I took wood shop in high school for 3 years. The instructor was strict that we draw precise plans and follow them to the letter. This was good especially for kids just learning. Learn a way to do something that gives you a base to deviate from and come back to if the deviation doesn’t work. I still like to draw plans (usually not as precise but I like to have a plan). I first started building the Wood magazine contractor series with a little trepidation. I wasn’t sure how they would hold up. They are very well designed and hold up well but not above making changes to them.
The first change I made was to the exhaust stacks. The stacks in the plan call for a piece that looks like it came off a small steam engine. A straight piece of dowel would look more realistic. I have gone from a straight dowel to taking apiece of dowel cutting a wedge out, boiling in water for about ten minutes then bending and gluing. This also gives you the freedom to use different size dowels for the size of equipment.
I just finished the truck crane in that I cut a groove in the lower boom sections and installed a dowel in the corresponding boom section so they could not be pulled apart by an energetic child when extending the boom.
The project I have changed the most is probably the grader. The plans called for a straight blade a 1/4” thick. This didn’t look that realistic. The blade needed a curve by running a blank diagonally thru the table saw I got the desired curve. ( This took a little trial and error as it was the first time I had tried this technique). The blade turned out to be a little weak in the center so had to run some reinforcement down the back side of the blade this actually added a little more realism to the blade.
The original plans called for a 1 1/4”x 1/2 wheel as a spacer between the drive wheels and frame of the toy. This was to simulate the chain case that all graders have. While thinking about the grader one night it hit me that if I cut a radius in both end of a piece of wood I could glue the spacers to it and have a more realistic looking grader. By the time I made it back to the shop the next day I had the current design. Throw out the wheels, plug the current axle holes, make a template and cut two chain cases drill the center for a larger axle for a pivot and glue the wheels axles in holes drilled in the ends. We have a grader drive that looks a lot more like the real thing.
The last picture shows the grader complete. I think I am going to enter this in the Idaho Artistry in Wood show this February then my grand son will get it.
I was telling my daughter what I had done to this grader she pulled out a small plastic one that was articulated. I may end up building another grader with all my improvements plus articulation.
The moral to this story. If you think you can improve on a plan give it a try you dever know where it will lead.
-- Bruce, Boise, ID