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Building a Cotton Reel Tractor
Written by Philip Pain   
Tuesday, 18 May 2010 04:51

Building a Cotton Reel Tractor

(Extracts from my GNR articles)

Who of you can remember the simple fun of building and playing with a cotton reel tractor?

For those of you who can't, I will refresh your memory.

  1. Find a cotton reel in your moms sewing box' one she won't miss and hasn't got too much cotton on. Remove the cotton and throw it away. (Better bury it so your mom won't find it.)
  2. Break the bottom off of the "stand by" candle and replace the candle back in the holder so your mom won't notice. (If you end up with the wick put that piece back)
  3. Take your Mom's best and sharpest carving knife out of the kitchen draw, and sneak to your favourite work place (Minora razor blades don't work that well).
  4. Starting at a point on each raised edge of the cotton reel, cut notches all around the edges (these are the tracks for your tractor). Note if you cut yourself, put the knife back in the kitchen draw and tell your Mom some 'FIB' about how you cut yourself (this is to prevent the smack on the head for playing with a sharp knife).
  5. If you haven't cut yourself this far, take the piece of candle and trim off a slice to about a half an inch thick, and then bore out the hole where the wick went through, this should be large enough for an elastic band to pass through (If you can't find an elastic band, have a look through some of your Moms old undies). We always had a packet of assorted elastic bands, in different colours, in the box which the Christmas decorations were kept. The piece of candle should now resemble a Wilsons buttermilk sweet, but with the hole right through.
  6. The next step is the most difficult. You must cut a shallow groove into one of the flat ends of the cotton reel, crossing the hole in the middle (this groove is easiest to cut in line with the grain of the wood, if you split the reel in half go back to step one).

The Parts for the Tractor

  1. To assemble your tractor, you pass the elastic band through the hole in the cotton reel, to the side where the groove was made, then taking a short piece of toothpick, pass it through the elastic band and make sure it fits into the groove you made. The other end of the elastic band now passes through the piece of candle and then taking an old round wooden lollipop stick, pass it through the elastic band, after the candle (if the band is too long double it up), leaving one end of the stick long and the other flush with the edge of the candle.
  2. Holding the reel in one hand, take a finger of the other hand and wind up the elastic band with the lollipop stick, being careful not to snap the elastic band.
  3. Place your tractor on an obstacle course and watch this powerful machine climb over anything in its path, and if your friends have one you can race them.

NB: When your Mom asks you where you got the cotton reel, you must tell her you found it in the back lane, and don't tell your brothers and sisters where you really got it because they will split on you next time you have a fight. Also deny all knowledge of why the carving knife is blunt and bent, and hint that you saw the kitchen boy with the knife, this will draw attention away from yourself.

When my two boys were small I made a couple of these tractors for them and we really had some great fun. Unfortunately now days if it is not battery powered and radio controlled kids aren't interested.

Cheers for now.

Philip Pain