Jan 08, 2013

How to: Make DIY "Manly" Wooden Teething Toys

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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!

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I sketched the shapes in Adobe Illustrator, and then printed their outlines onto standard printer paper. 


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I used spray adhesive to attach them to some scrap pieces of wood that I had in the shop, making this an essentially no-cost gift.


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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.


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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.


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The finger holes of the brass knuckles are easy to remove with a Forstner bit or small hole saw.


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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. 


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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!

created at: 01/08/2013




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Jacob Newton on Dec 08, 2018:

Black Walnut is filled with extractives that are chemically designed to kill fungus, mold, bacteria and insects. These extractives, while not deadly to a grown human, can cause significant issue in toddlers. Use maple, alder, or oak.

Additionally, wood in itself is anti-microbial. This means as the toddler spits his bacterial riddle saliva on it it will absorb into the wood and the properties of the wood will neutralize the bacteria, which makes it a very healthy and hygienic teether. When you apple a finish you essentially prevent the natural anti-microbial properties from doing their job. Much like on a plastic teether, the bacteria will cultivate in the small pores and vessels of the surface, creating an unhealthy teether.

I do not recommend applying any type of finish to a teether but NEVER apply mineral oil, polyurethane, shellac, ect.. I suppose coconut oil would be okay but it provides bacteria more energy to grow.

I promise I am not spouting off here at random. I studied wood science and wood anatomy at Oregon State University. I have seen the extractives of walnut under a microscope and performed tests on their toxicity. General rule of thumb, if it has color in the wood, do not use it for anything child related. (Side note, do not use it for items that will be submerged in hot water, like a cooking spoon. This causes the extractives to leech into the water, essentially making a toxic cocktail.)

TyrrellTurnings on Dec 14, 2017:

In Britain most wooden utensils are made from Beech Fagus sylvatica or Sycamore Acus pseudoaplatanus - a member of the maple family grows like a weed in S E Britain.

Chris on Sep 19, 2016:

@Tony - after planing, these ended up being about 5/8" thick. Thanks

Tony on Sep 19, 2016:

What thickness board did you use?

MD Handfield on Apr 18, 2016:

As a wooden toy maker myself, I need to point a couple of things out that you neglected to mention.

- First of all, toys are subject to legislation including measurements and materials.The only material currently approved for wooden teethers in Canaada and the USA is Eastern white maple (known as "rock" maple) Each of these countries have safety measurements that need to be met.

- you have to be extremely careful with finishes. Mineral oil is a big no-no as it is very toxic. It is best to stay with food grade oils. Also if mixing bees wax with oil, make sure it is white filtered beees wax you aree using as the yellow bees wax contains bee parts and honey molecules and can possibly cause botulism in young infants.


Marisa on Dec 07, 2015:

Bees wax is a better option than mineral oil.  Mineral oil is toxic.

Jack on Jan 14, 2015:

Could you give a picture of the outlines to help us be able to make this

Willow on Dec 14, 2014:

These are fantastic!  Can you offer a list of suitable woods that might be able to be used though?  We can't get maple or birch here in NZ ...

Loren on Oct 07, 2014:

Black Walnut contains arsenic.  Probably not a problem until his teeth actually poke through and he starts chewing on it, but almost any other domestic hardwood would be better.  I recommend hard maple, as it's naturally resistant to bacteria.  

Also, any teether should be of sufficient size or shape to keep the toddler from hurting themselves.  The pipe shape is funny, but kinda freaks me out.

Bcurt on Aug 27, 2014:

As someone who is allergic to black walnut I cringe at the thought of handing one of these to an infant.

Dewalt on Jan 16, 2013:

Wow wow wow!! This is one of the coolest things I have seen in a while, and the possibilities are endless!!  thank you for sharing your awesomeness!