A Thomas the Tank Engine table #1: from to design to execution

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Blog entry by Mark Shymanski posted 07-17-2008 03:08 PM 5199 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of A Thomas the Tank Engine table series Part 2: 15 mm short! »

My first ‘commission’ :-)

My son is really into Thomas the Tank Engines (we even drove out to Winnipeg to spend a day with Thomas last month). He has a plethora of track and trucks and engines scattered all over the play area in the basement. He has been scouring the brochures about these toys and has decided he wants a table for all the track etc. Jenn wants him to have a table to contain the chaos somewhat, so voila my first order.

Step one was to decide what to build, Jenn and I looked at the thomas brochures and at some samples at local stores; we looked on the net for free plans and even paid for plans and could not find anything we liked. So of course I said”I’ll just create one in SU”. It took about an hourish to get the rough layout done (I’ll post it once I figure out how to get SU models here…any advice greatly appreciated!) I wanted to use the CutList plugin by Steve from New Zealand but am having trouble with getting it to work on my home PC – probably an issue with my PC not Steve’s plugin- ; once I do I will post the results of that as well.

Once the SU drawing was done it was of to HD to buy MDF for the table top (I am not ready to glue up a solid table to yet). Price is a bit of an issue here as well so ply and solid wood were out of the question.

I am using pine (cheap and already in my inventory of wood) for the frame and legs. I know this won’t last forever but my thinking is as he gets older this table will not get much use so I don’t want to spend a whole bunch on it.

I had a bit of a problem figuring out how to attach the legs to the stringers under the table…then it occured to me I will do it the same way my kitchen table is done, with a lag screw in the leg with a nut holding the leg to a brace under the table. I am probably using the wrong terms for that but I hope it is understandable.

I had to laugh at myself when it came to placing the stringers under the table…”Where do I put them?” and how do I make sure it looks good? Eyeballing the proportions I placed the stringers about 2 inches in from the edge of the table with the legs to be set in gaps right at the corners. I realise that my SU drawing does not have this detail in it…I will have to fix that before I post it. Because I was not working with measurements at this point I needed a way to get the stringers centred on that set back line…. so I thought to myself don’t try to locate the ends just locate the centres. So that is what i did; I located the centre of each stringer and the center of each side and placed the boards so the centre marks matched and the stringers lined up with my offset line. Hey presto the stringers were correctly positioned and even looked good. As I did not want to mar the surface or get too complicated with joining the top to the stringers I just glued the stringers to the mdf (maybe surfing the Gorilla glue site pre-disposed me to glueing stuff on this project :-) LOL). Any way as Jenn and I were gluing these up I thought I had made a mistake and went to remove one of the stringers…no way the glue had alread bonded and no way was it coming off the mdf without mangling the mdf. A few chisel strokes fixed my ‘error’ anyway.

I dimensioned the blocks that will hold the legs on using the trusty eyeballing method, getting one to look good, square and true to the stringers and then cut the rest to match.

I wanted legs thicker than a 2×4 (which is what I was using) so I face jointed the leg blanks (cut to about an inch over the estimated finished length), and then glued these together. My first glue up job!!! I used every clamp I had, and as Jenn was helping me she saw just how quickly I went through my inventory of clamps so I may be able to convince her I need to buy some more! Once the glue had set (actually the next afternoon) Jenn machined them so they were all the same, final dimensions aren’r really critical here as we are just looking for something that looks good, not machining to a set dimension.

Once the legs were all uniform I wanted to break the corners so Paul wouldn’t scrape/bang himself too hard on the edges so off to my router table! This is the first time using my newly completed router table so I was pretty excited. Cranked up the bit to swap bits an wow the through the table height adjustment actually works! Swapped bits to a round over bit and zipped three of the legs through no problem beautifully rounding over the edges and the end grain.

Jenn wanted one modification to the design after I’d started, she wanted a surrounding lip around the edge of the table to contain wayward engines and trouble-some trucks. What I think I am going to do is crreate a moulding that will be about 1” proud of the table surface and rabbeted to protect the edge of the mdf as well. I’ve got to think a bit on how I am going to do that…but I’ll figure it out—any advice greatly appreciated—.

Sorry about the lack of pictures, I kind of got the bit in my teeth and just ran with making sawdust and not documenting the process…I will try to take some of how the project sits right now and post those later tonight.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

1 comment so far

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3789 days

#1 posted 07-17-2008 11:34 PM

Way to go Dad! You have help create a lifetime of fond memories. Thanks for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

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