Last month, my nephew turned one, and he's suffering the pains of little ones everywhere - new teeth and very sore gums. He's sticking anything he can in his mouth to try to relieve the pain, so my sweetheart asked me if we could make up some dedicated teething toys, made from natural materials, for his birthday gift. And since his parents are both hilarious and always up for a laugh, we decided to go all out and avoid the monkeys and giraffes common in infant toys, and make them in humorous, tongue-in-cheek "manly" shapes.Thankfully, when he unwrapped them at his party, they were a huge hit: he knew exactly what to do with them, and my brother- and sister-in-law thought they were totally hilarious. Here's to nephews, ridiculous gender stereotypes, and no more sore teeth!
I sketched the shapes in Adobe Illustrator, and then printed their outlines onto standard printer paper.
I used spray adhesive to attach them to some scrap pieces of black walnut that I had in the shop, making this an essentially no-cost gift.
I cut out the shapes on my bandsaw, staying just outside the shape so I could sand to the line. If you don't have a bandsaw, you could use an electric jigsaw or sabresaw, or a simple handheld coping saw, which you can get at the hardware store for less than $10.00.
To make quick work of the saw blade marks but still maintaining the curves of each piece, I used a sanding drum that I installed in my drill press. You can buy these at any home center, and can use them with any electric drill. They're the perfect, least expensive option for sanding curves and irregular shapes.
The finger holes of the brass knuckles are easy to remove with a Forstner bit or small hole saw.
After sanding everything to 220-grit, I wanted to apply a finish that, of course, would be safe for a kid to chew on. So, I opted for mineral oil, which is safe to consume for all ages, and available at the drug store. I applied with a piece of 320-grit sandpaper, flooding it on then rubbing with the grain until a sawdust/oil slurry began to form, and I let it penetrate for 10-15 minutes, then wiped off the excess. If the teethers ever start to dry out from all that toddler saliva, my bro-in-law can just reapply a thin coat of mineral oil.
All told, it took me just over an hour to design, cut, and finish all three of these. I love that they work as a set, but are distinguishable individually. And yes, of course it's silly to give a one-year-old a pipe and brass knuckles, but that's the family's sense of humor. You could adapt this project to any theme that works for the little ones in your life.
Oh! And if you're not much for power tools but love the idea of natural wooden toys for infants and toddlers, check out my friends at Little Alouette. They make all kinds of cool developmental toys from wood (and their workshop is in my neighborhood). Hi Amy!