Wooden Toy Safe

  • Advertise with us
Project by RSmike posted 11-23-2012 05:43 PM 7546 views 36 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I built these wooden toy safes as Christmas presents for the nieces and nephews.

I was planning to paint them bold primary colors (red, green, yellow, blue, etc) but my bride asked me to leave the MDF naked because of the interesting contrast. The outside and all the parts are sealed with 2-3 coats of water based poly.

The hinges and handle are made out of a raised panel scrap that was sliced up. I used a Festool Domino to make the fixed anchor points for the hinges/doors to pivot on. (If you have a whole bunch of money that you want to get rid of I highly recommend purchasing a Domino…or anything made by Festool.)

The numbers on the dials were made by printing out the text in reverse on regular paper. Then I used a gel medium to stick the paper to the wood dials. When dry a SMALL amount of water is used to SLOWLY rub the paper away….over….and over….and over; patience was important.

Because there are brothers and sisters involved everyone gets their own personal combination which is resettable by moving the pins in the wheels to different locations. They aren’t too complicated to ‘crack’; especially if you know how they are built. Just like a regular safe there are limitations on what adjacent numbers can be used. Also there are some limits to the combination because of the design and where the fence slides in to lock the door.

(Yes it’s wood so no one pointing out the obvious regarding the many easy methods to ‘open’ them.)


-- Mike

17 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4632 days

#1 posted 11-23-2012 05:52 PM

That’s a very unique toy idea ,great job.


View Ken90712's profile


17984 posts in 4244 days

#2 posted 11-23-2012 06:28 PM

Great work, I think painting them would have taken away form the look. Our women seem to be right often LOL..
Nice work on these they look great….

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30612 posts in 3393 days

#3 posted 11-23-2012 09:02 PM

These are really awesome!

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Surfside's profile


3389 posts in 3229 days

#4 posted 11-23-2012 09:35 PM

Absolutely magnificent.

-- "someone has to be wounded for others to be saved, someone has to sacrifice for others to feel happiness, someone has to die so others could live"

View MarkJ's profile


52 posts in 4900 days

#5 posted 11-23-2012 10:01 PM

I like it, great gift idea for kids… or I wouldn’t mind having one too. I really didn’t understand your method of getting the numbers on the dial though. Is this a technique you found online somewhere?

View RSmike's profile


30 posts in 3745 days

#6 posted 11-23-2012 11:35 PM

Thank you for the nice compliments.

MarkJ – do a search on google for “Gel medium transfers to wood”. It took me a couple tries to understand how much rubbing is necessary to remove the paper and not the text. Too little rubbing and it stays pretty fuzzy…to much and you will rub off the text.

Gel medium can be found at most craft stores. You paint it on wood and then lay your laser printed paper on it.. FACE DOWN…. Using a credit card you gently squeeze out the extra gel. Let it dry. Then use a small amount of water to rub away the paper. I believe ink jet printed stuff does not work well but I have not tried it.

You have to reverse print whatever you want to end up being seen. Don’t use a lot of water our you could warp the wood….I found that out on my first attempt. It will be messy and just take time….

The gel is just an acrylic base. I would think that any clear acrylic based stuff would work. I wonder if water based poly would do he same thing?

This type of process is used by all those crafty types to transfer photos to wood. I’ve even seen people online selling the service. It’s pretty easy…just very time consuming. I spent a good deal of time rubbing off the paper leaving only the ink behind. If you leave more paper the fuzziness will give sort of an antique look once coated with poly. Most people use mod podge to cover these types of things. Water based poly word great for me. I put on two top coats…sanded very lightly…and then added one last top coat. The text looks almost like it was silk screened onto the wood….

Oh yeah ….The fire rating on these isn’t very good either…. ;)

-- Mike

View Pimzedd's profile (online now)


640 posts in 5198 days

#7 posted 11-24-2012 03:13 AM

Very interesting.

How about a description of how the combination work.


-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

View RSmike's profile


30 posts in 3745 days

#8 posted 11-24-2012 04:16 AM


It’s hard to explain. The quickest thing may be to check out YouTube for some videos on the operation of the wheel pack and fence of a safe. There are also some examples of other “wooden safes” at YouTube which work closely to this one.

In the exploded view of the wheels you can see the pins. Each wheel has one pin. The front dial is ‘anchored’ to the outer most wheel. This wheel pickes up the middle wheel whose pin then picks up the inside most wheel.

When the combination has been correctly dialed the notch allows the fence to slide which unlocks the door. The handle on the door allows this sliding action to happen.

The combination is dialed the same way as a regular safe….spin the dial 3 times to the right to pick up all the wheels. Then back off to the left to the first number… Twice around to the right to the second number….and then left to the final number. Once this happens all three notches should be aligned.

I hope this helps a little more….


-- Mike

View copcarcollector's profile


256 posts in 3173 days

#9 posted 11-24-2012 04:24 AM

Those are just too cool! Great job. I hope the kids love them.

View joebazooka's profile


116 posts in 4239 days

#10 posted 11-24-2012 12:44 PM

great idea I wouldn’t mind making one for myself, LOL

-- Robert-maine

View Boxguy's profile


2894 posts in 3323 days

#11 posted 11-24-2012 12:52 PM

Mike, thanks for the post and the explanations written as answers. You can also coat the surface with poly before you do the transfer. It helps the cleaning/warping process a little. Keep boxing and keep posting.

-- Big Al in IN

View Pimzedd's profile (online now)


640 posts in 5198 days

#12 posted 11-24-2012 03:12 PM

Thanks Mike. I think I got it. Will give it a try.

-- Bill - Mesquite, TX --- "Everything with a power cord eventually winds up in the trash.” John Sarge , timber framer and blacksmith instructor at Tillers International school

View Ben's profile


273 posts in 4769 days

#13 posted 11-24-2012 04:15 PM

This is definitely going on my list of things to build someday,

-- Do something nice for somebody

View BenI's profile


333 posts in 3234 days

#14 posted 11-24-2012 04:51 PM

Very cool project, great job!

-- Ben from IL

View Ivan's profile


16730 posts in 3923 days

#15 posted 11-25-2012 06:39 AM

They will be excellent presents and very usefull too in those recessions times.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics