Starting Block and Complex Teether Projects

I’m ridiculously close to giving birth, too close (it is deemed) to get down to the hackerspace. Still (trying to) make progress on first 2 bits and pieces.


2015-08-02 15.53.12

2nd project is these:

2015-08-02 15.54.12

*note: I’m wary of the knot in the timber — I’ll probably turf that piece. The timber is Australian Cypress Pine, which is light, but slightly richer than normal pine. I’m mainly sure it’s totally safe, particularly once I sand it right back, although my parental paranoia is fully established.

Both these projects are stupid easy. Particularly as there’s a drill press hanging around the house (of course there is).

Sadly, I believe I’m too far gone even to use a handsaw (but I’m usually to lazy to use one anyway). I’d planned to whip down to hackspace and use their bandsaw. OK, and also use milling machine because I wanted to make one of the block toys and also for a laser project which is more interesting, though I haven’t published the post for it yet. It was at this point my trip to the hackspace was vetoed (“toxic” they said, “unsafe” they said).

Besides I’m waiting for the beads to arrive from ebay-land.

Still need to get elastic/rope, but the jobs themselves are trivial and merely time-consuming. Hospital any day now.

Overly Complex Teether

I have it in my head I want to make this:


AKA: Manhattan Toy Skwish Natural Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy.

To my eye the required parts are:

6x Dowel
6x Larger wooden beads
12x Smaller wooden beads

– Dowel I’m going to purchase from local hardware shop
– Beads are on the way from ebay

2x drill bits:
– 1x slightly larger than the dowel (to drill out the beads)
– 1x about a third or half diameter of the dowel (for the string to thread through)

A clamp can be used to hold the beads and dowel in place while drilling through them.

My Dad recommended boiling all the pieces if I wanted to be completely certain about neutralizing/sanitizing them.

I’m slightly concerned about what glue to use to stick the ends on. Glue is toxic, so don’t want to use too much, but on the other hand if one of the small beads is not attached properly and comes off it is a serious choking hazard. I might leave the smaller wooden beads as the last part to attach as they may not even be necessary.

Hmm … I’m sure it makes a lovely click-clock sound too.

There’s this crazy multicolored version too also made by same company, though natural is fine by me:

Edit: I just read the actual description and the shape deforms! Which I didn’t think of, having never seen one of these things in real life. Very exciting:

Skwish from Manhattan Toy is a time honored classic, instantly recognizable, an intriguing blend of ingenious design and developmental function. The geometrical shape and interconnecting wooden dowels have long piqued the curiosity of adults – imagine how it must appear to a baby as they begin to experience the world around them? Skwish may not turn every baby into a mathematical genius, but every baby can joyfully benefit from its unique developmental features. Its natural finish and one of a kind shape instantly capture baby’s attention. The lightweight wooden dowels, smooth finish, and elastic ties make it easy for little hands to grab and hold. Babies will love “Skwishing” it down and watching it return to its original shape – Skwish is a perfect clutching toy for developing gross motor skills. The beads slide back and forth along the dowels when shaken, producing a very pleasing rattle and allowing baby to explore sound and learn cause and effect. The spatial and tactile elements have been shown to be helpful to those on the Autism spectrum. Skwish is carefully constructed of sustainable wood and features a smooth, un-dyed exterior surface. For over 30 years, Manhattan Toy has been making award-winning, high quality, visually appealing toys for babies, toddlers and kids. Manhattan Toy offers more than 500 exclusive, original product designs distributed and sold worldwide through specialty retail stores, catalogs and websites. All of our products, from the newest concepts to our time-tested classics, are innovatively designed to inspire imaginative play and delight our customers.

Please feel free by all means to buy one yourself if you would like, current value ~$12 (though for me way over here in the antipodes the postage and exchange rates make this so very difficult): Manhattan Toy Skwish Natural Rattle and Teether Grasping Activity Toy.

On Mobiles

OK, originally I was all psyched on mobiles — it’s the stereotype after all.

Moreover, I’d consider a basic mobile pretty trivial to make with a laser-cutter.

But this is the view right outside the large windowed area where baby will be looking out upon:

  • Looking outside the window
  • Looking outside the window

I can’t help but think that mobiles are redundant and, well, lame compared to all of this.

Having said that though I think this one is very lovely:

If the materials and time are available I might try to make something similar, though it’s lower priority.

Edit: Also baby will be born in the second month of Winter so as her eyesight develops the season outside will transition to Spring. What lucky timing!

First Projects: Newborn Wooden Block Toys

The first projects will be for the newborn.

The question is what does a newborn really need for stimulation? From what I can understand they’re already busy trying to learn to do the basics of living, which seems like a pretty intense endeavour unto itself.

There are only really 2 toys the child potentially needs at this stage:

I’ll come back to mobiles but project #1 should probably be a boring natural wooden block toy such as one of the following:

First time I remember *making* something like this myself was when I was about 11 during woodwork at school. I didn’t have CNC milling and Lasercutting back then. I’ve found a nice bit of wood, all I have to do is make a design now.

The starting point piece of wood.
The starting point piece of wood.

Here’s a range of other block toys I found on amazon for ideas, would kind of be easy just to buy one, but postage from USA is unduly painful (this is going to be a recurring theme):

Other Child-Safe Natural Finishings

Note: I just did a post on Non-toxic finishing:
Non-Toxic Finishings on Wooden Toys

I ended up buying Foodsafe Plus (mineral oil) and Shellawax (polish) for this purpose from an Australian mob called U-Beaut.

Yet looking through my history I realised that there were some other great references for natural/uncoloured finishes.


Screenshot from 2015-07-24 00:18:02


For the sake of completion let me include them now:

Non-Toxic Finishings on Wooden Toys

It is same to assume child will eat some amount of any toy finishing, so it must be unquestionably non-toxic. While I ate my share of paint as a kid I’m unwilling to expose my kid to any “medium” type paints, such as acrylics, milk or enamel, for as long as I can help it.

There are some great references for using food dye:

Yet I think the finish is … less than ideal and apparently quite prone to bleeding on to everything:

When you look at all the great toys are so brightly, perfectly finished, it makes the food dyes seem inadequate.

Fortunately there actually does seem like there is a “step up” alternative, moreover sold by a small place here in Australia:

Just today I purchased his:
Non-Toxic Water Dye
Foodsafe Plus (mineral oil)
Shellawax (polish)

This is the comparative finish that is suggested is possible using the “U-Beaut” products:

Stray, unsubstantiated anecdotes on the internet suggest these work for well for toys.

I suspect the difference is merely the shellac, and food colouring with proper finishing would give similar effects, but it’s hard to resist supporting a hardworking local.

I have no experience with these yet but hope to document my progress.


2015-07-21 04.11.49The place to start.

I’m about to become a parent for the first time.

For and with the child I hope to make the things for her to play with. Buying toys seems silly and I believe more in “reals” than in toys anyway. For myself as a young child toys tended to be confusing anyway.

I have access to a hackerspace and last year I got enthusiastic about laser-cutting. Access to such tools, as well as some materials, is a fortunate starting point for making things.

It seems obvious to publicly document the process.