Introduction: Plywood Kids' Cube Chairs

About: Writer for Science Buddies ( and lecturer at Cornell University's Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

My father in law built these 12" plywood kids' cube chairs for my daughter as a Christmas present. They're the third generation of these chairs in my wife's family - my wife and my mother in law both had some built for them when they were little. After multiple decades of abuse by small children, it was time for some new ones! They're the perfect size for a toddler, and when flipped on their side, can also serve as a mini table. The simple, sturdy design can even serve as a stool or stepstool for an adult, but they're still light enough for a 3 year old to drag them around.

This is a great beginner woodworking project and I've entered it in this year's woodworking contest. It also makes a great "quarantine project" for people currently stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic since it requires minimal supplies. Read on for materials, dimensional drawings, and instructions!



  • One 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" plywood*
  • 1.5" wood screws (13 per chair)
  • Wood filler or plugs
  • Paint/stain of your choice


  • Circular saw or table saw
  • Power drill and drill bits
  • Router with roundover bit
  • Jigsaw
  • 1.25" hole saw
  • Bar clamps
  • Sandpaper

*This will get you 7 chairs if you want the pieces to be exactly 12"x12". If you want to get 8 chairs out of a sheet then you'll need to account for the saw kerf and make the pieces slightly smaller.

Step 1: Straight Cuts

Unfortunately, since my father in law built these as a gift, I don't have pictures of the build process. However, I created detailed drawings of the design, which you can view as images in the following steps (or you can just download them all as a PDF). Each chair is made of just four pieces:

  • Back - 12"x12"
  • Sides (2) - 12"x12"
  • Seat - 12"x10.5"

If you have a whole sheet of plywood, you can cut it into 12"x48" sections and then cut off 12", 12", 12", and 10.5" pieces for each chair. Again, if you want to get 8 full chairs out of a single sheet, you'll need to account for the saw kerf and shrink the dimensions accordingly.

Step 2: Cut the Handles

Each side has two handles, so the chairs are symmetric and can be flipped upsidedown. Use a 1.25" hole saw to drill the ends of each handle, and then cut to connect the edges of the holes with a jigaw or router. See drawing for locations of the holes. Use a roundover bit to round the edges of the handles.

Note that my father in law also cut handles in the back pieces, so each chair has six handles total - but then they don't work as well as a table when flipped sideways, because there are two holes in the top. So I left the back handles out of the drawings, but you can certainly include them if you want.

Step 3: Sanding!

You don't want any little hands getting splinters or cut on sharp edges! Make sure you sand all the edges and sand the surfaces in preparation for painting or staining.

Step 4: Assembly

No fancy joinery here - just screws. If you have enough bar clamps, you should be able to hold the entire chair together with the clamps, pre-drill the holes, and then drive the screws. Each chair gets 13 screws total, as shown in the diagram: 7 on the back and 3 on each side. Again, it's not fancy, but the originals are still standing after decades (it's just the corners that started getting chipped) and the new ones hold me at ~175 lbs.

Step 5: Fill the Screw Holes

Optionally, use wood filler or plugs to cover the screw holes. It will look better before you stain or paint - but make sure you have everything aligned properly before doing so!

Step 6: Finish/paint

You could stain/polyurethane these if you wanted to keep a natural wood look. In our case the primary colors matched up well with some other things I'd already built, like a bookshelf and a LEGO table. They're too short to use as chairs for the LEGO table but work well as stools. Clearly I did not bother cleaning up the play room to take those pictures, and I don't have drawings for either the shelf or the table - project for another day!

Thanks for reading if you've made it this far. If you have a question or feedback, please leave a comment!

Woodworking Contest

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Woodworking Contest