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.
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!