I have been making quite a few pull and ride-on toys for my grandchildren lately. They all need wheels, which I have had to purchase, since making multiples of the same size by hand with a band saw and sanders is extremely difficult. Also, finding the larger size wheels is difficult or very costly. Can the wheels be made on a lathe and, if so, how would I do it? I have just purchased a mid-size lathe and basic tools so I am a newbie to turning – what other accessories would I need? – Kaare G. Numme Jr.
Tim Inman: My answer is a combination approach. I’d use the band saw and a “circle jig” to rough cut the wheels. There isn’t a faster way to do a lot of wheels, and make them the same size, that I know of. If you know the axle size for your wheels, you can set up your circle jig with an axle sized pin for your rough cuts. Drill the wood blanks to the axle size, then slip them over the axle pin in your circle jig. Cut the wheel.
A side note about band saw circle jigs. The design is common and readily available in good woodworking books. One simple change I have made is to mount a guide rail on the bottom to fit the miter gauge slot in my band saw fence. This lets me slide the jig and rough blank into the cut, much like a crosscut sled. When my jig hits the “stop” and is firmly in position, I can then finish cutting the circle.
Once you have your blanks roughed into true circles, then, I’d set up a wooden sacrificial faceplate system on your lathe with that axle pin size for a mandrel. You would then be able to place the rough wheel concentrically onto the face plate, and cut the final profile and do the finish sanding, etc. If your setup is well planned, I think you could turn out nice wheels right and left! Good luck!