I've found myself building furniture again lately this in response to find more useful and pleasing fixtures to fill our needs.
The latest need was to get our 4 year olds toys in one place and also give him a platform to play with his wooden train sets.
The wooden train table typical size is around 3'x4'. Being that the foot print of this train table was so relatively large I wanted to make the most of its design and set some criteria:
1. Train Table should be large enough to be useful as a train set play space. So close to the standard 3'x4' it would be.
2. The Train table must have storage place to replace existing toy boxes and hold train sets so the table top could be used for other needs if desired.
3. I wanted the Train table to be sturdy and a design that could be repurposed as our sons interests change. (Doesn't look like a little kids table)
With the constraints above The Grow-With-Me Train Table was born!
Step 1: The Design
The build style used here is not fancy but produces rustic farm house feel furniture that is both inexpensive to build (around $30 for this table) and extremely durable.
The basic idea is to construct a support frame base from either 2x4's or 2x3 studs. Paint your base. Cap the base with stained 1x4's.
Without a lot of work in finishing this plank style table top will not yield the really smooth clean surface of a plywood table but for our purpose ill show you at the end how to handle this easily.
Step 2: The Tools and Materials
For this Wooden train table build you will need to following:
4 @ 2x3x20"
3 @ 2x3x22 5/8"
2 @ 2x3x42"
2 @ 2x3x 18"
7 @ 1x4x42"
3 @ 1x4x40"
Box of 2" drywall screws
Box of 3" drywall screws
Wood glue (optional)
Pen or pencil
Small paper or cardboard scrap
Drill with screw driver bit
Small drill bit for pilot holes
Saw of your choice
If you have your local lumber supply precut your 1x4's and 2x3 boards some of the tools above will be optional of coarse.
Step 3: Build the Frame Box
Before any construction take a few seconds to make a quick drilling template. This will be used to make the pre-drilled holes for the assembly screws quick and uniform.
For the drill template trace the end of a 2x3. Then with a ruler or tape measure or cyborg eye heads up display find the center line and make 2 X's 1/2" from the edges along the center line.( See pic)
Cut out the outline leaving some overhang along one long side to make a 'wing' tab. Score the seam of the tab and fold over. Set this template aside to use in a few minutes.
For the frame box we will make a rectangle with a center support as seen in the sketch pics above.
Lay the boards out to get your bearings. Mark with your template the ends of the 2 frame runner boards and drill trough.
With both runners pre-drilled layout the frame arrangement once more on a flat surface. apply wood glue to the end of each (shorter) frame brace and fasten the frame with ONE 3" screw in each corner (for now leave the second screw out)
The reason behind only driving 1 screw in at this point will insure the frame box does not warp due to board end cut quality. If you used a table or chop saw or had the lumber store cut your boards etc this may not be an issue. But this is a good practice if you hand saw cut. And it is just a habit of mine.
With the rectangle made mark the center of the runners and screw in place the center brace. Your frame box is done.
Step 4: Attach Legs
For the legs begin by drilling holes through 1 end of the 20" leg studs. Use the template as seen above and your holes will be offset from center.
The next step is fairly straightforward and I didn't get a lot of pics during this step so I've tried to supplement with sketches. Hopefully between these and the final assembly pic it all makes sense.
The legs attach simply in the corners of the frame box. See sketch. Apply wood glue if desired and again only drive 1 screw in each leg for the time being.
Now add the 21" leg bracing. Mark 1" from each leg end (foot end) and attach the leg bracing as seen above.
With both short leg bracings attached Use a 40" lower deck 1x4 and screw it down at the center of each leg brace. This will hold the legs in place while you paint.
At this point your frame is complete and should look something like the last picture above.
Using a square and tape measure and or level check that the leg supports are true and that the table rests level and plum.
If all looks good drive the second round of screws in the frame box and leg locations.
Step 5: Paint and Stain and Deck and Done
( I apologize for the lack of pics is this paint and stain step but it is pretty straight forward. )
The final touches are paint the frame your preferred color. I used Valspar 2 in 1 spray paint. This is some of the best covering and spraying spray paint I've come across. It covered my bare wood in 1 coat.
Stain the deck boards (upper and lower) with your favorite stain. I used a min wax.
Once everything is nice and colorful and dry deck the frame with the 1x4's using 2" screws.
Step 6: Foam Board Topper and Storage
The one issue for using this type of construction for a train set base is that plank top will not be a perfectly smooth surface for laying train tracks.
My solution for this was to make a mat out of craft foam board. 2 pieces of foam board will work.
Follow the pics above. Line up the board to one edge and trim the extra from the front side over hang. Use the trimmed off pieces to fill the gap that will be in the coverage.
Line up all the pieces and cover the seams with duct tape. I also made a border from the duct tape. The tape also can function as a hinge If you wish to remove and store the foam topper.
For storage we are using a 3 drawer 14" wide stackable storage unit. I found this one at Walmart for around $10. The unit was separated into a single and a double drawer and installed as seen above.
DONE!!! Now get out your toys and play!
Step 7: Expanding on This Method...
This simple construction method can be expanded to all types of furniture. Above are a few pics of a 'Hall Tree' that we made a few months back using the same method only instead of 2x3's , 2x4's were used for the framing. The cost of this build was around $25.