Create a clever puzzle and fidget toy from wood in your backyard. These Maple blocks from Maplewood, NJ, are covered with food-safe coating and are appropriate for kids of any age. Each set is from a single plank so the grain pattern can become a puzzle as well.
These are made from spalted maple from a tree around the corner from our house. We wanted to create an creative toy that also showed the inner beauty of trees that otherwise end up chipped.
Special thanks to Jonathan Sidhu, Mara Pohl, Stephanie Liner, and Erin Doppes for the great collaboration!
Step 1: Rough Milling
Using short sections of Maple or similar wood, cut slabs approximately 2" thick. The live edge will become a design element later in the process so do not cut away the outside. Always wear eye, ear, and body protection.
Step 2: Thicknessing
Using a band saw, cut each slab into 3 planks, each about 3/4" thick. Then, use a planer to reduce to 1/2" on both sides.
Step 3: Rough Cutting
1) Using a tablesaw, cut each slab to roughly 2 1/4" width or in half. For safety, we cut off one live edge. You can also leave that on and use a bandsaw to cut down the middle, then use a jointer to get the cut side smooth.
2) Rip each smoothed plank in half again. Keep each plank together in a set so that you can match grain later.
Step 4: Final Cutting and Shaping
1) Using a router, add a small rounded profile to the long sides
2) Now that you have two halves of each plank, cut to 3.5" length. At this stage you will have 8, 2 1/4" by 3 1/2" rectangles, of which four will have live edges.
3) Using a table saw, batch four blocks and cut dados on sides and ends that are the same width as the thickness of the plank plus 1/32". This will allow the blocks to notch together nicely.
4) Using a disc sander, smooth each end
Step 5: Finishing
1) Now that you have sized and ready pieces, use rubber bands to keep each set together.
2) Put the sets on a cookie tray and put in the oven for 30 minutes at 140 degrees. This will heat the wood to absorb the finish you will apply next
3) Using a food safe finish such as butcher block conditioner, wipe each side of each block and let the finish soak in
4) Wipe away any excess and bundle your blocks