Secret Toad

After you adhere your patterns to your wood, drill all the registration holes and then cut the shapes out. I prefer a band saw to a scrollsaw because I'm cutting wide of the line and prefer the speed over the accuracy

After you adhere your patterns to your wood, drill all the registration holes and then cut the shapes out. I prefer a band saw to a scrollsaw because I'm cutting wide of the line and prefer the speed over the accuracy

Though there are more than 4,000 species of toads and frogs in the world, I decided there was still room enough for one more: the secret toad. Like its amphibian brethren, the secret toad is studded with warts and sports an enormous mouth. But instead of revealing a high-speed tongue that makes flies shaky in the knees, this toad’s mouth holds a stash of candy. I keep mine stocked with Hershey’s Kisses. Though if you steal a kiss from this toad, he’s not going to turn into a prince.

Building this 12″-long toad is a precision job, but I’ll show you some tricks to making the tedious parts (such as sanding) go quickly. Basically the toad is built from 3/4″- and 3/8″-thick stock that is cut according to a pattern, then stacked up and glued with other parts to create the toad’s body and mouth. Roto-Hinges and O-rings allow the toad to scoot across any smooth surface.

Click below to download the full-size patterns (PDF):

Begin With the Base

The trick to sanding the toad is to sand in stages. Once you assemble the first few layers, use your spindle sander to get to the spaces you won't be able to get to once you add the next layers.

The trick to sanding the toad is to sand in stages. Once you assemble the first few layers, use your spindle sander to get to the spaces you won't be able to get to once you add the next layers.

As with any construction project, it is best to start at the base and work out and up. Lay out three lower body “D” patterns on 3/4″-thick stock. These parts form the inside of the mouth and the belly. Drill all the 1/8″ registration holes shown on the drawing before cutting. These registration holes are critical because you’ll push nails through these holes temporarily while gluing a stack of these parts. Rough cut the pieces, apply glue and align them with 8d finish nails through the 1/8″ registration holes. Clamp the lamination with bar clamps along the width of the assembly. Wipe off as much glue squeeze-out as possible. When this first three-part assembly is dry, remove the alignment nails and get ready for some selective finish sanding. Because the belly area between the front legs won’t be accessible to the spindle sander after you add the outer “E” and “F” patterns, sand it now.

Lay out the “E” patterns on 3/8″ thick stock. These parts add to the width of the belly and create stubs for the front wheels. Drill the registration holes. Cut, align and glue them to the outer surfaces of the belly assembly. Finish-sand the inner mouth surface that will be made inaccessible when the “F” plates are applied.

The outer profile “F” patterns, also cut from 3/8″ thick stock, complete the lower body. Follow the same procedure as above. Finish sand all remaining surfaces. The seven layers of the lower body add up to a thickness of 33/4″. This thickness gives a nice proportion to the toad and is just about the limit of my spindle sander.

Drill the axle holes in the lower body. Use the rear 1/8″ alignment holes as the pilot for a 5/16″ hole through the lamination for the 1/4″ dowel axle. Drill from both sides to make this long hole. The registration hole will go a long way towards guiding your bit straight through the body. Now drill the 3/8″-diameter sockets on the front legs. These holes hold the 3/8″ Roto-Hinges for the front wheels. The holes are 1/2″ deep and made with a Forstner bit. Before drilling these holes, place a 2 1/4″-thick scrap block between the legs to prevent any inward bending.

The Head

Yes, you can use your spindle sander to smooth the tongue. Use a backing board as shown in the photo to make sure you're sanding it square.

Yes, you can use your spindle sander to smooth the tongue. Use a backing board as shown in the photo to make sure you're sanding it square.

The upper body is made from the “A,” “B” and “C” patterns. Again, working from the center out, cut, laminate and sand the 3/4″-thick “C” plates. Finish sand the head area that will be made inaccessible by the eye bumps on the “B” plate.

Follow the same procedure with the 3/4″-thick “B” plates and finish sand all the inner surfaces that will be covered by the “A” plates.

Careful attention must be paid to drilling holes in the 3/8″-thick “A” plates. Mark the center of the 1/2″ socket with an awl but do not drill at this time. Drill the 1/8″ and 3/8″ through-holes. Following glue-up of the “A” plates to the body, finish sand all remaining outer surfaces.

Once you get the tongue sanded and you've drilled the pilot holes, it's time to add the weight in one end that makes the toad work almost every time. I use polyurethane glue here because it expands as it cures, which locks the rod in place.

Once you get the tongue sanded and you've drilled the pilot holes, it's time to add the weight in one end that makes the toad work almost every time. I use polyurethane glue here because it expands as it cures, which locks the rod in place.

In order for the upper body section to rotate freely between the hips, you need to reduce its overall thickness by 1/16″. Do this by sanding the flat surfaces on a stationary belt sander. To complete the upper body, drill 1/2″ sockets at the awl marks approximately 1/4″ deep and glue in the screw-hole-button eyes.

Warts and All

The warts come next. (Caution! Wash your hands thoroughly following this procedure. Only kidding.) Stick the wart pattern to the back of the upper body with a light application of spray adhesive. Use an awl to mark the centers. Use a 3/8″ Forstner bit to drill 1/4″-deep sockets. Finally, pop in the screw-hole-button warts.

Tongue Lashing

Here you can see how the two body pieces go together between the legs. It all works thanks to a carefully placed Roto-Hinge.

Here you can see how the two body pieces go together between the legs. It all works thanks to a carefully placed Roto-Hinge.

We’re now down to the no-brainer construction steps. The tongue, “H,” is a peaceful series of long, undulating curves. Adhere the pattern to 3/4″-thick stock with the long axis of the tongues parallel to the grain. Cut, laminate and sand the four tongue elements. As with the upper body, the overall width of the tongue must be reduced by 1/16″ on the belt sander to allow free rotation in the mouth. To ensure snappy operation of the tongue, drill through the tip, or “T” end of the tongue as shown on the drawing, with a 1/4″ Forstner bit and insert a 1/4″ steel rod. Sand it flush to the sides of the tongue on a disk sander.

Leg Parts

The legs are simple cutouts, but drilling the pivot sockets demands some concentration because the pairs are handed (meaning they are left and right mirror images). Use a 3/8″ Forstner bit to drill 1/2″-deep sockets in parts “J1.”

Moving to parts “J2,” drill one 1/2″-deep socket on the front and one on the back.

The “G” hips cap and join the upper and lower body assemblies. After cutting and sanding, drill through the 5/16″ axle holes only. Perform the following operations on one of the pieces, then, on the other piece, reverse which side each hole is located on. At the center of the hip, using a 1/2″ Forstner bit, drill a 1/16″-deep socket. Using the same point, continue a 3/8″ through-hole. At the offset 3/8″ mark, drill a 1/2″-deep socket on the opposite side. In case you’re wondering about the 1/16″-deep sockets, they are made to contain the washer on the Roto-Hinges, allowing for an almost zero clearance between the rotating upper body and the fixed hips.

Sanding the wheels can be tricky. If you chuck the wheels into a drill press and press sandpaper against the turning wheel, you're going to create an ellipse. That's because the end grain and long grain of the wheel will sand differently. To prevent this, use a backing board as shown in the photo.

Sanding the wheels can be tricky. If you chuck the wheels into a drill press and press sandpaper against the turning wheel, you're going to create an ellipse. That's because the end grain and long grain of the wheel will sand differently. To prevent this, use a backing board as shown in the photo.

Cut the wheels from 3/4″-thick scraps using an adjustable hole saw. If the pilot bit for your hole saw is only 3/16″ in diameter, re-bore the hole in the large wheels to 1/4″ to accept the dowel axle. Also in the large wheels, bore the 3/8″ offset sockets 1/2″ deep. After cutting the small wheels, plug the pilot hole and again drill 1/2″-deep sockets. Grooving the wheels and stretching rubber O-rings over the grooves makes the wheels grip any tabletop surface. This kind of traction is necessary to make the legs operable (see photo at right).

While the wheel is chucked in your drill press, use a common scratch awl to cut a groove around the edge to hold the O-rings.

While the wheel is chucked in your drill press, use a common scratch awl to cut a groove around the edge to hold the O-rings.

Now apply the finish to all of the assemblies. I found that a wipe-on, semi-gloss polyurethane is ideal for the toad. Because most of the project glue-up is already complete, don’t be concerned about applying finish to areas where glue will be applied. It’s a simple matter to lightly sand the few surfaces involved.

Begin final assembly by placing the tongue between the outside cheeks of the upper body. Run a 3 1/2″ length of welding rod through the upper 1/8″ hole in the cheek, on through the 1/8″ hole in the base of the tongue, and out the opposite 1/16″ hole. Plug the 1/16″ holes with toothpicks, break them off, and cut flush. The tongue should pivot freely between the cheeks.

I use an old flap sander chucked into a drill or drill press for the final sanding. An old used flap sander produces a better finish.

I use an old flap sander chucked into a drill or drill press for the final sanding. An old used flap sander produces a better finish.

Glue one of the hips to the lower body assembly with the upper leg pivot hole facing out. While this is drying, slide Roto-Hinges into the 3/8″ through-holes in the upper body with the barrels of the hinges facing out. It is not necessary to glue the hinges in place because they will be captured between the body and the hips. Slide the hinged assembly toward the glued-on hip, seat the Roto-Hinge in the 3/8″ socket, and glue on the opposite hip while engaging the second hinge. Clamp your toad sandwich and allow it to dry. Round over the outside edges of the hips on the router table with a 1/4″ roundover bit.

Before finishing, I like to rub the toad's body with a grey synthetic steel wool Scotch Brite pad made by 3M.

Before finishing, I like to rub the toad's body with a grey synthetic steel wool Scotch Brite pad made by 3M.

Install the front wheels by placing Roto-Hinges in the front leg sockets. Because the wood barrels on the hinges are exactly 3/8″, it’s a snug fit. Use a small pistol-grip clamp to gently push the hinge into place. Now use the same clamp to slide the wheel tight against the leg. The washer on the hinge will provide the necessary clearance.

Install the rear wheels by running a length of 1/4″ dowel through the 5/16″ axle hole at the back of the lower body. Glue on the large wheels with the hinge sockets facing out. Orient the sockets on an imaginary line passing through them.

Assemble the leg pairs using the one-handed clamp to seat the hinges. Again, using Roto-Hinges, attach the feet to the rear wheels and the upper legs to the hips.

Now take the little guy out for a spin. As a final refinement, install self-adhesive, clear nylon bumpers where the falling tongue strikes the toad’s lower lip. PW

Supplies

Rockler

www.rockler.com

800-279-4441

10 – 3/8″ Roto-Hinges, item # 36244, $2.69 for two.

17 Screw button eyes, item # 20537, $2.99 for pack of 50

2 – 1/2″ walnut button plugs, item

# 20545, $2.99 for pack of 50

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