We haven’t played with our Tinkertoys in a while but when we wanted to make a safari vehicle for our stuffed animals they popped into my head as the obvious solution for easily creating functional wheels and axles so we pulled them out and started tinkering!
First we researched truck design by looking at pictures online. We decided to go with an open top so our stuffed animals could enjoy the fresh air (plus it was easier)! We also decided to create a frame over the cargo area. We thought it would be ideal for the birds to perch on. Then we gathered our materials. We set aside two long rods for the axles and four spools for the wheels. We also constructed the frame to fit in the cargo area. We measured and cut four holes for the axles and one for the steering wheel. Then we cut the top off the shoe box and used the extra cardboard to create the engine compartment. The last thing we did was measure and construct a bench style seat for the driver and passenger (in this case the princess and her coyote). You could even loop a string through the front and turn it into a pull toy.
I discovered while putting together this post that Tinkertoys have been redesigned in plastic. I have to admit that I was disappointed at first. Wooden toys have such a nostalgic and warm tactile quality. It was a big part of why I bought them. However, as a product designer, I can see why they made this decision. It is so much easier to control tolerances in plastic which means all the parts probably fit together much more reliably. The wooden rods have split ends that create tension fits with the spools but when the wood expands, because of humidity, they become very difficult o build with especially for little kids. There is also the potential for these tension ends to snap. We have lost several rods as a result of this. So in the end I think plastic is a good idea. I also really like that they are still made in the USA!
If you are interested in buying one of the new plastic sets I recommend the 100 Piece Essential Value Set (Amazon affiliate link). The bigger the set the bigger the fun it is is my general philosophy!