Learn about Life in the 1920s

How to Make 1920's Toys

Instructions for making toys and other articles based on the book "Things to Make" by Archibald Williams, author of "How it Works" and "How it is Made". The instructions assume the maker already has basic woodwork and metalwork skills and a reasonably well equiped workshop. It would also help to have reasonable interpretation and problem solving abilities as some instructions and diagrams are fairly basic.


The making for oneself of toys and other objects of a more or less useful character has certain advantages over buying them. In the case of the more elaborate and costly articles, it may enable one to possess things which otherwise would be unobtainable. Secondly, a home-made article may give a satisfaction more lasting than is conferred by a bought one, though it may be less beautiful to look upon. Thirdly, the mere making should be a pleasure, and must be an education in itself.

To encourage readers to "use their hands" the following chapters have been written. The subjects chosen provide ample scope for the exercise of ingenuity and patience; but in making my selection I have kept before me the fact that a well-equipped workshop falls to the lot of but a few of the boys who are anxious to develop into amateur craftsmen.

Therefore, while the easiest tasks set herein are very easy, the most difficult will not be found to demand a very high degree of skill, or more than a very moderate outlay on tools. I may say here that I have been over the ground myself to find out its difficulties for my readers, and that I made an engine similar to that described in Chapter XV (the most elaborate mechanism included in the book) with very simple tools. Some of the items which I had on my original list were abandoned, because they presupposed the possession of comparatively expensive machines.

My selection has also been guided by the desire to cater for different tastes. In some cases the actual manufacture of the thing described may be regarded as the most instructive and valuable element, and may appeal most forcibly to the "handy" boy; in others--the Harmonograph provides a good instance - the interest centres round the experiments made possible by the construction of a simple piece of apparatus; in some the utility of the article manufactured is its chief recommendation.

I feel certain that anyone who follows out the pages of this volume with hand as well as with eye, will have little reason to regret the time so spent. The things made may in course of time be put aside and forgotten, but the manual skill acquired will remain. Nowadays one can buy almost anything ready-made, or get it made without difficulty; yet he who is able to make things for himself will always have an advantage over the person to whom the use of tools is an unprobed mystery.

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Terms used in the Book

Batten - Narrow strip of wood.
Benzoline - An impure benzene; colorless, flammable, liquid aromatic hydrocarbon, C6H6.
Bevel (Bevelling) - A cut that is not a right angle.
Bradawl - Awl with a beveled tip to make holes in wood for brads or screws.
Chamfer - Cut off the edge or corner; bevel.
Boss - Enlarged part of a shaft where another shaft is coupled or a wheel or gear is keyed.
Broach - To shape a hole with a tapered tool.
Carbide - Calcium carbide, used to produce acetylene (C2H2) gas for lighting and welding.
Compo - "Composition", like plastic.
Creosote - An oily liquid containing phenols and creosols, obtained from coal tar. Used as a wood preservative and disinfectant. Can cause severe neurological disturbances if inhaled.
Deal - A fir or pine board of standard dimensions Fish-plate - A plate bolted to the sides of two abutting railroad tracks.
Fretworking - Ornamental design, often in relief.
Gasholder/Gasometer - Storage container for fuel gas, especially a large, telescoping, cylindrical tank.
Gland - The outer sleeve of a stuffing box that prevents leakage past a moving machine part.
Glass paper - Paper faced with pulverized glass, like sandpaper
Gudgeon - A metal pivot or journal at the end of a shaft or an axle, around which a wheel or other device turns.
Joiner - A cabinetmaker.
Linoleum - A floor covering made in sheets by pressing heated linseed oil, rosin, powdered cork, and pigments onto a burlap or canvas backing.
Lissom - Easily bent; supple
Longitudinal - Relating to length.
Mortice - Cavity in a piece of wood or other material, prepared to receive a tenon and form a joint.
Panel saw - Handsaw with fine teeth.
Pinion - Gear with a small number of teeth designed to mesh with a larger gear.
Plinth - Architectural support or base.
Rasp - Coarse file with sharp, raised, pointed projections.
Sleeper - Railroad crosstie.
Spanner - Wrench
Spirit Lamp - Alcohol lamp
Spirit - Alcohol
Strake - Ridge of thick planking on the side of a wooden ship.
Strut - Any part designed to hold things apart or resist compressive stress;
Tap - Cut screw threads
Tenon - Projection on the end of a piece of wood shaped for insertion into a mortise to make a joint.
Tenon saw - Saw with a thin blade for cutting tenons.
Tinning - Coating with soft solder.
Turner - Person who operates a lathe or similar device.
Tyre - Tire
Vestas - Matches; Vestai is the Roman goddess of the hearth

Index to Content of Articles

NOTE: The page numbers have not been used on this web-site. The Index is only provided as a guide to content. However it is easy to find the relevant content by consulting the web-page index at the bottom of the page. Web-pages are in Chapter order.

Aeroplane, model self-launching, 296-310.
Bedplate for engine, 140.
Bellows, double, 402-404.
Bench, joiner's, 13-22.
Benham's harmonograph, 370.
Bicycle shed, 49-64.
Boilers, model, 195-223.
Bookstand, 28-26.
Box kites, 267-283.
Cabinets, cardboard, 70-73;
- cigar-box, 74-78;
- match-box, 68-70;
- tool, 78-82.
Circles, rolling, 312.
Clock, electric alarm, 103-108.
Colour top, 816.
Cylinder, double-acting steam, 141-150.
Developing sink, 83-88.
Doors for shed, 58.
Double-acting horizontal steam engine, 136-164.
Double bellows, 402-404.
Eccentrics, 153, 155.
Electric alarm clock, 103-108.
Electric motor, reciprocating, 95-102.
Electric railway, 109-126.
Engine, hot-air, 282-246.
Experiments, apparatus for simple scientific, 311-326.
Fuels for model boilers, 221, 222
Gasworks, miniature, 421-428
Gauges, rain, 327-333;
- steam, 217;
- water, 217.
Gimbals, or universal joints, 373.
Gliders, paper, 290-295.
Goold's harmonograph, 369.
Governor for engine, 159-163.
Harmonographs, 364-388.
Hot-air engines, 282-246.
House ladder, 27-82.
Joiner's bench, 1322.
Kettles, quick-boiling, 224-231.
Kites, box, 267-288.
Kite winders, 284-289.
Ladder, house, 27-32.
Lamp, signalling, 415-420.
Locomotive, electric, 119-123.
Magic swingers, 319-323 ;
windmill, 317.
Match-boarding, 53.
Match-box, self-supplying, 389-393.
Morse code, 84
Morse sounder, 90.
Motor, electric, 95-102.
Motor, water, 247-254.
Nozzle for steam turbine, 182.
Pantograph, 405-409.
Pendulums for harmonograph, 371.
Pens for harmonograph, 379.
Pneumatic puzzle, 319.
Poultry house 39-48.
Propellers for aeroplane, 307.
Pumps, 158, 169, 218; 255-266
Puppets, wrestling, 398-401.
Puzzle, pneumatic, 319.
Railway, electric, 109-126.
Rain gauges, 327-333.
Reciprocating steam engine, simple, 127-135.
Resistance, adjustable, for electric railway, 125.
Reversing switch for electric railway, 123.
Riveting, 197.
Safety Valves, 216.
Sawing trestle, 7-12.
Shed for bicycle, 49-64.
Signalling lamp, 415-420.
Silhouette drawing machine, 410-414.
Simple scientific experiments, 311-326.
Sink, developing, 38-38.
Slide valve, 150, 155.
Smoke-ring apparatus, 324-326.
Soldering, 197, 198.
Spokes, magic, 815.
Steam cocks, 219.
Steam engines, 127-168.
Steam gauge, 217.
Steam pump, 258-266
Steam tops, 187-194.
Steam turbines, 165-186.
Strength. testing machines, 345-352
Swingers, magic, 319-323.
Switch, multiple battery, 124
Switch, reversing, 123
Target apparatus, 65-67.
Telegraphic apparatus, 83-94
Testing boilers, 220.
Tool cabinet, 78-82.
Top, colour, 316.
Tops, steam, 187-194.
Track for model railway, 111-118
Trestle, sawing, 7-12.
Turbines, model steam, 165-186.
Vanishing spiral, 312,
Vice for Joiner's bench, 21
Water gauge, 211,218.
Water motor, 247-254.
Weights for harmonograph pendulums, 314.
Windmill, magic, 317.
Wind vanes, 334-344; electric, 339-343
Workbox, Norwegian, 394-398
Wrestling puppets, 398-401.
Wriggling line, 313.


List of Chapters in this book: Sawing Trestle | Joiner's Bench | Bookstand | House Ladder | Developing Sink | Poultry House | Bicycle Shed | Rifle Target | Cabinet Making | Telegraphic Apparatus | Electric Motor | Alarm Clock | Model Railway | Reciprocating Engine | Slide Valve Engine | Model Steam Turbine | Steam Tops | Model Boilers | Quick Boiling Kettle | Hot Air Engine | Water Motor | Model Pumps | Kites | Paper Gliders | Model Aeroplane | Scientific Apparatus | Rain Gauge | Wind Vanes | Strength Tester | Harmonographs | Automatic Matchbox | Wooden Workbox | Wrestling Puppets | Double Bellows | Pantograph | Silhouette Drawing Machine | Signalling Lamp | Miniature Gasworks