Kid’s Toy Excavator

Kid’s Toy Excavator




We haven’t heard from our pal Craig Smith, aka the Firefly Workshop, in awhile. Craig and his family moved to a bigger house. He’s glad to have the extra space, but has no dedicated shop space. Yet. He has plans to build an “ultimate outbuilding workshop” this summer. In the meantime, he hasn’t stopped making. Here is a cool kid’s excavator toy he built. He explains:

My son is now 2 1/2, and so my projects tend to revolve around him. I built an excavator toy out of scrap aluminum beams salvaged from inside old hot tub covers. 2” wide C-shaped beams put together as one to make the primary and secondary booms. Additional aluminum was cut for the end and joining plates (in black) assembled with stainless steel hardware. All pivot points have bronze sleeve bushings in them for long life. The bucket was made from thicker spa cover 4” wide beams salvaged. Cut, bent, and pop-riveted together with precise cutting and measuring, the bucket angles with linkages much like an actual excavator. Unlike similar manufactured toys, mine has a crossover lever-linkage. As you pull the lever towards you, the bucket and arm come towards you. Bought units do the opposite. The unit will be bolted to a 4X4 beam surrounding my son’s sandbox, the particle board base is a “test” platform. The only thing I bought was the wideboy bicycle seat. I wanted a proper throne for this project. While letting my son play with it to see what needed tweaking, he would cry “Digger, digger, digger!,” if it went back to the shop to be worked on!

14 thoughts on “Kid’s Toy Excavator

  1. msraynsford says:

    There is a miniature laser cut version of the same thing available on Thingiverse

    1. Lindsey says:

      My son used to have something similar to this and he absolutely loved it!

  2. Chad says:

    awesome work — i got one from harbor freight for my son 2 years ago — i was surprised it held up this long — starting to show some signs of heavy usage — been wanting to build a larger version as now my son is turning 6 and still loves to dig up everything!!

    1. craig says:

      Chad, If you make it too big and heavy, a ‘helper’ spring can be installed below the seat. (look closely at my build) The sheer weight of the long arm (mine is 48″ reach) can be countered with a proper size and tension spring pulling back. Then imagine the weight of a load of sand in the bucket. My son is a toddler yet, so the helper spring was necessary to offset the weight. I was ready to shroud the spring with an anti-pinch cover, but even if you try, my spring doesn’t gap enough for finger pinch danger. Does your Harbor Freight one look like it was made with steel pipes? I saw one like that at Northern Tool years ago.

  3. balloondoggle says:

    There’s a park here that has several of these installed in a huge sandbox. Very popular part of the playground!

  4. Mike says:

    Hi there,

    There is a video here, it looks like almost every kid is into similar hobbies. They are all amazing, I can’t tell how cute this is.

    1. Mike says:

      Here, there is a link if you guys like watching
      Sorry for the inconvenience

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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