Introduction: Sandbox Lid With Bench (Zandbak Deksel Met Bankje)

About: Maker & Mother. Author of the book 'Hey Teacher, Find Your Inner Designer', director of a fab lab in Rotterdam & teacher and researcher mainly concentrated in Maker Education.

Playing with sand is not only fun for many ages, but it is also very educational. But this sandbox, in my case, is also very messy and dirty with cats running around (at night). So, I searched for a good and handy lid but the size of my sandbox is not standard. So made one my own based on an picture I found online.

Here some simple instructions on how to make your own lid, for the size that is most comfortable for you! Feel free to comment or react! We now use this sandbox lid for 5 months, still having fun with it! (And the 4-year-old is able to open the lid herself. If you have a smaller sandbox, also smaller kids can open the lid (depending on the weight of the wood).

Instructions are also available in Dutch.


Step 1: Step 1: Measure / Define the Size

Measure your sandbox (or define the size if you have to build a sandbox from scratch. If you do make your own sandbox, we dug a hole - placed stones at the side and tiles at the bottom and then filled it with sifted sand.)

In our case, the sandbox was 1400 millimeters wide and long. The side of the box in our case is 50mm thick. This sizes are important for selecting the right wooden shelves.

The math:

(width of the sandbox + thickness of the side) / 8 (if you want the same look, 4 is also possible!) = maximum width of the shelves.

We searched for a shelf that was ±110mm smaller than that outcome, allowing a small space in between the shelves. (Also giving some room for error).

We also needed to clear the stones from sharp material.

Step 2: Step 2: Preparing the Box

Put a beam in the ground on each corner of the box. (My 4-year-old daughter helped me saw the beams ;-))
Then measure the right size from one beam to another and add twice the thickness of the shelf. (For you want the box to be built around the beams. It gives the best appearance if you miter the plank. I used a jigsaw to do so.

Glue and screw the shelves in the right place. I used two screws per shelf per beam. Already sand the box, it is more difficult if done later in the process.

Step 3: Step 3: Prepare the Benches

Lay down all the shelves on the box. Define the amount of space between the shelves. In our case, I used a wooden peg as distance holder between the shelves. That worked very well! You need something as a distance holder to make sure the shelves do not shift during gluing.

To make it a little easier for yourself, don't try to do a perfect fit on the sides of the box. Create a small overhang, so you create some margin for error, and in most cases "equal is not equal". Do not make the shelves already on the right size in height! This is easier to do at the end of the process!

Now prepare the middle part of the sandbox, the piece where you will be sitting on.

Glue a piece of wood (I used left-overs from the second step (making the box) on two shelves with the right amount of space in between. If you use only 6 shelves for your lid, this is not necessary. This gluing is needed because not all shelves are connected to a hinge.

Make sure this is glued well, use clamps to do so. You can also screw the piece to the shelves, but this is a potentially sharp part that kids can cut themselves on. I also choose to glue the pieces for aesthetic reasons.

You need two of these middle parts prepared. (So 2x 2 shelves (=4 shelves) with 2 pieces of wood each (4 in total))

Now also prepare the back of the bench. Again glue pieces on two shelves with the right amount (as you choose) of space in between. Make sure this piece is longer than the height of the box + the width of the middle piece and add some extra 25mm. You can always make this part smaller at the end (but not longer ;))

Step 4: Step 4: Place the Hinges

Now lay down all pieces of the lid:
2x middle pieces (with the glued part facing down), 2x top of the benches 2x shelves at the back of the lid (left and right).

Happy with how it looks? Great, you can continue! Too little space in the middle? Saw a piece of the top part, but do this from both sides! So if you need 10mm more, do 5mm from each side! Too much space in the middle? Make the overhang at the sides smaller. If this still does not work, make the top piece bigger, but do this at both sides!

If you are happy, screw two shelves on the box at each side. The shelf at the side can be screwed all the way (let's say 1 screw per 200mm) at the box and two at the side. The second shelf can only be screwed upon the side of the box. Make sure you drill a hole first with a smaller bit than the screw to prevent the wood from cracking. Also, do this at the other side of the box. You now have 4 shelves screwed onto the lid. (2 on each side).

Now connect the top part to the middle part with hinges. I used 2 hinges per bench side (so 4 in total) Make sure you pay attention to the hinges working correctly and the amount of space in between. Also, look closely at the design of the bench on the pictures. The glued part from the middle part should be facing up and the big piece from the top part should be facing down (while putting on the hinges). If you are not sure about the location of the hinges, do a simple paper prototype to test it for yourself ;)

Now lay down the middle pieces (glued part facing down) with the top part connected to it and screw the hinges on. I used 2 hinges per part (so again 4 in total). Check if the hinges work correctly. Also, do this for the other side. You now have a working lid which probably looks ugly at the sides. The next step is finishing up!

Tip: only use Torx screws. (:

Step 5: Step 5: Finishing the Lid

You are almost done!
Now close the lid and use a jigsaw with rails to cut the sides of the lid nicely. Sand the lid and put a stain on it, so it can remain for years!

Have fun with your sandbox lid with benches!

Of course, let the end-user do the final check for you ;)