I teach construction technology at Forest Park
High School in Woodbridge, Virginia. I love
woodworking, and working with wood is a large part
of the construction industry, so I’ve tried to integrate
woodworking into my classes whenever possible. The
perfect opportunity came last fall when I developed
a community service project that required some production
The goal was to teach students how to safely use several
woodworking machines while learning about the
industrial revolution and assembly line production.
The plan was to build 1000 toy trucks to donate as
Christmas gifts to the US Marine Corps’ “Toys for
Tots” program. I chose 1,000 trucks because the number
was big enough to capture my students’ attention.
Designing a toy that could be produced in a classroom
assembly line—using different machines for
each operation—was a major challenge. I decided on
a tanker truck because it was an action toy with a simple
Tech. Ed. teacher Tim Zich volunteered his engineering
classes to help with the design (Fig. A, page
24). While drawing up plans for the truck using CAD
(computer aided design), they discovered that mitering
its rear end would cut production time and
decrease waste. They also helped design jigs and even
solicited vendors to get the best prices on wheels.
Including the engineering students was critical to the
project’s success and almost doubled the number of
students that participated.
The truck bodies were made from 1-1/2-in.-thick
lumber ripped to 2-1/8 in. widths. We used recycled
dimensional lumber and leftover hardwood from previous
projects to reduce costs. The wheels (which
came with wooden axle pins) and 1-1/4-in.-dia. dowels
had to be purchased.
The assembly line process
1. Cut the truck bodies to length on the miter saw,
with the blade angled 12 degrees.
2. Establish the cab’s back by cutting a 12-degreeangled
slot on the tablesaw, using a miter gaugebased
jig to hold the truck body in position.
3. Create the truck bed on the bandsaw, by using the
fence and making a stopped cut.
4. Use a template to mark the window and axle locations
on the truck body.
5. Drill window and axle holes on one drill press.
6. Counterbore the windows on a second drill press.
7. Cut tank body dowels to length on the miter saw.
8. Belt sand the bottom of each dowel flat.
9. Miter one end of each dowel on the bandsaw.
10. Sand the parts.
11. Glue the tanks on the trucks.
12. Install the pin axles and wheels.
13. Apply mineral oil finish.
14. Package the trucks for delivery.
The first day of production was devoted to teaching.
I demonstrated every step in the process and
trained each student to use every machine. We also
discussed the importance of quality control and ontime
delivery of parts. Then students rotated
through machine operation, assembly, quality control
and transportation assignments. Cardboard
boxes would keep parts and assembled trucks organized.
That first day, my five classes produced only 21
trucks. Daily production numbers kept rising, and
by the seventh day of production, we reached our
goal. Students made about 125 additional trucks to
sell for future fundraising. Then we shifted to finishing
As a finish, each truck received a coat of mineral
oil. Students were aware of recent news stories about
toys with lead paint and wanted to make sure the finish
on our trucks was safe. Mineral oil can be found
at any drugstore.
Setting the trucks out to dry was a real eye-opener:
What do 1000 trucks look like? How many benches will
they cover? Seeing all the trucks helped my students
realize the magnitude of what they had accomplished.
After the toys were delivered, the Marine commander
presented a Marine Corps Toys for Tots 2007 coin as
thanks to all who participated. The coin now sits on
display in the window of my office with photos from
the days of production. Students admire the coin and
the pictures on a daily basis.
Allow plenty of time if you decide to pursue a “Toys
for Tots” project with your woodshop class, as a key element
is delivering the toys to the Marines on time.
Donation stations and due dates for toy delivery in your
area can be found on the Toys-for-Tots website,
www.toysfortots.org. Follow the links “Contact Us” and
“Donate Toys” to get in touch with your local Campaign
Coordinator to discuss the details of your project.
Tell us about a dynamic woodworking school or vibrant teaching program. What makes it work? Point out notable teaching strategies and student accomplishments.
Explain how the program excites students about woodworking and tell us how it helps them develop woodworking skills. Whether the program operates in a public school, community center or a private workshop, we want to hear about its success. E-mail your story to
This story originally appeared in American Woodworker September 2008, issue #137.
September 2008, issue #137
Purchase this back issue.
Click any image to view a larger version.
As part of the project, students learned how to safely operate
several woodworking machines.
Forest Park H.S. engineering students used CAD programs
to design the trucks.
Students used assembly line production methods to build
the trucks. Here, Brandon Crawford prepares to drill window
and axle holes in the truck body after Corbin
DiMeglio uses a template to mark the drilling locations.
Five construction technology classes (about 100 students)
manufactured all the parts and assembled all the trucks
in seven days.
"No rough edges and no splinters for the little kids,”
explains Cameron Vigliano (center) as he sands. “Make
sure they're safe." Luis Almendarez (right) adds, "This is
an experience that we will never forget."
Students applied mineral oil as a non-toxic finish for
In the military, commemorative coins are given as thanks
for a job well done. The Marine Corps presented this coin
to construction technology and engineering students at
Forest Park High School for their “Toys for Tots” donation.