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I'm a complete newbie to woodworking. I do have a small Craftsman table saw, a miter saw, jig saw, circular saw, and various drills and a hand router.

My nine-year-old daughter to build this wagon with me: https://howtospecialist.com/playhouse/wooden-wagon-plans/.

The plans call for using pocket holes/screws for the basic frame (made out of 1x4 pine), but I've read that not everyone is a fan of them. Would a rabbet joint or something else be better? The only type of joints I've ever done is basic angle brackets or butt joints with screws.

Any other tips to keep in mind for this first project?

  • Welcome to WW.SE. If you are not familiar with StackExchange sites you should take the tour. You should search previous Q&A for "pocket" and you'll probably get the answers you need. Note that "any other tips" type questions are not the best way for Q&A sites to work, as StackExchange is not a threaded forum. – jdv Aug 24 at 17:53
  • Exploring other ways to join wood is a first step in becoming a woodworker. I suggest you search through other questions using the tag 'joinery' (just click on the tag and hold it a second or two) and start reading and experimenting. – Ashlar Aug 26 at 0:54
  • "I've read that not everyone is a fan of [pocket screws]" Yeah that's true, but you have to remember that people will argue about anything. I'm not a fan of modern pocket screws use (i.e. their overuse) but there's no denying they work, and they have a place in production work, where speed is important, and for utilitarian pieces, which obviously this is. Now that said, there's no need to sweat how strong the joints are in this thing! It's not going to transport bricks or bags of gravel is it? ^_^ So just butt joints reinforced with screws, as you've used before, would be absolutely fine. – Graphus Aug 26 at 10:42
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Let's capture some of the comments in an Answer.

For this application almost any joint will do. Though, riding toys are subject to forces that might warrant putting on our engineering caps.

The idea here is that the rails of the wagon are like rails on a deck. When force is applied at the top of the railing this translates to a lot of force at the joint, where the rail joins the decking. There are a few ways to guard against this, and the joinery used is actually not what is going to make the largest difference.

Unless you are going to integrate the railings directly to the deck with some fancy cabinetry joints, you are relying on mechanical fasteners anchored in various types of wood grain. This sort of connection will eventually fold up, probably quite suddenly. This might surprise a 9-year old rider inside the wagon.

So, what we want to do is find a way to have these railings support each other, so they are better able to handle forces where they are weakest. This is why I think the design tries to tie the railings together.

Think about how your fasteners are weakest and strongest, and work within these parameters.

I will point out that the traditional wooden little red wagon is built a lot different than we see here. Typically, there is a butt-joined or mitred box with a rail down the middle that supports the bottom and carcase pieces that form the basis for attached the axles. Often there are metal or wood corner cleats. This stiffens the box to reduce racking and separating. Then the rails are often removable sections that drop into metal or wooden slots on the outside. The strength of the wagon relies on a stout box that the rails attach to, but they only have to resist the forces against them, not be the entire side support.

Lee Valley has an example of what I'm talking about, but this is a very common and time-tested design. It can be found any number of places, and is based on a very typical design I'm sure you can find references for online.

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  • Thanks for all this. I'm going to point out that the only thing my daughter plans on hauling in this wagon is her stuffed animals. – livefree75 Sep 2 at 23:55
  • Remember, if a thing on wheels looks like a child will fit in it during play, a child will try to fit in it during play. Toy makers have learned this fact the hard way through the years. It isn't the 9-year old that is at risk here. But, if this is intended to only be a non-riding toy then use whatever joinery you like. I urge you to consider the failure modes if a 6-year old decides to jump into it, though. – jdv Sep 3 at 13:33
  • Thank you, noted. Fortunately my 9yo is my youngest kid, and I don't anticipate having grandkids anytime soon! Well, hopefully, anyway. – livefree75 Sep 13 at 18:37

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