Build Blocks!




Are you tired of cheap toys, cheap electronic toys, cheap plastic toys, cheap plastic electronic toys?

Do you want to craft something for that special child in your life? Or have a neat coffee table toy?

Well, I have the project for you. This one will bring you back to your childhood, and when it's done, it's something that everyone will marvel at.

Blocks... Yes blocks.

This instructable will show you how you can turn a $3 2x4 into a set of your very own, homemade blocks. We have seven shapes in our set, the brick, the long bridge, the short bridge, the square, the square column, the round column, and the triangle. Feel free to create your own shapes as you see fit!

Originally, I made a set of blocks when my youngest son was 2. However, shortly after making them, we gave them to my nieces for Christmas. Unfortunately, we never got around to making another set... Until now. My sister-in-law was lamenting the toy choices for my niece, and I offered to make a set of blocks. And we decided to document as an instructable.

As a matter of fact, try finding a set of wooden blocks to buy. There aren't many choices and most are more than $50.

So, here's what you need:

1 - 2x4x8 - Pine ( get the $3 one, not the $1.50 one.) As straight, and ding free as possible.
1 - 1.5" x 36"diameter hardwood dowel

Cost - About $7

Saws - Table and Miter, or hand saws and miter box
Drill - Hand or Press
Drill Bits - 3/8" and 2.5" hole bit
Sander - Hand or Belt

Dust mask

Step 1: Block Dimensions

Before we cut out our blocks, we need to determine the dimensions of our blocks.

As a 2X4 is really 1.5x3.5, most of the pieces use the 3.5" width.

This are the dimensions i used.

(1) Square - 3.5" x 3.5"

(2) Brick - 7" x 3.5"

(3) Triangle 3.5 "x 3.5" x 5"

(4) Square Column 1.5" x 1.5" x 3.5"

(5) Round Column 1.5"D x 3.5"

(6) Long Bridge 5" x 1.75"

(7) Short Bridge 2.5" x 3.5"

Step 2: Cut Blocks

Cut Blocks!

Now that we have our block dimensions, we need to get to the cutting!

I used my compound miter saw, if you don't have one, you can use a handsaw and a miter box.

First, I started by cutting all of my pieces that were 3.5" long. To ensure a consistency in the length, I clamped a wooden block to my miter saw 3.5" from the blade. This basically acted like a fence so I wouldn't have to measure and mark each individual piece.

I used this fence to cut the square, the square that would become triangles, the round column and the square column.

For the square column, I had a piece of 2x4 I had previously ripped into a 1.5 x 1.5.

Second, I set the 'fence' to 5" and cut four pieces that would become the bridge pieces.

Next, I set my wooden block 'fence' to 7" and cut the brick pieces from the 2x4.

Lastly, I set the blade on the saw to cut at 45degrees. I then placed a square under the blade, and cut into two triangles.

At this point you should have all your pieces roughed out.

Step 3: Finish Bridge Pieces

To create the bridge pieces we need two additional steps.

(1) Drill a 2.5" hole in the center of the block.

This can be accomplished by using a 2.5" hole drill bit. First, we need to find the center of the block. Easy enough.. just draw a line from corner to corner and find where they cross in the middle.

The drill bit I had was not deep enough to cut through a 2x4, so I had to drill from both sides. In order to ensure that the holes lined up, I drilled a 3/8" pilot hole completely through the center and then proceed to use the hole bit on each side.

Both sides should meet up and now you are ready for step 2.

(2) Cut the blocks in half.

Using a table saw, cut the blocks in half. For a short bridge, set the fence to 2.5" For the long bridge, sent the fence to 1.75".

Get your push stick, and slowly cut the pieces in half.

Now you should have all your pieces cut out!

Step 4: Sand, Sand , Sand!

Since we don't want any splinters, it's time to sand.

You have your choice when it comes to sanding.

Feel free to use a table top belt sander ( like me ), or you can use a handheld power sander, or even a manual sanding block.

Regardless of tool, the methods are the same.

(1) Start with a rougher grit like an 80, and then move on to a finer grit like a 120. And if you want to go even smoother, you can do a 240.

(2) Always sand with the grain.

(3) Wear dust mask. Its no fun breathing in all that saw dust.

Step 5: Complete!

Now that sanding is complete, you can finish as you see fit.

You can go classic and just put on a nice coat of polyurethane.

Or paint with some primary or pastel colors.

Give them to your favorite kid, or kid at heart. Or keep them on your coffee table.

They are almost IMPOSSIBLE to resist when they are done.


PS - special thanks to Max, my number one assistant and photographer.

Participated in the
Homemade Holidays: Holiday Gifts

Participated in the
Craftsman Workshop of the Future Contest



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    19 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    That's really easy . As it is made up of wood so its kind of green toys. which would be great for kids. I will definitely try it..
    Green Toys


    9 years ago on Introduction

    yesss. This exactly what i was looking for. Thanks, can't wait to make and paint a set for my nephew.....Now only for some sort of carrying case or box

    lee_schnitzHEY YOU

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Hey You! ;-) I never hear of the unit block ratio... Good to know! And thanks for the link! Lee


    I think the perfect time to make blocks for children is in conjunction with a baby shower. Nowadays, men and women get invitations to baby showers. At the ones we have hosted to celebrate our upcoming grandchildren we changed up the typical schedule: after the usual games and eats and at the point when the gifts start being opened, I lead the men and boys out to the shop where we make the blocks for the child. I cut the blocks ahead of the party, so they are ready to sand (and polish with lemon oil wax, if we have time). FYI, I start with 1" x 4" (nominal) poplar and first rip them in half and then in various lengths. Give each guy a shop apron and a few pieces of sandpaper and you'll get a lot of laughs during the project. Optional: I am lucky to also have access to a laser engraver so I put the child's name on a number of the longer blocks. I';ve also engraved a set of beginning vocabulary words on others. Don't forget to get photo of the group doing the job to save for the child's scrapbook!

    1 reply

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job! We made a set of blocks for my 1 year old for Christmas and he loves them. Because he puts everything in his mouth we chose to seal his blocks with mineral oil because it is non-toxic.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! BUT DON"T WEAR GLOVES! They can get caught in the belt and suck your hand in (one of my friends was lucky and only lost a nail instead of the entire finger)

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    If you weren't wearing gloves and your hand got caught in the belt would the result be any better?


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Yes. Gloves can turn a "minor" power tool injury into a catastrophe. (Minor may be a relative term depending on the specific incident) Or pull you in when there may have been no injury in the first place.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Its less likely to get caught and pull you in. You can jerk it away easier if it does


    10 years ago on Introduction

    That's some great work, my dad actually did exactly the same thing when i was young. -Duck


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Blocks, and other child's toys, are most usually made from beech, all corners rounded to minimize splintering. Sanding small parts is extremely time-consuming. One method I have seen is to make a revolving 6 or 8 sided drum of ply, lined with sandpaper. Some one centimetre cubes of softwood are added to cushion the parts during sanding. The whole is on a frame with a horizontal axis driven by a motor in the manor of a stone-tumbler, although larger. Does anyone have plans for such a machine, speed, gearing for washing machine motor?


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea but needs more work to make them safer. I built over 200 blocks for my kids when they were young. I used maple as pine just splinters too easily. I also used a rounding over bit on all 90 degree edges to again prevent splintering and to make them less painful if someone decides to turn into "Bam-Bam". I finished them with Watkins wipe on oil finish. When my kids outgrew them, I sent them to the kindergarten class where they a STILL being used 15 years later!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent Instructable! I think you made a small typo in step 1 "block dimensions". You list the dimensions of the long bridge as 5" x 3.5", I think you meant 5" x 1.5".

    1 reply
    Phil B

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nicely done, and the kids can use their imagination when they play with the blocks. When our kids were small I made a couple of dozen cubed blocks from scrap 2 x stock (actual dimension 1 5/8 x 1 5/8 x 1 5/8 inch). My wife painted them in colors with non-toxic paint. I made an open wooden tray for the blocks. It was painted red and I attached four roller skate wheels. There was a heavy string on the front for pulling the tray wagon. They got a lot of good use from these blocks and their wagon.