Toy Zoo

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I started by measuring the height of the project on a 2x2 of pine. After making a mark for the desired height use a speed square to make a line to guide where you are going to saw. I used a hand saw for this to show that you don’t really need any power tools for this project. You can of course use almost any powered saw to make these cuts if you wish.

Clamp the wood to a level and sturdy surface. Line the saw blade to the marking line while using the thumb tip of your off-hand as a fence. Once you have cut a grove for the blade to run you can saw back and forth keeping gentle pressure on the saw. If you find yourself forcing the saw or is it binds up you are not keeping your arm level. Try to image your arm as a piston that is mechanically moving back and forth in the same straight line every time. Make four cuts the same length like this.

To make the top and bottom of the zoo I used a thinner piece of pine. After measuring and marking I used a circular saw to make my cuts a little quicker. If you are using a hand saw simply utilize the same technique as before. I made eight of these cuts.

Take all your cuts and sand them with a higher grit sand paper. Use paper that is 220 or higher and remember to either wear a respirator or have a well ventilator work area because sanding dust is bad for your lungs. Brush or wipe the sanding dust away from the pieces when you are done.

Since this is a kid toy I chose to spray paint the piece with a light blue Rust-Oleum paint and primer. Lay the pieces out on a piece of old cardboard and spray in long even strokes across the pieces. Try to keep the paint can the same distance away from the pieces the entire time. If possible do this part outside because the fumes are extremely dangerous to inhale. I like to let the paint dry in direct sun light. Apply as many coats as needed.

Once everything is dry I set the square pieces up to the thinner pieces and drill pilot holes with a drill bit that is smaller than the screw that I will be using. If you want to make sure the screws are in the same location for aesthetics, then measure and mark with a pencil prior to drilling. Clear away the wood chips and follow up with the screws. You want to try to pick a screw that is long enough to go half way into the receiving piece of wood. If possible try to counter sink the screw, meaning that the head of the screw sits under the plane of the piece it is being screwed into. This prevents the screw from snagging a little hand during play.
Now attach the other flat pieces to the already created sides by setting the ends together on a flat surface. Repeat the same process of drilling a pilot hole and following with a screw as before. Repeat this process until you have a complete cube.
To make the bars of the zoo I went with normal nylon rope. You could also do this with a bungee type material, but it will be much more costly. I attached the rope using screws with wide heads. Simply attach one end of the rope on the inside of the cube. Hold the rope taught on the other end and attach to the piece. Cut the access rope away.

I had originally painted the letter Z-O-O onto the piece but did not like the depth of the letters. I purchased some pre-cut wooden letters from a craft store and painted them with spray paint. Once dried I applied an even coat of wood glue using a small brush to the back of each letter. I set the letters onto the cube and placed a small weight over the letters to allow the glue to dry with pressure. Make sure the letters do not slide when placing the weight on them. I like to allow the glue several hours to dry.
When looking for the wooden letters I came across these pre-made wooden animals. You could make these your self with a scroll saw and paint or cheat like I did. Simply glue the product onto the cube in the same fashion as the letters.
Now you have a fun way to store stuffed toys.