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Make your own Wooden Bug: A Beginner Woodworking Project for Kids

My husband came up with this simple but fun project to introduce our daughters to a variety of woodworking tools and their different uses. Using balsa wood and a few simple accessories, Miss 6 and Miss 8 made adorable wooden beetles and bugs, which now have pride of place on their playroom shelves.

Below, you will find step-by-step instructions for how to create your own wooden bug, with two variations depending on your child's age/woodworking confidence and the tools you have to hand. Feel free to adapt these instructions to create any bug or creature of your choice. Being creative is half the fun! You could even have a go at decorating your creature with Kitpas Crayons or Stockmar Art Supplies.

Safety information: Please remember that Kids at Work products are not toys - they are real tools that should only be used under close adult supervision. We also recommend using safety gloves, safety glasses and an apron. A good stable working surface is a must and will help avoid mistakes.

What you will need:

Kids at Work tools are just the right size for children's hands

Kids at Work tools are just the right size for children's hands

Instructions:

First, decide which bug or creature you'd like to create and choose a piece of wood to suit the shape of it's body. We’ve used balsa wood for the body as it is light and easy for kids to handle and shape. A great choice for beginner wood workers!

1. Gather your tools, sharpen your pencil and ensure that you have a clear and stable work surface upon which to work. 
2. Using a pencil, roughly draw the outside shape of the bug onto the surface of your piece of wood.
3. Using a rasp or file, begin to shape the wood. If possible, hold the wood in a vice to make this step easier and faster.
4. Once you have the basic outer shape (think 2D shadow), start rounding it as required to get the full 3D shape of the body. You may like to use sandpaper to finish it off.
5. We chose to use nail heads for our bugs' eyes. Position them before using a hammer to carefully hammer them flush into the body.

Gather your tools, sharpen your pencil and ensure that you have a clear and stable work surface upon which to work.
Using a rasp or file, begin to shape the wood.
Using a rasp or file, begin to shape the wood.
We chose to use nail heads for our bugs' eyes.

Now for the wings for Miss 8's ladybug. This required a few tricky steps, which are optional depending on whether or not you wish to add wings to your bug.

6. Find a small and thin piece of wood you can use to cut the wings from. We chose a darker wood to create a contrast with the body.
7. Using a pencil draw the shape of wings on the wood, considering the size you want relative to the body.
8. Using the fretsaw (which is great for cutting complicated shapes out of thin wood/sheet material), cut the wings out of the wood. Don’t press the saw blade into the wood as you will stretch it and eventually break the blade. Fretsaws work best when the blade is gently moved up and down, letting it cut without too much pressure. Be patient.
9. Next, we need to look at fixing the wings to the body. We decided to use a screw for the job. First drill a hole in each wing for the screws to go through. The Kids at Work hand drill is ideal for this. NOTE: use a piece of scrap wood underneath so you don’t drill into your work surface.
10. Place the screws into the wings and position them on the body.
11. Give them a light tap with a hammer to help keep them in position and start the hole
12. Using a suitable screwdriver, screw the wings in place. They should be able to pivot slightly once attached (Miss 8 loves making her ladybug 'fly').

Cutting and attaching the wings
Cutting and attaching the wings
Cutting and attaching the wings
Cutting and attaching the wings

It's starting to look like a ladybug now, but it’s missing some feelers. My daughter enjoyed this bit!

13. Using the round nose pliers (that are ideal for bending wire) create the rounded ends.
14. Only cut the wire after creating the curly bit on the end, as you will be better able to judge the length you want.
15. Cut the wire at the appropriate length using the using the wire cutting part of the flat nose pliers.
16. It’s possible to push the feelers into the soft balsa wood but be careful and accurate as you don’t want to create a larger hole than necessary, in which case the feelers will fall out. If this happens, drop some epoxy or glue gun glue into the hole before putting the feelers in.

Cut the wire
Attach the feelers

Every bug needs legs. Six legs, to be exact.

17. Being careful not to damage the feelers or wings, turn the ladybug over and use a pencil to mark where the legs will go.
We used bits of dowel as the legs for our ladybug, so first we needed to drill the holes for them to be placed into. The hole size should be the same as the dowel if possible. When using the hand drill, try and keep it still as otherwise the hole will end up larger than desired.
18. Using a pencil, mark how long you would like the legs to be, adding an extra centimetre for the hole in the body.
19. Now cut the dowel to length using a saw. The Japanese saw is great for this job as it gives you a clean and flush cut.
20. Loosely place the legs into the holes, to check the overall length and snug fit.
21. Drop some glue into the holes for the legs.
22. Next, carefully place the wooden legs into the holes.
23. Briefly turn your bug over to make sure all feet touch the ground. Adjust as necessary.
24. Leave to dry.
25. Your bug is now ready to decorate or to display as is. Adorable!

Cutting and attaching the legs
Cutting and attaching the legs
Cutting and attaching the legs
Cutting and attaching the legs

A slight variation for younger or less confident woodworkers

Miss 6 wasn't feeling ready to work with the hand drill or saw, and so we were able to adapt the project to suit her.

1. She chose to create a caterpillar and to use nails (rather than dowels) for the legs, which she gently hammered into place. It took some patience to get them all the same length, but no cutting required.
2. As her caterpillar didn't need wings, she also avoided any sawing or drilling. 
3. The other steps were the same as for Miss 8, and she found the process both manageable and enjoyable. With time, I have no doubt that she will move on to some of the more challenging tools, but we will be led by her!

A slight variation for younger or less confident woodworkers
A slight variation for younger or less confident woodworkers
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