Introduction: Toddler Table and Stool.

Picture of Toddler Table and Stool.

Howdy Instructable readers.

Today, I am going to show you how I made a table and stool for my daughter. I am going to try to keep it easy with a moderate amount of tools that a home wood shop may have. Including stain and consumables I would estimate that I have about $50 in materials.

I had several goals in mind with the table and stools. There were supposed to be 2 but I screwed up on a few cuts and only had enough wood to make the one, the second will come later but I digress. I really like the simple lines and wood of the arts and crafts style however my kitchen is not there yet. I am slowly but surely working on fixing that.


  1. I needed to make lil Miss GNome a table as she is starting to refuse to sit in her high chair.
  2. I wanted to test out a design I have had for making a kitchen island later, including a potential stain choice.
  3. I needed to see how well box joints and top post tenons work together.
  4. How strong and sold is construction with just glue and dowels.

Tools used.

  • 10" Portable Table Saw
  • 6" Dado Stack + Throat Plate
  • Cordless Drill & bits
  • Cordless Impact Driver & Bits
  • Belt Sander
  • 1/4 Sheet Finishing Sander.
  • Homemade Box joint jig
  • Framing Square
  • Tape Measure
  • Pencil
  • Depth Gauge
  • natural bristle paint brush
  • Shop Vac
  • Various Clamps and Weights


  • 1 - 1/2x24x48" sheet of Birch Plywood. (the nicest sheet the hardware store had)
  • 2 - 1"x3"x8' Aspen board true measurements are 3/4" x 2.5"x 8
  • 1 - 2"x4"x8' Fir 2x4 true measurements are 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" x 8'
  • 1 - 3/8" x 36 Birch Dowel
  • 1 Pint of Pre-Stain
  • 1 Quart of Stain & Polyurethane in one
  • Paint Thinner
  • Steel wool in the 000 or finer grade
  • Stir Sticks
  • 8 - 1 1/2" construction screws
  • Sanding belts in 80 and 120 Grit
  • sand paper in 220 grit
  • Gorilla Wood Glue

Safety Equipment

  • Eye Protection
  • Hearing Protection
  • Dust mask (I use N95's)
  • Disposable Gloves


  • Low temperatures causing longer dry times.
  • A box joint jig that is kinda janky (and why i only have 1 stool)
  • Lack of skill on the part of the wood worker. (see above point)

Step 1: Cutting Your Top

Picture of Cutting Your Top

Start with the piece of Birch ply. And your table saw unplugged.

Ensure all safety features for your saw are installed according to the manufacturers directions and that you have eye and hearing protection on. A dust mask could not hurt either if your saw is like mine and belches sawdust everywhere.

Set up your rip fence so that with the Kerf you have exactly 24 inches. I verified my fence with a measurement at the front of the blade the rear of the blade and the center of the blade. I also marked my plywood with a line at the 24 inch mark to ensure that I was getting a straight cut. (call me cautious but I finally got a table saw after all the time of trying to make a circular saw cut it....pun intended)

Plug your saw in and let er rip...

You should now be presented with 2 24 inch square pieces of plywood. Pick the nicest one to be the tabletop then prepare to cut the other into 12" square stool tops. (I cut 2 as I was going to make 2 stools...)

Set your fence the same way as above but for 12" cuts and rip 2 12" square panels. (once again the dimensions of the wood were over my 24x48 panel build so I wound up with a 24" panel and 2 12" panels.

Then ensure the saw is unplugged while ya make the next adjustments.

Step 2: He Got Legs...

Picture of He Got Legs...

If you are just tuning in the puns are bad and the directions are marginally better but I let the pictures speak volumes for me.

Saw unplugged from the last step? Good! Wood is cheap, surgery is expensive, and I don't like pain it hurts me. Every adjustment I make to my saw is with the saw unplugged.

A 2x4 is not really 2 or 4 inches wide on any step. You will most likely get one that is close to 1 1⁄2 × 3 1⁄2. So measure your wide edge of the 2x4 and set your rip fence to 1/2 of that measurement. I wound up setting mine to 1 3/4 and using my push stick ran the 2x4's length wise to get them closer to 1 1/2 x 1 3/4 x 48 inches. Run the second 2x4 through the saw the same as the first.

Now I have 4 pieces of wood 1 1/2 x 1 3/4 x 48 inches 2 corners are nice and crisp and 2 are rounded over. To square up the leg stock I set my rip fence to 1 1/2 and ran the curved side though so that now I have 4 pieces of 2x4 that are now 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 48" with crisp corners and square sides.

Now that you have crisp relatively square stock you are going to need to cut 4 -10 inch legs for the stool and 4 - 18 inch legs for the table. Your mileage may vary but those were the measurements needed for my kiddo.

Step 3: My Box Joint Jig

Picture of My Box Joint Jig

I used so you can learn from my mistakes. I am only including this section so that you can learn from my mistakes. As you will see my joints are not crisp and require a ton of sanding and filling to make them look proper. Time taken to make precise cuts will save much more time later on fixing imprecision.

The moral of the story make test cuts in scrap. Check fitment and adjust before your main project cuts.

Well I am going to give you a basic overview on how my box joint jig was supposed to work. But if you want to make one for your self I suggest

However over the Christmas holiday I was watching the woodsmith shop and learned a better way to make box joints. If you have the ability to get a copy of this episode they show a handy jig that I am going to have to build and improve upon.

I was really surprised that I was unable to find a ible here when I started. But I got something that sort of worked after a bit of tinkering and jacking up a couple pieces that would make a stool.

Not I mine was kludgy and to top it off my table saw has some oddball miter channel that is not square it requires a T shaped piece of stock. My guess is that because my top is lightweight sheet metal they didn't want the miter gage to pop off or something. I am going to have to work something out with the miter as the gauge that the saw came with stinks.

To start I glued up a 2x4 to a section of 3/4" plywood then cut the ends flush at a 90 with my table saw.

Then I cut a channel 1/2 inch wide with a spacer for another 1/2 inch and a second 1/2 inch channel. The jig attaches to the miter using some 1/4 inch bolts and threaded studs. as for some bizarre reason the miter accepts attachment only via the bottom so I couldn't just screw in a piece of wood in place on the top but I digress.

I will state for the record again that this jig sucks. If you can get inspired by the woodsmith shop clip above to make your own I highly suggest it.

For the first teeth of the joint, install your dado and set your blade depth.

  1. But the piece to the key clamp in place on the jig.
  2. Reposition the key into the newly cut notch make the second cut
  3. Repeat.

For the piece that is going to mate into the first

  1. take your first piece that you cut and position it so that there is one tooth on the cut side of the keyway.
  2. Clamp and cut the first 1/2 inch section. As there is no way to eyeball a precice cut. I didn't at first and screwed up a stools worth of wood. After I figured out my mistake I made sure to measure 3 times before cutting.
  3. remove the first piece from the jig and continue cutting the box joint fingers

Step 4: Table and Stool Aprons, Plus Cutting Box Joints.

Picture of Table and Stool Aprons, Plus Cutting Box Joints.

Hey I learned something new. The box shaped assembly that ties the top into the legs is called a an apron. When one thinks about it, apron sounds more interesting than saying those side box pieces. So lets get to cutting the aprons.

We know that the seat. (more carpentry lingo) is a 12" square. I wanted to be a bit decorative and recess the seat into the apron on the stool. The idea is that the glue along the edges and the tops of the legs that no additional fastening should be required. If it does not hold I can always drill and dowel it in place with the legs.

So for the chair apron. I measured the thickness of two pieces of ash and resulted in an additional 1 1/2 inches of length. As 3/4 on each end will be used for the finger joints I cut 4 pieces of wood to 13 1/2 inch lengths.

It was then that I realized that I borked my idea as originally the top was going to be recessed as well and with the amount of wood I had I just would not be able to compensate So I figured that I would shrink the apron of the table down to about 22 inches and just overhang the top by about an inch all around. Had I not had the lumber yard cut the 8 ft sections down to 4 ft to get them to fit into my car easier I would have been just fine but I didn't and now I Could not get more then 4 - 24" pieces of aspen

Out of the aspen I cut 4 pieces 13 1/2" long, and 4 pieces about 24" long.

At this point you should be able to set the table saw up for dado cuts with out having to change things back to regular straight cuts. It is now time to add the finger joints. The aspen 1x3 is really only about 2 1/2 inch resulting in 2 or 3 fingers per piece. Make 2 stool apron pieces with 2 fingers and 2 pieces with 3 fingers. Repeat with the table sections. Making all 4 pieces the same will not mate up when it comes time to assemble.

I set up my jig as described in the previous step and cut 3 fingers on both ends, of 2 -13 1/2", and 2 - 24" length apron pieces. The mating fingers are cut on the other pieces, I got them mostly right and will explain more when i bring up finishing and filling.

Step 5: Glue Up the Aprons.

Picture of Glue Up the Aprons.

As you see from the pictures I don't have clamps big enough to clamp up my aprons. However I do have cordage and know how to tie a tourniquet. This is not something I would recommend but as my box joints are ugly I am not too concerned with how well the glue up turns out. I just want them to be strong.

For the stool I placed the top face down on my workbench and test fit the 4 sides to figure out the best possible fit with my imprecise box joints. After achieving the best possible fit I removed a side and applied Gorilla wood glue to all faces that would mate.

After all 4 corners were glued I wrapped the assembly in some 550 cord and tied a square knot then placed some scrap dowel over the knot and tied a second square knot.

I then twisted the dowel to apply tension to the cordage thereby clamping the 4 corners together around the top as a spacer. and used a 3 inch spring clamp to keep the dowel from untwisting.

I checked square using my trusty framing square and made a mental note that I am going to have to sand the crap out of those janked up corners to make it look right.

The apron for the top is glued in a similar fashion however as the top is going to be above the apron one does not need for it to be as precise. However I still made sure it was true with my framing square.

Step 6: Sanding and Filling Imperfections

Picture of Sanding and Filling Imperfections

By looking through the pictures you will see that I have some imperfections that need to be fixed.

My aprons are not the same level and my joints have tearout and are just ugly.

Using a belt sander with a 100 grit belt I brought the corners into square and leveled the apron boxes. The accessory extension I made on my workbench came in extremely handy for this process as I was able to just lay each side flat and work both corners without repositioning or clamping the piece. Make sure that you sand with the grain. If you sand across the grain you may wind up with scouring that you cannot sand out.

Now that I have reasonably corrected corners. It is time to make up some putty with the dust from my sander.

  • Empty the contents of the sander into a cup or onto a board. I used some wax paper on my workbench but unfortunately as this is a time sensitive step I did not get pictures of the actual putty.
  • Apply some wood glue into the imperfections.
  • Apply a quarter sized dollop of wood glue to your mixing pallet or cup and add in some sawdust until it clumps like cookie dough. This is not a precise measurement you may want it thicker or thinner
  • After the filling putty is to your liking, use a putty knife to work some into the imperfections.
  • Allow it to dry overnight.
  • Sand the piece with a 160-180 grit paper to smooth out your putty and get the wood nice and smooth.

Step 7: Tenons for the Stool Legs.

Picture of Tenons for the Stool Legs.

Kids like to stand on stools, but dads don't want their kids to topple over. As such I wanted the legs to be pushed out to the corners as far as possible while still offering the aesthetic of a recessed leg instead of just a box. After all the stool should match the table. To achieve this I am going to use a top post tenon and glue it up using construction screws for re-enforcement.

  • Gather the 4 stool legs that were cut when milling down the 2x4's and mark them 1,2,3,& 4.
  • Now assign each leg to a corner and mark that corner 1,2,3,& 4.
  • With the top recessed inside the stool apron frame place a leg in its assigned corner and mark a line where the apron meets on the leg.
  • Mark the other 4 legs in this manner.
  • With the saw off and unplugged set the depth of your dado stack to about half of the apron wood.
  • Remove the box joint jig from your miter gauge and ensure that it is still square to the blade of your saw.
  • using some scrap as a backer. Make the cut closest to the line first and nibble away wood until you reach the end.
  • Rotate your leg and repeat the process on the other side.

Now that your tenon is cut it is time to fit it to the stool apron. I mounted my belt sander into my bench vise. Eventually I will get a bench sander but this works ok for now. The key with sanding like this is to lightly sand the leg and test its fit repeatedly through the process. After you get one side flush work on the other, the goal is to have a really nice fit on all 4 corners.

  • After all your legs have been fitted, choose a drill bit slightly larger than your screw head.
  • Remove the sander from the vise. ( if applicable)
  • Basically now we are going to drill each leg 1/4 to 1/2 inch so that the screws are recessed into the leg but don't break out of the side of the apron.
  • Apply glue to the leg
  • press fit the leg into its corner and drive a screw on the X and Y axis to secure it to the apron
  • Verify that the leg is straight with a square and repeat for the other 4 sides.

Step 8: Gluing the Table Top and Stool Seat

Picture of Gluing the Table Top and Stool Seat

I just glued the table top to the apron without any dowels yeah some dowels may prevent the top from popping loose over time but I honestly don't think that a 2 year old is going to provide the lateral force to break it as I have a footstool that I made in highschool with just wood and glue still kicking around my moms house.

  • To keep missy from getting hurt on a corner I mounted up the sander in the vise and rounded the corners of the tabletop.
  • I then placed the best side down on the workbench, and placed the apron on the center of the tabletop.
  • After marking the inner perimeter, I applied a bead of glue
  • Then placed the apron clamping with finish guards where possible, and applying weight were I was unable to clamp.
  • Using a moist towel I then cleaned up any excess glue seepage from the mating surfaces.

Gluing the stool top it was quite easy as every thing pressfit with out any excess jostling.

  • Place the seat into the stool and mark where it meets on the inner side of the apron.
  • remove the seat and apply glue to the marked off section of the apron and on the tops of the legs.
  • place some scrap wood to distribute the load then stack weight on top to clamp.

Step 9: Attach Table Legs With Pegs.

Picture of Attach Table Legs With Pegs.

Guess what more glue but this time with pegs.

Ok I have never used pegs before but I figure it worked for shipwrights and most of history it cant be too terribly hard right? Actually it was almost as easy as screws and the finished result is very nice looking when stained.

  • Obtain the 4 table legs that you prepared earlier and run them over the belt sander to get them nice and smooth.
  • Clamp one leg to the corner of the table apron
  • mount a 3/8ths inch drill bit into your hand drill center the bit on where the leg and apron meet ( mental lines)
  • and drill a hole about 1 1/2 inch deep.
  • Clamp the leg on the face you just drilled and drill the other peg in the same fashion.
  • Unclamp the leg and apply glue then reclamp it back into place making sure as to not cover the peg holes.
  • Cut a 11/2 inch length of 3/8ths inch dowel to be the peg.
  • Apply some glue to the hole and drive the peg in with a hammer and a block as to not mar your workpiece.
  • After the leg has been glued and pegged you may remove your clamps as the tension should hold everything together nicely. Check to ensure squareness again and if needed tweak the leg by hand and reclamp until dry.
  • Repeat for the other 3 legs.

    Don't worry if the pegs are not flush. Extra material is removed with either a saw or sanding during the final sanding and finishing.

Step 10: Sanding Sanding and Yet More Sanding

Picture of Sanding Sanding and Yet More Sanding

Safety first GNome'eers As I cant have the belt sander hooked up to my shop vac for the following steps I am wearing my handy dandy N95 face mask.

This one is really simple but it is a bit time consuming.

  • Sand with the grain of the wood. Especially with the tops as the veneer is a bit thin and easy to sand through.
  • Starting with a coarse 80 grit belt I went over every surface lightly with a belt sander. This knocks the pegs and any excess filler flush with the rest of the table and stool.
  • Then do it all again with a 120 grit sanding belt.
  • Then put 150 grit paper on your finishing sander and give it a once over again.
  • Then one more time for good measure. you want them all nice and smooth for the stain right?

After I was finished sanding I placed the table and stool on the floor and proceeded to blow all the dust out of my garage/workshop with a leaf blower. Then I went up to take a shower to let the dust settle to get cleaned up with the shop vac and broom like I should have done in the first place :) but I had a cloud of sawdust and that was fun.

Step 11: This Is the End

Picture of This Is the End

At this point I would usually post a picture of me standing on the table or stool but that would kind of be a bit overkill for the intended audience. So I asked Miss Abigail to test out a project and she was happy to oblige and pose for a picture. I still stood on the stool and sat on the table to make sure it would not collapse. I just figured you all saw enough of my mug in safety gear.

Now that I have the cute kiddo seal of approval lets get to finishing up this project. Starting with a clean shop and as dust free as one can get it. All products are applied as per manufacturer directions.

Safety - Gloves & Dustmask, I did not want to breathe steel particles or poly dust.

  • Wipe all surfaces with a clean slightly damp cloth to pick up any loose sawdust.
  • As there are a mixture of woods I applied a pre-stain to ensure an even color.
  • Allow to dry as indicated on the can.
  • I then applied a light coat of Stain + Polyurethane in one and allowed it to dry overnight.
  • After a night of dry time it is time to rub down all surfaces again but this time with 000 or finer steel wool
  • you can tell that you are done when you feel that the wool is no longer dragging on the wood.
  • Wipe down all surfaces again with a clean damp cloth
  • Apply a second light coat of stain and allow to dry.

If you desire a darker color you may apply a third or fourth coat after the second coat has cured but I was able to achieve a color consistent with our dining room table on coat two so that is where I stopped.

Normally I would include a whole page of what went wrong and what I learned, I tried to convey the failures as they happened but when the corrections wound up fixing the failure it is not really a failure it is just a extra step. I am happy with the techniques that I got to practice and I know how to improve on my jigs and technique. Abigail loves her table and that is the best reward of all. After all it is not the making that does it but seeing the faces of those whom you gift your creations to.

Thanks for bearing with me through the past year, stay safe, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and keep on tinkering


canemaker49 (author)2016-01-09

very nice, i like the choice of woods and the tips on box joints. you are a cool Dad with a cute kid. i assume she takes after her mother? lol, just kidding..or am I?

Thank you, And yes thankfully she takes after Mommy. :)

Jobar007 (author)2015-12-30

Personally, I would have rounded the top edges of the table and stool. The more harsh edge would be uncomfortable for arms or legs (and heads as toddlers tend to trip [at least mine does and it is always around a sharp edge]).

Neat idea. Thanks for sharing it!

Jobar007 (author)Jobar0072015-12-30

By rounded I meant to hit it with a router with a roundover bit. If you don't have router, sand it with sandpaper glued into a molding cove.

MoTinkerGNome (author)Jobar0072015-12-30

Thanks for the suggestion. With the sanding there is a bevel on the corners for the seat and top but it is not to the extent of a 1/4 rounding bit. I may just have to revisit that...

ClenseYourPallet (author)2015-12-29

Beautiful table you have there. Nicely done

Thank you. Miss Abby really likes it and we have had many tea parties at it over the Christmas Break. I would like to hope that one day she will be able to pass it to her own kiddo's

About This Instructable




Bio: Howdy, I am a bit of a tinker gnome. I like playing with hardware/technology along with making stuff I want out of old stuff ... More »
More by MoTinkerGNome:Toddler Table and Stool. Fix a Leaky Exhaust Pipe. Child Size Leather Tripod Stool
Add instructable to: