How to Make a Toy Car (with Wood)

By Brittni • Updated on 02/15/2024

How to make a cute little toy car, shaped like a ghost (or whatever else you want).

Child playing with wooden blocks and toy car on the floor

So, I made a little wooden car for Halloween and it’s honestly so easy to make. You just need a bit of wood and a few other things and you’ll be rolling those ghost cars in no time.

This Halloween toy is a perfect alternative to candy, if you know a kiddo who is into cars, or ghosts, or just Halloween in general. But you can also use this wooden toy car tutorial year round – for birthday gifts, Christmas, Valentines Day, etc. So many options for gifting a little handmade car little this one.

And if you’re not big on the ghost shape, no worries! You can VERY easily modify this tutorial for other shapes as well. Animal cars, Halloween monster cars, or even just a regular ol’ wooden car (classic). The process would be the same for all of them, with just one change when cutting the initial shape.

Anyway, here’s how I made a toy car for my son that actually rolls and everything.

Wooden toys (blocks and a toy car) for kids on the floor near a basket

How to Make a Wooden Car

A little backstory… I planned to make small wooden cars as party favor gifts for Hayes’ birthday party. But I ran out of time.

So I thought I’d finish them up as DIY Christmas gifts. But then I was like….what about a ghost on wheels for Halloween?! Lol.

I think they tuned out pretty cute and they were very easy to make.

I’ll definitely be finishing the remaining pieces (I have eight more pieces of wood that are already cut and sanded) for the holidays. Or maybe as Valentines for my son’s classmates in February. Anyway, here’s how I made the wooden ghost cars…

child playing with a wooden toy car with a friendly ghost face on it

Materials and Equipment

  • scrap wood – I used pine, which is a soft wood, making it easy to cut and sand. It’s also lightweight, which makes it a good choice for kids toys.
  • paint – I mixed acrylic paint with water to let the grain of the wood show through.
  • wooden wheels – I linked the exact set I use and it comes with the small dowels needed for the wheels to make it easy.
  • dowel rods – You may not need to buy additional dowel rods, depending on the wheel set you select.
  • jigsaw – There are a few power tools you could use for this project, but the easiest one (if you’re planning to cut anything with a curve or freeform shape is a jigsaw. I have this jigsaw and it works great (has a nice hardshell case as well to keep it safe and tidy in the garage).
  • drill and drill bit larger than dowel rod
  • sander or sandpaper block

Step by Step Instructions

1. Draw out the initial shape.

Draw out a ghost shape on a piece of wood. I just made a long arch shape for mine. And kept each one somewhere between 3 and 5 inches.

This can be any type of wood your like. And works great with scrap wood as well.

2. Cut the shape out.

Use jigsaw to cut wood ghost shape out.

3. Sand the wood.

To make the wood smooth and free of splinters, you’ll want to sand the shape you made in step 2. You can you a power sander or do it by hand with a sandpaper block.

4. Attach wheels on one side to dowel rods.

You’ll do this twice, so that you have two sets of wheels started. So one dowel and one wheel. And then another dowel and another wheel.

5. Wait for it to dry and then cut off any excess dowel rod.

Using a multi tool or pull saw, cut any dowel rod off that is sticking out from the outside.

Not the inside long part. Cut the outside short part.

6. Mark off where you want the wheels to go on the ghost shape.

Now that half of the wheel sets are complete, determine where you want the wheels to go.

Mark them off with a pencil toward the bottom of the ghost shape (or whatever shape you created in step 2).

You want to make sure that you don’t mark the holes off too far down OR too far up. Because that could effect how the wheels will run on the finished car.

7. Use a drill to create the two holes that you marked in step 6.

You want to make sure that the two holes you create are LARGER than the dowel rods you are using.

They don’t need to be significantly larger, but at least one or two sizes bigger. That way, the wheels will run smoothly when the project is complete.

8. Thread the dowels through the holes.

This one is self explanatory. 

9. Glue the second wheel to each dowel.

Add glue to the inside of the wheel hole and some to the sides of the dowel as well.

And then put the dowel through and add some more glue around the dowel and wheel hole if necessary. THIS PART IS MESSY.

I threaded the dowel through so that the majority of was sticking out the other end to get the wheels closer together. You’ll cut the excess off in the next step.

10. Once dry, cut the excess dowel rod.

Just like you did in step 5, after the glue is fully dry, cut off the excess dowel rod that is still sticking out from the wheel.

11. Sand all excess glue.

Hand sand (or power sand) any excess dried glue and any remaining dowel sticking out from the wheels.

12. Paint and seal.

Paint the car and the wheels, if desired. And then add a sealant to finish things off. Now, your tiny ghost toy is ready to ride.

*You could also paint the base of the car before it’s all assembled (so after step 3). But for the wheels, I would wait until the end, because you might have to sand off excess glue. So, I just did it all at once, at the end.

Wooden toy blocks in neutral and muted tones on the floor near a striped rug and basket

Woven floor basket filled with wooden blocks and other wood toys for kids

Wooden toy car and other wood blocks scattered across a hardwood floor with striped neutral rug

And that’s about it on the DIY wooden cars. I hope you’ll give these a try because they really are so fun to push around on the floor.

Which reminds me, you could drill a hole and add a short(ish) string to these as well, if you wanted to make something like a cat or dog shaped car as a toy pet. 

Anyway! Lots of possibilities with this one. Let me know if you’re thinking about making one. 

Roundup of various wooden toy cars for kids

Cute Wooden Toy Cars to Buy

Don’t feel like DIYing this time? No worries. I put together a handful of the cutest wooden toy cars I could find.

  1. Wooden Car Set from Odin Parker $60
  2. Fire Truck PlanWorld Vehicle from Bitte $12
  3. Candylab Toys Yellow B.Nana Car from Amazon $10
  4. Guidecraft Wooden Garbage Truck from Target $49.95
  5. Set of 4 Wooden Cars from Etsy $26.99
  6. Toy Car Set Hearth & Hand from Target $12.99
  7. Bajo Pullback Car from Maisonette $26
  8. Wooden Animal Pull-Back Car from Odin Parker $30

More Kid-Focused Content You Might Like

Looking for more do-it-yourself projects like this one? 

And here’s a few non-DIY faves for kids as well…

  • My play kitchen roundup is one of my most popular kids posts – 21 play kitchens for every budget.
  • A really big list of my fave gender neutral baby clothes – I included specific brands and online shops that have a great curation of kids clothing.
  • Also have a detailed list of wooden toys for 1 year olds (and babies and toddlers).
  • Super cute Halloween pajamas for kids – I included matching family pjs in that one too.

How to Make Toy Car (from Wood)

Brittni
I made a little wooden car for Halloween and it's honestly so easy to make. You just need a bit of wood and a few other things and you'll be rolling those ghost cars in no time. This Halloween toy is a perfect alternative to candy, if you know a kiddo who is into cars, or ghosts, or just Halloween in general. But you can also use this wooden toy car tutorial year round - for birthday gifts, Christmas, Valentines Day, etc. So many options for gifting a little handmade car little this one. And if you're not big on the ghost shape, no worries! You can VERY easily modify this tutorial for other shapes as well. Animal cars, Halloween monster cars, or even just a regular ol' wooden car (classic). The process would be the same for all of them, with just one change when cutting the initial shape. Anyway, here's how I made a toy car for my son that actually rolls and everything.
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Equipment

  • jigsaw
  • drill and drill bit larger than dowel rod
  • sander or sandpaper block

Ingredients
  

  • scrap wood
  • paint
  • wooden wheels
  • dowel rods

Instructions
 

  • Draw out a ghost shape on a piece of wood. I just made a long arch shape for mine. And kept each one somewhere between 3 and 5 inches. This can be any type of wood your like. And works great with scrap wood as well.
  • Use jigsaw to cut wood ghost shape out.
  • Sand the wood. To make the wood smooth and free of splinters, you'll want to sand the shape you made in step 2. You can you a power sander or do it by hand with a sandpaper block.
  • Attach wheels on one side to dowel rods. You'll do this twice, so that you have two sets of wheels started. So one dowel and one wheel. And then another dowel and another wheel.
  • Wait for it to dry and then cut off any excess dowel rod. Using a multi tool or pull saw, cut any dowel rod off that is sticking out from the outside. Not the inside long part. Cut the outside short part.
  • Now that half of the wheel sets are complete, determine where you want the wheels to go. Mark them off with a pencil toward the bottom of the ghost shape (or whatever shape you created in step 2). You want to make sure that you don't mark the holes off too far down OR too far up. Because that could effect how the wheels will run on the finished car.
  • Use a drill to create the two holes that you marked in step 6. You want to make sure that the two holes you create are LARGER than the dowel rods you are using. They don't need to be significantly larger, but at least one or two sizes bigger. That way, the wheels will run smoothly when the project is complete.
  • Thread the dowels through the holes. This one is self explanatory.
  • Add glue to the inside of the wheel hole and some to the sides of the dowel as well. And then put the dowel through and add some more glue around the dowel and wheel hole if necessary. THIS PART IS MESSY.
  • I threaded the dowel through so that the majority of was sticking out the other end to get the wheels closer together. You'll cut the excess off in the next step.
  • Just like you did in step 5, after the glue is fully dry, cut off the excess dowel rod that is still sticking out from the wheel.
  • Hand sand (or power sand) any excess dried glue and any remaining dowel sticking out from the wheels.
  • Paint the car and the wheels, if desired. And then add a sealant to finish things off. Now, your tiny ghost toy is ready to ride. *You could also paint the base of the car before it's all assembled (so after step 3). But for the wheels, I would wait until the end, because you might have to sand off excess glue. So, I just did it all at once, at the end.
Did you make this?Mention @paperandstitch or tag #paperandstitch!

2 comments | Click here to reply

Thanks Georgia!

Brittni

wonderful ideas here

GEORGIA BROWNE
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