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Just Blocks

Just making some blocks for Parker.

These are standard unit blocks which means that they are half as thick as they are wide and half as wide as they are long. Then there are variations on those ratios. The dimensions make them helpful in teaching addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, etc. But more importantly for my car-obsessed son, there are curves and intersection that make them useful for building roads. They’re all sized to be cut out of scraps of dimensional lumber. If you can’t find some of that for free, I recommend checking the cutoff bin at the home center for bargains.

Easy-peasey for the rectangles, squares, and triangles, but for those curved pieces, I’m making templates out of 1/2″ MDF from patterns I drew up. So I can duplicate them easily with a bearing-guided router bit.

And here’s a PDF of the full size patterns along with the measurements I used for the rectangles.

So there it is. An easy project for the kiddos. In fact the most difficult part was trying to convince my wife to come out to the shop to help. Couldn’t convince her about the sheer joys of sanding, but she did help with the staining.

6 Responses to “Just Blocks”

  1. What finishes do you use for these ? I’ve been thinking about making blocks for my son, who is still in the ‘everything must go in my mouth’ stage.

  2. Hi Drew,
    (I’ll answer at some length since you’re not the only one to ask.)

    I used some Minwax tinted water-based stains and then just brushed on some satin polyurethane. Parker never went through the “everything in the mouth stage.”

    But even if he had I wouldn’t have worried overly much about the finish being child-safe. It’s pretty much a non-issue in my mind. Despite recent lead scares surrounding Asian toy imports, you’d have a very hard time finding any retail finish that is toxic to injest once it’s fully cured. (Read the manufacturers instructions on how long a particular finish takes to fully cure.)

    By the time a finish is cured, the solvents have all evaporated, and any catalysts (which could be toxic in their liquid form) are fully reacted. Lead hasn’t been in use as a metallic drier in the US since the 70s. And modern metallic driers are not known to cause health problems (and they’re usually encased in finish anyway, so wouldn’t have the chance anyway).

    In my mind, the child-safe/food-safe issue is sort of a long-perpetuated woodworking myth.

    Why did I choose polyurethane, then? Mostly for the durability. Cured, it’s very hard. I chose it because despite his parents best efforts, Parker is rough on his toys. On the con side, it’s difficult to repair if damaged. A softer finish such as lacquer will scratch more easily, but is easier to repair. (And a couple cans of Deft would have definitely been easier to apply than brushing all this poly. So I’m not ruling that out if I have to add to the set.)

    Hope that helps. — Lucas

  3. I have made blocks for years out various pieces of scape wood both for my children and the local hospitals. Naturally various shapes and laminationsare made..I finish them with a salad bowl finish works very well.. It protects them and they can be wiped down and adds a nice finish to the natutal wood..

  4. Hi there! I simply wish to give an enormous thumbs up for the great info you have gotten here on this post. I will likely be coming again to your weblog for more soon.

  5. Humorous! I’m bookmarking an individual website with regard to potential use.

  6. Thank you very much for the PDF plans; I’m going to make some of these for my son. I think there might be a typo on page one of the PDF, though – the full size pictures for both the standard unit and standard thin unit have the same written dimensions. I think the picture of the full size standard thin is supposed to say 1-3/8 x 1-3/8 x 5-1/2 but it says 1-3/8 x 2-3/4 x 5-1/2.

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