How to Make a Circus Train for Stuffed Animals

Hook ‘em together for play; stack ‘em up for storage.

Next Project
Time

A few hours

Complexity

Beginner

Introduction

In 1880, a German company named Steiff became the first commercial company to create a stuffed toy—and kids have been cuddling them and collecting them ever since. If the kids in your life are like most, they have a lot of toys to cuddle—and stow. These circus trains are storage boxes in disguise. They can be used in two modes: Hooked together for play and stacked atop one another for storage. The bungee cord bars stretch to make it easy to slide toys in and out when playing or when the cars are stacked. It’s a great project to do hand-in-hand with kids.

Tools Required

  • Drill/driver
  • Miter saw

Materials Required

  • 1/4” dia. x 12’ bungee cord
  • 1/4” x 1/8” x 4’ corner molding
  • 1/4x4 x 2’ pine
  • 1x12 x 3’ pine

How to build it

Cut the top (A) and bottom (B) boards to length. Use a hole saw to drill four 3-1/2-in. holes in the corners of the opening in the top board, then finish cutting the opening with a jigsaw. Hang onto the circular cut outs – they’re soon to become circus car wheels. (Note: Don’t let kids use a hole saw; hole saws can be hard to control and will jerk the entire drill if they catch on an edge). Use a drill 1/2-in. drill bit (step 1) to bore the bungee cord holes.

Cut the four corner supports (C) to length (step 2). Position the corner supports between the top and bottom, then secure with glue and 3d finish nails (step 3). Predrill holes to prevent splitting.

Once the glue has dried, weave the bungee cord (D) through the holes. If you need bungee cord, buy them from Amazon here. Start by securing one loose end of the cord to one corner of the bottom with a horseshoe fence staple. After you weave a side, go back and re-stretch the cords, taking up slack as you go. The tension is about right when you can bend a “bar” and it just touches its neighbor. Once all the bars are woven and tensioned right. Secure the free end of the bungee cord with another fence staple and trim off the excess.

Install the wheels (step 5). First, drill the axle holes in the bottom (B) then slide a washer, a wheel and another washer (in that order) over the shank of a 2-in. screw. Install and tighten that screw in the axle hole. Finally, glue and nail the upper arched end panels (E) between the corner supports.

This project is featured in Family Handyman frequent contributor, Spike Carlsen’s new book, “Building Unique and Useful Kids’ Furniture: 24 Great Do-It-Yourself Projects“. Click the link to purchase it from Amazon!

Follow the project plans and step-by-step photos below to build this circus train storage (and toy!) for the kids in your life.

Cutting List

Circus Train Cutting List

Project Plans

Circus Train Tech Art

Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

Create the top and bottom panels and wheels

circus trainCourtesy of Spike Carlsen

Prepare the top (A) and bottom (B) panels. Bore holes for the bungee cord through both panels. The four circles drilled for the corner opening become the wheels (seen in background).

Step 2

Cut the corners

circus trainCourtesy of Spike Carlsen

Cut the corner supports. The block clamp holds the molding steady, establishes the right length and provides a square surface for the saw to ride against—all things that make cutting easier for kids.

Step 3

Fasten the corners

circus trainCourtesy of Spike Carlsen

Secure the corner supports (C) using glue and 3d finish nails. Predrill holes to prevent splitting.

Step 4

Weave the bungee cords

circus trainCourtesy of Spike Carlsen

Weave the bungee cord through the holes. After finishing a side, go back and pull the cord tighter to take up the slack then continue on.

Step 5

Attach the wheels

circus trainCourtesy of Spike Carlsen

Screw the wheels to the bottom. Predrill axle holes and include a washer between the wheel and the bottom so wheels will freely turn.

circus train featuredFamily Handyman