Intro: Hand Tools Lego Table
This lego table was inspired by a kids' train table (there are a couple here on Instructables you can see). I saw that and thought, why not have something similar for legos? At the same time, my kids really like playing with their matchbox cars, so let's kill two birds with one stone and make a multifunctional table for them.
I did not have a workshop or workbench, and only had hand tools at my disposal. However, this is not a difficult project! This instructable will show you just how much you can do with hand tools and a little creativity.
Step 1: Materials Needed
To build this table, you need the following components:
• two long boards and two short boards for the side walls
• eight boards for the legs (two boards per leg)
• one board for the middle support
• one sheet of plywood, not pictured
The dimensions will really depend on you. For me, I bought a car mat (see cover photo) and built the table around the dimensions of the mat. For those who just want to be told what to do, here are the dimensions of my lego table:
• long boards: 40 1/2" each (1x4)
• short boards: 28 1/2" each (1x4)
• leg boards: 17 3/4" each (1x4)
• middle support board: 28 1/2" (1x3)
• plywood: 39" x 27" (1/2" thick)
If your hand tool arsenal is VERY limited, meaning you don't even have hand planes, then I would suggest buying the wood already planed and squared. As for me, I hand planed the boards, resulting in what you see in the second picture.
The advantage of finely tuned hand planes is that the boards need very little sanding!
Step 2: Make the Frame
There are many ways to put four pieces of wood together to make a frame. Here are a few options for you to consider, if you don't know much about woodworking; choose the way that suits you best:
- butt joint: You simply "butt" the end of one board up against the side of the other, gluing them together. This is the weakest joint in and of itself, because the end of the board does not hold glue well. If I were to use this joint, I would reinforce the joint with a glue block. You could also use dowels or screws. See this page for more.
- miter joint: This is an especially common joint in picture frames, where the four walls are cut with 45-degree angles and are joined together that way. It's still not a terribly strong joint because the gluing surface is partly end grain, but splines can reinforce that. Check this out for how to make a miter joint and here is some info on splines.
- dovetail joint: This is my joint of preference, and I will use it every time. They are strong and look fantastic. You can read about dovetail joints in general here. To learn how to make them, I suggest this excellent instructable.
For the lego table, I chose dovetail joints. As you can see in the pictures, my lack of a workbench necessitated some makeshift clamping arrangements, including my bone clamp with ratcheting double femur action in the second pic.
Step 3: Assemble the Frame
Once your frame is assembled, you may want to consider a center support. I added it to make sure that the table would hold a child (or two) climbing up on it. You may not need it at all, especially if you use 3/4" plywood.
But if you add the support, you can do what I did and use mortise and tenon joinery (more on that at this instructable). For a simpler solution, you could use screws (countersinking the hole so the head of the screw is not sticking out).
The height of the center support should be such that your piece of plywood will rest about 1" down from the top lip of the frame. Once that is done and everything fits well, glue it all up and put it together!
The next step is to attach the legs.
Step 4: Attach the Legs
This part is pretty easy. Glue the leg boards together in pairs. Glue the side of one board to the side of the other so that they make an L shape when seen from above. See the picture. This is a type of butt joint, but because you are gluing the faces of the boards, it is a very strong joint and needs no reinforcement. Be sure the bottoms of the legs are flush with each other when gluing them together. As you're gluing the leg assemblies onto the frame, be sure the height of the legs is the same as the top of the middle support board (if you used one).
If desired (as I did), you may want to reinforce the glue-up to the frame by using screws or lag bolts.
Step 5: Create the Outfeed Notch
Since this lego table is intended to transform into a cars table, you need an easy way to clear the legos off the table. That one inch lip would cause frustration, especially for the little pieces. Here's how you can do it with a saw, a chisel and mallet, and a spokeshave (optional).
First, draw the lines for your notch. It has to go down to level with the top of your plywood. For the nice little curve at the ends, you can make a very simple cardboard template and transfer your lines to both sides of the board, both sides of the notch (1st picture).
Then, using your saw, cut straight vertical lines down the entire length of your notch, ending at your lines. The closer together the lines, the easier your next step will be (2nd picture). Next, with the bevel side down, and the chisel pointed at the bottom of the next saw cut, start whacking away with your mallet. Just keep that chisel point aimed at the bottom of the next saw cut and you'll be okay. It works! See the 3rd picture for what it looks like after the first pass. After that, use the chisel (again, bevel down) to keep smoothing the top out, and then use a spokeshave or sandpaper to smooth it out (4th picture).
Of course, you can also do this with a jigsaw or coping saw. But this is more fun.
Step 6: Glue It Up
Lastly, glue the plywood (which you have already cut to size) onto the legs and middle support. I suppose you don't have to glue it on, but the less rattling of wood, the better.
I also glued some additional glue blocks to the bottom of the table (see the second pic), just for some added security. You can also see the fun my kids had in decorating the bottom of the table! :)
Step 7: You're Done!
Apply the finish of your choice. (Mine is a mix of boiled linseed oil, varnish and mineral spirits.)
As you can see, this project can easily be done with hand tools, and you can make it as simple or complex as you wish.
One additional component you might consider is to paint a checkerboard and backgammon board (etc.) on the top of the plywood. You could even install a little box underneath the top of the table to hold the pieces. Then you have a games table. We've also used this for puzzles; when you're not working on the puzzle, put the car mat on top and nothing gets messed up or lost! You can also flip the car mat upside down (the bottom is rubber) and have the kids eat at the table (careful the drinks). What can this table not do? :D
Hope this works for you. Please let me know of any comments, suggestions or improvements for future builders!