It’s not that hard to build a kid’s wagon today. In this day and age of disposable items, it is nice to receive, and give, a hand-crafted gift. I’m sure you can remember the hours of fun you had with the little red wagon when you were a child. It became a race car, stage coach or rocket ship. They became whatever our imaginations could conceive. In today’s era of pre-packaged entertainment, a vehicle for our youngster’s imagination is a great gift.
An advantage to building a wagon versus buying one is that the one you build will likely outlast the store-bought one. Wagons with metal bodies will rust if not stored properly all the time. Wagon bodies made out of composite materials or plastic will not be immune to the ravages of the sun and weather. They may crack and or fade from exposure to the elements.
On the other hand, a well-crafted wagon made of a hardwood and exterior plywood, properly sealed and maintained, can last several lifetimes with minimal care. They will not rust (except for the axles. This is rarely an issue.) or crack. The finishes can be maintained very easily.
The Skill to Custom Build a Wagon
This project will require basic carpentry skills. Unless you want to make it more sophisticated, the joinery required is easy and can be done with common tools. Most joints will be butt or lap joints. How you make your joints, and how many, will depend on your skill level, design and time availability.
The handyman or woman with some experience likely has all the tools on-hand to build this project. This is a recommended list, but you may make due with fewer tools than listed here. For instance, if you use plywood for the bed of your wagon you can often get it cut to size at the store or lumberyard. This would eliminate the need for a bench saw or table saw for ripping and cutting the plywood to size.
- Power Saws: Hand, Table or Bench
- Rubber Mallet
- Screwdrivers: Phillips, Slotted
- Drill and Bits
- Work Bench or Saw Horses
- Electric Sanders: Belt Sander, Orbital Sander
- Paint Brushes
- Rulers: Folding, Tape
- Combination Square
- Router and bits – If you want to craft the boards by beveling or rounding the edges.
- All the other tools and aids you have in your tool box.
DIY Homemade Wagon – Design What You Like
You can create your own design or purchase plans for various types of kids’ wagons. An internet search will return many sites where you can purchase plans to build a custom wagon.
If you choose to create your own design, use graph paper. This will make it easier to see the dimensions and relationship of one part to another. Also, we suggest you keep the wheelbase and height of the deck close to what is on the market. This will help you avoid center of balance and turning ratio problems.
Don’t forget to consider safety devices, like seat belts, in your design. Sun protection for younger children may also be a consideration. Check out the features of kids’ wagon before buying one.
Unlike in the days of my youth, it is not necessary to salvage old carriages and strollers for parts. There are many suppliers of parts or parts kits for this project.
Amazon is selling the undercarriage that comes with handle and wheels.
Easiest Way to Build a Wagon
Consider buying a wagon that has the tires, handle and yolk you like and strip the body off of it and replace with a body of your design. This is often easier than shopping for individual parts. Companies like Harbor Freight and Northern Tool offer wagons and kits at reasonable prices (no plugs-suggestions only!).
The materials needed for this project can be purchased locally in most cases. Even hardwoods and marine plywood are available at the larger home centers. This was not the case very long ago. How exotic you get with the materials will depend on your skill level and the tools you have available to work with them. Hardwoods, such as maple, will last longer than the softer woods like pine. However, they are harder to work with and require a little more skill with power tools.
You will also need to decide on what finish to use on your creation. In part this decision will be influenced by the type and quality of the woods used. How and where the wagon will be used is also a consideration. If you live in the south with high humidity you may prefer to stain and varnish rather than paint.
Another consideration is the age of the youngsters who will be using the wagon. A surface finish that becomes slippery when wet may not be appropriate for younger children.
The Time Taken to Complete the Project
How much time is needed to complete a project like this? It’s hard to say. Depends on your skill level, how much time you can devote to it at one time and the sophistication of the design you choose. We recommend a minimum of 10-12 hours.
Kids’ wagons are great gifts for today’s children. It encourages them to use their imaginations, play outdoors and with others.
Building the best kids’ wagon (after all, you built it!) will be a great experience for you. It is a personalized and unique gift that will give hours of pleasure to you and a lucky child. It may even give pleasure to generations to come!