Caleb’s Grasshopper

At only 11 years old Caleb set out on a task to built a kinetic toy. No I am not talking about a high-tech remote control plane or car. I am talking about a good old wooden toy that has moveable limbs. Still, the fact that Caleb's wooden toy does not require electronic components, nor does it demand soldering or the use of servo engines, does not mean that this is a simple project. For young students, even the task of making a round wheel is often a Herculean mission. Caleb found the plan for building a grasshopper in the book, "Making Heirloom Toys", by Jim Makowicki. I showed him how to saw, rasp, and shape wood with a plane. I advised him to rasp and plane down hill, "laying down the grain". He noticed that rasping up hill (this was highly noticeable when he shaped the wheels) created tear-outs and the wood surfaces just look bad. "The fibers we cut", I said, "like to be cut when they are supported by other fibers." I gave the analogy of trying to move your hand across the finger tips of your opposite hand. If you pass the hand from pinky finger towards the middle finger your fingers will stay together. But if you try the other way, and pass the hand from the middle finger down to the pinky, you will see that they have a tendency to spread out. "Think about the fingers", I told Caleb, "align your hand with the wood where the finger serves as the grain and remember the analogy whenever in doubt about filing your wheels."

Grasshopper is made from pine, cherry, glass beads (for the eyes) pipe wire cleaner (as bug antennae).




American Woodworker Blog
Yoav Liberman

About Yoav Liberman

Yoav S. Liberman is a woodworker and a teacher. His pieces have been featured in several woodworking books, most recently in Robin Wood’s CORES Recycled. Yoav teaches woodworking at the Rudolf Steiner School in Manhattan, and also frequently guest teaches in craft schools across the country.  Between 2003 and 2011 Yoav  headed the woodworking program at Harvard University's Eliot House. Yoav’s articles have appeared in American Woodworker and Woodwork Magazine. He frequently contributes woodworking web content to a number of digital publications   Yoav has a degree in architecture and later held two competitive residency programs: at The Worcester Center for Crafts in Massachusetts, and the Windgate Foundation Fellowship at Purchase College, New York. He lives in Chestnut Ridge NY.