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DIY Project: Train Table

by on December 31, 2009

Emmett has recently been into Thomas the Tank Engine in a big way.  We’ve seen a train table in a few houses with small children, but I didn’t want to lay down $180 for a table, so I took it upon myself to build Emmett a table for Christmas.  I found a plan for a table online, which I followed loosely:

These plans make a 2′ x 4′ table, about 20″ tall.  We (my dad and I) made some adjustments on the fly, and I’ll describe them below.  First, the raw materials:

2 – 1″ x 4″ x 8′ pine
2 – 1′” x 4″ x 6′ pine
1 – 2′ x 4′ plywood
finishing nails
8 – 2″ carriage bolts, lock washers, flat washers, and nuts (3/8 x 16) to accompany
wood glue
assorted paints
acrylic sealant

We cut the shorter pieces into eight 20″ sections for the legs.  The ends were sanded down, and the pieces were glued and nailed together:



These are the legs to the table.  The height can be adjusted accordingly to the height of the one who will be using it (it comes up to about Emmett’s chest, as seen in the pictures below).  After they were glued and nailed, they were clamped down so as to prevent warping (for about 2 hours).

The longer pieces were cut into pieces that would eventually become the sides of the table.  We used the circular saw that we found in the work room (thanks, John!) and angled the blade at 45º so as to get a clean corner to the table top:


This part took some advance planning and constant measuring, because the inside length (before the mitre cut) had to be precisely the length of the side of the piece of plywood (it was something 47 15/16″ x 23 7/8″, just shy of 2’x4′).  Once they were all measured and cut (measure twice, cut once!), they were glued and nailed to the side of the plywood, two sides at a time:


We left a 1/2″ lip on the railing to prevent trains from rolling off the table. As with the legs, the sides were clamped down to the top to prevent warping.  Regrettably, we didn’t get any pictures of the short sides, but our clamps weren’t long enough, so we stood it on end and put some bricks on top to keep it from drying crooked.

Unfortunately, we weren’t using a table saw which (would have been far more precise) to make the mitre cuts, so our corners weren’t exactly flush.  We went back to Home Depot and picked up some shims to fill in the gaps:

After the top was dried and nice and solid, we glued and nailed the legs to the top, and secured them in with the carriage bolts that were put in through a hole drilled by a 3/8″ drill bit.  When it was all put together, it started looking more like a table:


We ran a bead of wood glue around the seam between the sides and the top to prevent the paint from seeping through.  The whole thing was sanded down to take off the sharp corners and rough surfaces, then the top was painted white:


The sides blue:


And the legs green:


We were nearly done, but we needed the guest of honor to come out and paint the table top before we sealed it.  We used the green and blue in addition to some orange and yellow and all the hands we could find to decorate the top:






After the painting party was concluded, we sealed the top, sides and legs with a polyacrylic sealant that would defend the paint from the wear and tear that a toddler can inflict on a table like this.  After three coats had been applied to the top and two to the sides and legs, the table was moved inside and the train tracks were installed:






He’s really been enjoying the table for the last couple days and it seems to be doing the job it was designed for.  I’m in the process of tabulating the total cost of this project, but I’m sure it was far lower than the $190+ that a premade table of the same dimensions costs online.


From → DIY Projects

  1. Queenie permalink

    That’s so awesome! When you find time to do a build-it-yourself kitchen, you let me know! j/k 🙂

  2. Tam Ohana permalink

    Wow, that is just: Wow, you guys are way too cool! What a great keepsake, too, with all the hand prints! Happy New Year!

  3. wow, you guys are awesome parents! great job!!

  4. Looks great! Emmett looks like he’s really enjoying it.

  5. Jason permalink

    found this website in a google search and it looked simple enough. put the legs on tonight, awesome post.


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