Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A 2 X 4 Jeep Is A Great Woodshop Project

One of the best parts of my job as a woodshop teacher is new project development and I make every effort possible to correlate our educational theme with a good project that compliments our students focus of study.

A woodshop class can be a very powerful hands-on extension for any educational curriculum and those schools or homeschooler's that implement such a "full-circle" plan of study will reap the greatest rewards and benefits from their efforts to teach.

About two years ago I developed a new project jeep when our students were studying World War II and I designed the entire wooden toy from a 7" piece of 2 X 4. I reasoned that a jeep would be the perfect woodshop project since this multi-terrain vehicle was specifically developed for the U.S. Army and their allies during WWII.

When developing a new project I always do my homework first so I did quite a bit of research on the jeep and I gathered the history of the vehicle, it's vital role in transportation during the war, and as many pictures as I could find. From this I could better brainstorm ideas for a good bulletin board on the project and organize some worksheets on the jeep for the students. By this time in my research I had begun to formulate the foundations about how I would develop the actual thematic project.

During this session I have once again brought out the good old reliable Army jeep as a woodshop project but our education theme for study now is "Around The World In 80 Days". Seems like there is a transportation element to this theme so the jeep should work out just fine. With just a minimum of adjustment this same project could also be easily modified to be a dune buggy.

The best part is that it can be made from just a 7" piece of 2 X 4 where I first cut off about a 1/4" slice of wood as shown in the picture to the right. The next important cut is made with the band saw, as seen in the picture to the right, where I separate a block from the chassis. The block (my fingers are on it in the picture to the right) can be used to cut out the jeeps seats, bumpers, windshield, panels for bed, etc.

Other parts needed that didn't come from the 2 X 4 would be the Plexiglas windshield that I hot glued into the wood frame. The wheels and axles were donated to our woodshop program in a very large quantity but you could also modify a dowel rod or old broom handle into some pretty nice wheels too so be creative and find the solutions that will work best for you. The headlights, taillights, and steering wheel assembly were also made from various sized dowel rods. I used the woodburning pen to etch in the radiator grill on the front side of the jeep.

To make this project easier for kids to process I made a tracing template for the chassis and I also made one for the side fenders/step assembly as seen in the picture to the left. From many years in the woodshop I've discovered that kids have a MUCH greater chance for success when they can first visualize the completed project so these templates do their job well here. Also it's very important to have at least one completed example of the project on hand so that they can see it, feel it with their hands, and feel comfortable to ask questions.

I would rate this project as "advanced" in my woodshop program working with at-risk kids who sometimes don't have a lot of patience. The 15 and 16 year old kids seem to do best with constructing this jeep and I would recommend designing a simpler car or jeep for the younger students. This is a fantastic project for kids but they need to understand that it will require great attention to detail and the ability to focus on a lot of individual components. If they can keep their eye on the prize then they'll have something to be very proud about.


  1. i love this jeep. today my technology teacher told me to search for a cool project to work on since im beyond my classmates in the project. im 16 and the rest are 13/14. i really want to do this for my dad bc he's the one who introduced me to jeeps. so i think it will be a neat present. so tomorrow will be dec.1 and i have 2 to 3 weeks to work on this. so my question to you is: is it possible to do this project in less than 3 weeks? please answer me quick. thank you

  2. Yes, this jeep can definitely be completed in well less than 3 weeks but without formal plans and drawings it could also be quite the challenge. I would say that the main obstacle will be to first get the wheels/fender assembly made and positioned just right on the chassis block but for me, that's the fun. After first cutting the 2 X 4 I then drilled the 4 axle holes, positioned my axles/wheels into the holes, then used a pencil to roughly trace an outline of the fender assembly that I felt would work.

    After some trial & error you will then get your wheels testing with good clearance and be well on your way to adding all of the other components. Best of luck and I hope that your jeep turns out well!