Surprise! A classic pull-toy phone that really works. By Frank E. Yost….
I remember making pretend phone calls on my Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone when I was 7 or 8, and wondering if it was possible to turn it into a real phone. That question stayed with me, and when I saw a Chatter Telephone and a Crosley Princess Telephone recently at Target, I knew the answer was yes. I brought them home and made it work, and it was easier than I expected.
Disassembling the Chatter and Crosley phones was easy with screwdrivers (Figures A and B). The Chatter’s dial pops off when you tap out the pin underneath with a hammer and nail. To clear room inside the Chatter, I used a Dremel and X-Acto knife to shave the bell and clicker mounts off the inside of the bottom cover. Examining the phone’s workings, I saw that there were 6 elements I needed to fit into the Chatter. Here’s how I handled each.
I used a paper template to mark and cut a 3" hole in the Chatter, centered over the dial’s sticker. The rest of the sticker I peeled off. I temporarily taped the Crosley dial in place in the 3" hole, turned it all upside down, and glued the dial in around its circumference. For reinforcement (optional), I Dremeled off the part of the Crosley’s shell that held the dial in back, filed its edges, and screwed it back on using the original screws (Figure C).
Fig. C: For reinforcement, use part of the Crosley’s shell and screw it back on using the original screws.
Later, I had to grind down the bottom inside edge of the dial, to give the Chatter’s eyes room to bob up and down. As a finishing touch, I removed the Fisher-Price sticker under a hair dryer, and affixed it to the new dial.
With a knife, I cut holes for the jacks in the Chatter’s base just next to the Fisher-Price logos on the right side and the back. Then I glued the jacks in place from the inside.
- Fisher-Price Classics Chatter Telephone about $15. The plastic ones have more room inside than the old wooden ones. I used the classic, boxy style (#952), now sold under license by Sababa Toys (sababatoys.com). This project might also work with the newer, rounded Fisher-Price model (#77816), but I didn’t try that one.
- Crosley Princess Telephone $31 at Target
- Simple used push-button telephone from a thrift store
- Coiled telephone handset cord
- Aluminum angle bar 1/2"×1/4"×1/16", scrap piece 8" long
- 20-gauge steel sheet, scrap piece 3/4"× 4"
- Brass or steel pipe, 1/2"×4"
- Plastic bolts with matching nuts, 1/8"×1/2;" (4)
- E-6000 glue not super glue
- Red electrical tape I used Duck Brand 667 Pro Series.
- Pop rivets, 1/2" aluminum, white
- X-Acto knife
- Pop-rivet gun
- Soldering iron and solder
- Screwdrivers: small Phillips and flat blade
- Drill and drill bits: 1/16″, 1/8″, 7/16″
- Dremel tool
- Coping saw aka hand jigsaw
- Drawing compass, paper, pencil, and scissors
- Hammer and nail
- Hair dryer
The Crosley’s hang-up hinge is too long to tuck inside the Chatter, so I trimmed 1 & 1/8″ off each end of the top piece and 1/4″ each from the bottom. I measured and drilled two 7/16″ holes in the Chatter for the clear plastic plungers to stick up through (Figure D). I then made a bracket out of sheet metal to hold the hinge underneath; download the pattern at makezine.com/16/diytelephony_chatter.
Fig. D: Cut holes in the Chatter phone’s cradle so the plungers can move up and down freely.
With the plungers through the new holes, I positioned the hinge and bracket so that the plungers moved up and down freely, and then I marked the bracket’s position, drilled four 1/4″ holes through the sides of the phone, and pop-riveted it in place.
I made brackets for the circuit board out of aluminum angle; see makezine.com/16/diytelephony_chatter. I insulated them with electrical tape, screwed them to the board with 4 plastic nuts and bolts, and then drilled and pop-riveted them to the Chatter through the flat part of the base (Figure E).
Fig. E: Make brackets for the circuit board, screw them to the board, and then pop-rivet them to the Chatter phone.
I put the bell on the outside of the Chatter phone by pop-riveting its mount across the sound vents in the back. The 2 wires powering the bell tucked neatly through one of the vents (Figure F).
Fig. F: Put the bell on the outside of the Chatter phone by pop-riveting its mount in the back.
I assembled the handset last, after testing the modded body with a working donor handset. The Crosley’s handset had delicate wiring that melted under a soldering iron, so I used an older phone from a thrift store. I gutted the handset, cutting the wires to the microphone and speaker. Then I used a coping saw to cut off the Chatter handset’s caps, 1/2″ from each end.
To add sufficient weight to push down the plungers, I hammered a 4″ length of 1/4″ brass pipe into shape in a vise, threaded the curved pipe through the handle, and glued it in place. I cut out a hole for the jack, then fished the wiring through the pipe.
I drilled 1/16″ sound holes through the end caps, following the toy’s existing dimple pattern, then glued in the microphone and speaker. I resoldered the wire connections, insulated them with tape, and glued the jack in place. Finally, I taped the caps back onto the handset tightly, using precisely cut red electrical tape that matched the toy almost perfectly (Figure F).
That’s how I turned a classic toy into a working telephone. Now call someone! With a phone like this, you’ll have plenty to talk about.
Make: TIPS! Coloring Glue
When you’re about to glue up a crack repair or any other job where the glue will have to fill some gaps and be visible, don’t forget to add some color to the glue. It’s always better to have the glue line looking a bit darker than the surrounding wood, and the closer you match the color the better. Regular powdered artist’s pigments work well with most any glue, whether water soluble or catalyzed.
–Frank Ford, frets.com
Find more tools-n-tips at makezine.com/tnt.
Frank E. Yost is an amateur artist who lives in Andover, Minn. He wrote the Retro R/C Racer project in MAKE, Volume 11.