place on the pack and play. Easy-peasey-lemon-squeezey.

But then I began to think that some of the dangly toys have velcro ends and some have plastic ends that kind of clip onto the carry handle on a baby car seat. The board I had in mind would be hard on that kind of clip. So now I needed a way to put those kind of toys on and take them off.

What I came up with is a length of round stock with two round caps; one fixed, one adjustable but locking. The locking adjustable cap inspiration came from an article by Dean Jansa in the December 2006 edition of Popular Woodworking about making a wedged marking gauge. Having made one based on that article, I knew that the wedge mechanism held very tightly.

Because this project was for my infant daughter, safety was a big issue. No sharp edges or pointy bits allowed. A 1″ diameter, 36″ length of dowel that was in the scrap bin seemed to be the answer. I  just needed my endcaps to be round, too, for safety. A scrap piece of 3/4″ red oak fit the bill.

This is the end result.

First, I laid out the cuts needed for the end caps. I figured 2 and 1/2″ would be plenty, but looking back on it now 3″ might have been better. The piece of red oak was close to the finished size I needed. This is the first cut.

The first cut leaves me enough material to make two end caps. After cutting the pieces to size, time for more layout.

Here, the center has been found by drawing diagonal lines from opposing corners. Using a compass, a 1″ circle was made to show the path of the dowel. Next, the path of the wedge needs to be determined. I didn’t get real scientific with the angle of the wedge path. I eyeballed to the point where it “looked good”. Using the slot in the blade of my bevel gauge, I traced the parallel lines across the face as a guide for my brace and bit, which you can see in the next photo.

A 3/8″ dowel is going to become the wedge, so using a #6 auger bit and my trusty 8″ Yankee brace, it only takes a moment to bore the hole. I managed to do this all by eye, keeping track of my layout lines and make sure my brace is 90 degrees to the direction of my bit. This is easier than it sounds, but it does take a little practice. A sharp auger helps, too.

Here the center has been bored most of the way. The tiny hole in the center is the exit hole of the lead screw of the #16 auger. The piece has been flipped over to finish boring from this side. Doing this leaves a much cleaner hole and eliminates tear out.

Here is the end result. Not bad, for a first attempt. Time to shape the wedge.

Shaping the wedge is fairly straight forward. I used a dovetail saw and a rasp. Saw a kerf somewhere around a quarter to halfway through the 3/8″ dowel about an inch from one end. Use the rasp to form a flat slant from your saw kerf to about a quarter inch from where you estimate the end of the wedge will stick out. The movement on your wedge will be relatively small. You want both ends to keep their full 3/8″ diameter. This makes it easier to register the position of the wedge relative to the dowel. Use extra dowel length to help position your wedge in the vice.

Test fit the wedge and cap on the dowel until you have the desired fit. A firm push of your thumb should lock the cap down tight. The next step is to make your square pieces round.

One viable rounding approach is to use a saw to cut off the sharp corners until you have a rough octagon. Use a rasp to remove those final edges. I used a farriers rasp and brought everything down to the line I had drawn using the compass to establish my circle. A farriers rasp really hogs off wood quickly. To tidy up I used a spokeshave. This is the result.

To finish up, bore the hole for the dowel in the end cap that will be permanent and remove your corners until you have a circle, just like you did with the other one. Position the end cap about an inch or so down from the end of the dowel.  With the end cap held in the vice, bore a 3/8″ hole through the end cap and the dowel. Add glue and pin the end cap in place with a dowel and let dry. Once every thing is dry, take it to your crib, pack and play, etc., and clamp the caps to the outside of the rails, lock your adjustable end cap, and your ready to go.

It seems sturdy enough and my wife has no problem operating the wedge mechanism. We’ll keep an eye on it for a while and post about the results. Who knows. Maybe the baby won’t like it.

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