Sandbox Digger — Backyard Backhoe

Sandbox Digger by Timothy's Woodworking


I recently made two sandbox diggers for our grandsons, Henry and Collin and their brothers, George, Alec and Beckett. You could also think of these as “backyard backhoes.” I think they’re they’re pretty darn cool looking.

The process of making these was quite involved. I knew what I wanted to make, so I looked around on the web and found a couple of designs that didn’t really appeal to me. I remembered our local hardwood dealer had one in his warehouse for awhile, and went in search of that one. I tracked down a version of it from my neighbor and used it to pattern the mechanics of my “backhoe.”

What I liked about my neighbor’s version was that the mechanism worked really well — plus it was simple and direct. The one drawback to this particular version was that the bearing for the seat was exposed, and quickly became clogged with sand in the sandbox. So a major change I made was to protect the bearing by recessing it deeper inside the seat.

Sandbox Digger by Timothy's Woodworking

I then had to decide what kind of woods I would use. I used a sheet of 3/4 inch exterior grade mahogany plywood to laminate the seat components. The rest of the backhoe is made out of cypress which is a very good exterior, lightweight wood. I decided later to paint all of the parts with exterior oil enamel because painted wood holds up much better than a clear finish outside, and it looks more playful in the bright colors I chose. A local metalsmith made the buckets for me.

As I proceeded, I tried to make templates and jigs so I can reproduce these toys. All in all, these first two sandbox diggers probably took me about a week to make. Time well spent, since I’m sure these toys will provide countless hours of fun for my grandkids and their children. Probably also fun for their parents!


  • Price: $1200 plus shipping and crating. We take all major credit and debit cards.
  • Your Backyard Backhoes will be custom made to order and will provide years of enjoyment for generations! Please email me for more details, including order fulfillment time, custom color choices, logo designs, and shipping costs:
  • The logos on the backhoes are custom designed by my wife, Maureen, especially for the boys. Collin, Alec and Beckett Bright will be constructing imaginary things with “Bright Brothers Construction” equipment and Henry Atom and George Bond Shaughnessy are the “Atomic Brothers Construction” company.
  • The backhoe is heavy enough to sit solidly on the ground but light enough to pick up and move around.
  • Of course, the mechanism really works — and works very smoothly. You can dig with it, pick up and move objects. And I’m sure the kids will come up with other functions for these diggers!
  • The photos in this article were taken in Helena before we deliver the diggers to the grandkids. I will post photos with the grandkids as soon as I can.
  • diggerOwen11-whiteground2-imp Sandbox Digger by Timothy's Woodworking Sandbox Digger by Timothy's Woodworking


    The Songs of Trees

    Cherry Burl NurseTree by Maureen ShaughnessyIf a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?  Maybe this classic philosophical question has finally been answered, in a magical, musical way.

    Bartholomäus Traubeck, a composer from Vienna, Austria, has figured out how to translate tree rings into something akin to music. Traubeck uses technology to create “music” from the ring data on slices of seven different tree species. Listen to this piano piece by an Alder Tree:

    vintage diagram of tree rings


    Here’s a description of the process on Traubeck’s BandCamp profile:

    A tree’s year rings are analysed for their strength, thickness and rate of growth. This data serves as basis for a generative process that outputs piano music. It is mapped to a scale which is again defined by the overall appearance of the wood (ranging from dark to light and from strong texture to light texture). The foundation for the music is certainly found in the defined ruleset of programming and hardware setup, but the data acquired from every tree interprets this ruleset very differently.

    For the entire album of the songs/voices of seven different trees, check it out here.  And HERE is a video showing the gizmo. 

    Fraxinus (Ash) Tree

    And just for the heck of it, here is one other of my favorite Tree Songs from the same album, the music of an Ash (Fraxinus) Tree:

    Artisan’s Craft Interview

    WDC Final Day

    Lou and Cheryl Quallenberg are right next to us at the Western Design Conference. Lou made stools to sit on — they go with his exquisite mesquite table, but I think the stools are hidden under various bottoms (mine and Tim’s included) more often then they are on his pedestal in plain view.  Boy — is it ever hard to stand for 7 hours at a time! I am personally grateful to Lou and to Les & Tauni Powers for sharing their seating.

    Mesquite Partners Desk by Lou Quallenberg

    Mesquite Partners Desk by Lou Quallenberg

    Lou’s mesquite furniture is absolutely gorgeous. We saw it for the first time at last year’s conference. He supports the twisted, highly figured Texas mesquite table and bench tops, with sinuous trestles and legs. The overall effect is something I would classify as Contemporary Organic, like Tim’s furniture.

    Either Tim’s or Lou’s furniture would fit beautifully in a contemporary city loft or a Rocky Mountain lodge-style home. Their pieces easily compliment modern or traditional decor and furniture of steel, chrome, antler or leather.

    Check out Lou’s website and gorgeous gallery created by his wife Cheryl. She’s as much behind his creative momentum as Lou is himself.

    – more later on the conference as we head home tonight… Maureen

    Lou Jerry Jim and

    Western Design Conference, Jackson, Wyoming

    Well, we’re here at the Western Design Conference, hanging out with friends from last year and making new friends.

    The Yellowstone table and Walnut Desk with Chair

    Tim’s “The Yellowstone” table and Walnut Desk with Chair

    We are meeting lots of customers and really hoping someone will make a connection with one of Tim’s woodworking pieces and decide to take it home with them. We’d both really like not to have to take his “The Yellowstone” table and “Forest Muse,” the beautiful walnut desk home with us, no matter how much I’d like them in our own living room.

    Here are the three pieces Tim entered into the juried part of the Western Design Conference exhibit.

    The Yellowstone: Curly Mango, Lacewood, Padauk and Mahogany

    The Yellowstone: Curly Mango, Lacewood, Padauk and Mahogany

    "Forest Muse" Desk and Chair of Walnut

    “Forest Muse” Desk and Chair of Walnut

    Right next to Tim’s pieces, Les and Tauni Powers, of Nature’s Forms, have an elegant booth with outrageous sculptural pieces by Les. My favorite reminds me of the wind dancing through the sandstone canyons at Zion, where we go with our shamanic study group every spring. Turns out, when I mentioned that connection to Les, he told me it is inspired directly by Red Canyon in Bryce, very close to where we go with our group.

    Red Canyon by Les Powers

    Red Canyon by Les Powers

    I’ll post about Lou Quallenberg‘s incredible mesquite table tomorrow. For now, here’s a shot of Lou and 3 friends all woodworkers, and links to their websites. Check ‘em out:

    Lou Jerry Jim and

    James Krenov will be missed

    New Friends from the Western Design Conference

    We met Lou and Cheryl Quallenberg at the Western Design Conference and immediately hit it off with both of them. Personally I like this photo I shot of Lou better than the pics he has on his website. (heh — tongue planted firmly in cheek — heh.) Lou really does have a fun sense of humor: enough anyway, to match Tim’s.

    Lou creates exquisite tables, benches and desks from large slabs of mesquite that might otherwise be doomed to the barbecue pits of Texas.

    Cheryl is an artist and graphic designer in her own right, creating colorful impressionist watercolours and promoting Lou’s woodworking with her clean, elegant graphic design.

    I only got a hint of the many excellent stories these two have to share … I hope we see them at next year’s WDC — even better, maybe they’ll show up in Helena for a relaxed visit.
    (lou-and-cheryl: hint, hint) – Maureen

    p.s. check out Lou’s furniture at Lou Quallenberg Studios

    Contemporary, Traditional, Creative, Western, Organic, Wild … how we experienced the Western Design Conference

    Welllp … the Western Design Conference 2008 is over — done — fini — and boy are we tired! Tim and I haven’t had to stand on our feet for that many days and hours in a long time.

    Tired, yes … but good-tired. Just moments after we finished loading the truck and saying goodbye to the many wonderful folks we met at WDC, I snapped this shot our hotel:

    Later in the week, I will post more about the conference: photos and observations of the conference as a whole, as well as some I snapped of some of the new friends we met here in Jackson, Wyoming. More than anything else, I appreciated meeting some of the amazing artists and craftspeople in the west. Check back in a couple of days when Tim and I have a chance to decompress and maybe I’ll have a photo of you and your artwork here on ShopTalk. — Maureen