So this post has nothing to do with furniture or home decor, but it is coastal, and it turned out so adorable that I just had to share. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a sneak peak of this special project the week before Thanksgiving. Earlier this year, Jason’s brother and sister-in-law adopted a sweet baby boy, and we were going to be meeting him over Thanksgiving. I wanted to give them something extra special, and started browsing through wooden toys on Pinterest. The baby is just about 8 months old, and I wanted to make him something that he could play with now, and not have to wait for. Initially I was looking at making a rattle, but then I stumbled across a little animal teether with silicone beads. Perfect. Simple, but sweet, natural, and the beads give it a little color.
Now, there are TONS of these on Etsy that you can buy finished with the beads for about $15, but they’re all made out of some sort of white wood, and I wanted to make one a little more special. I decided to use walnut, and settled on a whale shape. I’ve listed all my materials, tools, and steps below if you’d like to make one yourself.
- 1/2″ x 3″ x 24″ Walnut board
- Whale (or any animal or shape!) template
- Various food-safe silicone & wooden teething beads. I used:
- Cord – I used this silk cord in grey
- Coconut oil
- Jigsaw or scroll saw
- Small clamps
- Dremel (Very helpful for rounding over the edges, but you can do it by hand if you don’t have a Dremel. Also used for engraving the name.)
- Dremel 80-grit sanding drum
- Dremel engraving bit
- 220, 320, and 400-grit sand paper
1. Trace Template
Start by cutting out and tracing your template onto the wood you’ve chosen. I printed an image of the whale I liked to use as my template. You may want to use a small clamp to hold your template in place.
2. Cut out Whale
Using a jigsaw (or scroll saw) begin to cut out the outline of your whale. If you’re using a jigsaw, be sure to use a blade with a higher tooth count, as it will result in a smoother cut and reduce sanding.
When it’s time to cut out the hole in the middle of the whale, use a drill and drill a few pilot holes big enough for the jigsaw blade to fit in. Drill your holes with a scrap board under neath to prevent tear out. Then cut from hole to hole.
3. Round Over Edges
Now your whale should be completely cut out. If you’re like me, you will probably have some rough sides even if you used a good jigsaw blade. Also, since this is for a baby, all of the edges need to be smooth and rounded over. If you have a Dremel, it will make this pretty quick. If not, you’ll have to sand it by hand.
I used a Dremel with a small 80-grit sanding drum and it worked great! I smoothed out the sides first, and then rounded over the edges.
* I also used a file to accentuate the crease in the whale’s tail a bit. I felt like it looked flat before, and the file did the trick.*
4. Sand, Sand, Sand
Once all the edges are evenly rounded over, it’s time to sand. Again, since this will be going in a baby’s mouth, it has to be as smooth as possible. No splinters! The walnut was pretty smooth to start with, so I sanded with 220, then 320, then 400.
5. Optional: Engrave Baby’s Name
If you want to engrave the baby’s name do that once you’re done sanding. I used an engraving bit with my Dremel. It was a little tricky for my first time, but I kept it simple and made several passes engraving. Then I gave it one final light sand over the engraving to remove any possible rough edges.
6. Apply Natural Finish
Once all sanding and engraving is complete, it’s time clean the whale and apply a natural finish. Wipe with a damp tack cloth until there is no more residue, and clean with a little soap and warm water if necessary. To finish the wood, I used virgin coconut oil, but there are many oils you could use as well. The coconut oil gave it a wonderful scent.
7. Add Teething Beads
One last step! Before you can give the teether to baby, you need to add the silicone beads. I used a combination of round and faceted silicone beads, as well as a maple wood bead and ring. The beads I ordered came with some silk cord. Be sure to tie a very secure knot! A surgeon’s knot should do the trick.
I am so thrilled with the results! The beads arrived at the last minute before we left for our Thanksgiving trip, so I wasn’t able to take decent photos. And then when we arrived in Florida, I was so excited to give the teether to Asher, I completely forgot to take photos! So please excuse the phone photos. Needless to say, Asher absolutely loves his whale – I think it became an instant favorite!
If you enjoyed this special DIY project, I’d be thrilled if you’d share it on Pinterest! And if you make your own, I’d love to see it!
On a completely unrelated note, I’m starting on big new project this weekend. I’ve designed a new bathroom vanity and cabinet for some friends, and I’ll be sharing the design plans with you all next week. I also plan on creating a few short how-to videos as I build, so stay tuned in the next few weeks!