Old Fashion Climbing Bear Toy

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Project by Scooter McClain posted 12-18-2013 09:56 AM 3401 views 12 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am trying to make a tradition to make some sort of wooden gift for my kids every year for Christmas. Something that will last and something that they can pass on. I have two young kids, so I’m hoping that every year I can make something that they will play with a while as they grow. Last year I made this tic-tac-toe board for the kits to pay with that was finished with butcher block oil, and because I was heading for a 6 month deployment, I gave my wife specific instructions to wipe the board and pieces down once a month while I was gone with some more butcher block oil.

Being the forgetful wife that she is, she did not apply the monthly butcher block oil as I asked, and the boards warped and eventually broke, and the boards and pieces were beyond repair, and the money I spent on the maple was now reduced to kindle. Apparently, she put it in a place where they wouldn’t be able to play with it too.

Lessons learned, she has no respect for my woodworking. Enough on that.

This year I decided to do something simpler that required little to no maintenance on her end so when I get sent off again this year, hopefully the toy will hold up.

I had read about making a tinting wood finish by cooking it as an alternative to using stains, and I intended on employing this, so that was in mind from the start of this project. I used 3/4” poplar scrap that I had in the scrap pile and cut the shape of the bear and the top spreader bar. All cuts were made with my scroll saw. After sanding them to shape, I place the pieces, as well as the pre-made wooden balls into the oven at 400 degrees. After 30 minutes, the balls had turned to a walnut color and I decided to pull them out then. I left the poplar in for another hour and a half (2 hours total) and pulled them out, and they had turned almost a cocobolo color. Using some 1/4” birch ply I had in the scrap pile, I cut out the feet, mouth, and stomach pieces, and sanded them to their final shape. The circular disk were purchased at the same craft store that I bought the wooden balls at.

I used black enamel craft paint for the face. I used white 550 paracord for the strings.

I actually tested out another bear shape and left it in the oven for 3 hours at 400 degrees, and I ended up with a wonderful deep brown color that had I not had already finished the bear, I would have redone it with 3 hours in the oven. I built that one for my Godson (sorry, no pictures of that one).

Not including the cooking time, this only took about 2 hours to make. I’m very pleased with the results. I decided to not finish this just to see if by heating up the wood if it would be enough of protection, which even if it is not, it is something I can replace very easily. Time will tell if that was wise.

When I was a kid, my grandparents had one of these and I remember playing with it at their house and really enjoying it. I hope my kids like it, and I hope my wife stays away from it.

-- I make sawdust. I think thats a fair assessment of my finished products!

5 comments so far

View jim65's profile


1008 posts in 2132 days

#1 posted 12-18-2013 12:15 PM

nice idea, your heirloom toys are cool!

-- Jim, Marostica Italy

View majuvla's profile


13354 posts in 3067 days

#2 posted 12-18-2013 01:36 PM

Realy nice toy.I wish there were more such toys in toy shop instead ’’China’’ plastic.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18389 posts in 3875 days

#3 posted 12-19-2013 06:02 AM

Very nice bear.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View davidmackv's profile


317 posts in 1847 days

#4 posted 12-20-2013 07:56 PM

I made that exact toy in 8th grade shop. Ronald Regan was President then.

View crowie's profile (online now)


2735 posts in 2150 days

#5 posted 12-21-2013 11:29 AM

Very nice toy that you’ve made Scott but be kind to you darling wife as I’m sure she has many other positive attributes….I know mine has many which I lack….though she does appreciate most of my toy making…lol..

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

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