Tuesday, January 8, 2013

On the Last Day of Christmas My Parents Gave To Me...

...A million hours of sa-ah-anding. I know, "sanding" does not have enough syllables to work with that song, but you are just going to have to live with it. I have too much sawdust in my brain to think of anything better!

We made blocks for our kids for Christmas! Inspired by block sets at The Land of Nod,  my husband and I set out to see if we could make our own set for a "fun project" (my priority) and "less money" (his priority).

It turned out to be waaay less money, and in retrospect, was pretty fun.  Though my husband still hasn't recovered from all those nights sanding these suckers!  Someday, he will look back with fondness.  Maybe.

  • 1 plank of wood (around $8 at Home Depot.  Less at a lumberyard if you have one nearby).
  • 1 (or 2 or 3) 1 1/2" dowel
  • Sandpaper in 60 grit and 220 grit
  • Access to an electric saw (we used a Skil saw--it's what my parents have.  A table saw would have been spectacular!
  • Access to an electric sander.  They aren't too expensive, and if you do a lot of DIY projects, it will come in handy!
  • Paint.  Choose colors that are beautiful AND AP certified non-toxic (like Apple Barrel).  Especially if you have one of THESE that likes to chew on EVERYTHING:

It would be prudent, if you are working as a team, to discuss the game plan with your partner.  I, for instance, was planning on some cute, little, colorful, and very complicated blocks, a la my inspiration.  On the other hand, my father-in-law made blocks  for Christmas one year.  They were unpainted, all one shape, and three times as big as mine.  My husband LOVED them, and his little brother still plays with them.  So when Mike started cutting these behemoth slabs of wood, we had to take a step back.  He talked me into big blocks--apparently  they will be better for the boys.  I talked him into varied shapes and colors.  He talked me out of any curvy shapes (bless you, sweetheart).

I can almost guarantee that the dowel will be your favorite thing to cut.  One straight slice and voila!  A pillar!

Next comes sanding with 60 grit sandpaper.  And sanding, and sanding, and sanding.  This step is made a thousand times easier by having a handheld electric sander.  We started out using good ol' elbow grease because it meant we could watch TV while we sanded.  When it became apparent that we would not make our deadline, we spent several nights (and naptimes) out in the garage, until our arms felt all vibrate-y, even when the sander was turned off.

Depending on your wood quality, you may need to fill some knots or gashes with wood filler, let it dry overnight, and sand some more.

If you are a perfectionist (like me), you are going to have to find a balance.  Obviously, these won't be perfect.  They will be full of "handmade charm"--our mantra as the weeks of sanding never seemed to end.  Also, if you sand too much off of the ends (the roughest parts), your blocks will not end up the same length--beware!  It's a lot trickier to build with blocks that aren't perfectly similar!  On the other hand, your children will love this gift no matter what.  A few wonky edges or imperfect spots will make no difference to them!

Wipe off your masterpieces with a clean, slightly damp cloth.

Now it's time to PAINT!!  I LOVE PAINTING!!

Pull out your 220 grit sandpaper, and give your blocks a li'l bit of loving.  I loved this part--watching the wood grain come through just a tiny bit as I barely rubbed the painted wood.

Paint one more coat, and then sand one more time.  Your blocks should be smooth and gorgeous! 

It took us weeks.  You really will be trading your time and energy for those dollars.  But the smiles when they play with these make all that work TOTALLY WORTH IT!!


  1. Replies
    1. Ha ha, thanks Tiffany. I geek out when I get comments--you made my day!

  2. Now I want to make some! Those are adorable!

    1. I was so torn, because this would be such a fun project to do WITH the kids--on a smaller scale. My boys looove sanding. And painting! But in the end, we decided to keep it secret to surprise them.

      But we could always cut some more and add to it!

  3. How did you make the cylinder ones ? Just a ton of sanding ? I am in love with these I love wooden toys for my boys and this is a huge money saver !

    1. The cylinder ones were the EASIEST! Just buy a dowel (or two) from Home Depot and chop it into pieces! You only have to sand the ends--the dowel should already be pretty smooth.

      I'm glad you like them--it's been really fun to watch my kids play with them :D



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