Very first project - Train Table

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Project by Joshua Sargent posted 10-03-2008 06:43 AM 7326 views 7 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my very first project ever. =)

It’s a train table for my son. I don’t really have any tools or experience with real wood joinery, so it’s pretty crude. Basically, I designed it in my head while standing in the lumber section of Home Depot. I know…I’m not the sharpest chisel in the tool chest…

The frame and legs are made entirely of oak that was already milled at the store. I had them cut it to dimension for me since I don’t have a saw yet. (Unless a 20 year-old Craftsmen circular saw counts….either way, I didn’t trust myself yet with no table or straight-edge reference guide.)

The top is an oak veneer 3/4” plywood that they ripped down to 4’x3’ for me. The table was built around those dimensions.

All the joints are either glued with Elmer’s Wood Glue (don’t slap me…that’s all I had), or screwed with decent-looking brass screws.

Still need to do a bit more sanding and then figure out how to finish it. I’m WAY intimidated by the finishing part…no idea where to start. I’d love to hear any simple suggestions to start me off. Would tung oil be a good and easy (fool-proof) finish???

I’d love to do this over again once I actually learn something and get some tools. Suggestions on where to start on both are welcome!!! =)

UPDATE: I -=finally=- got around to finishing the table and have updated the pictures. I ended up going with one of the suggestions provided by you guys in the comments…I used 3 coats of ARM-R-SEAL by General Finishes. It was much easier than I thought it would be and I’m very happy with the look.

Note to self – don’t sand plywood veneer very much AT ALL!

-- -=Josh - Gurnee, IL=-

12 comments so far

View Woodwrecker's profile


4149 posts in 3575 days

#1 posted 10-03-2008 07:01 AM

Good job for just starting out.
I’m sure your kids’ll love it.
Welcome to LJ.

-- Eric, central Florida / Utor praemia operibus duris

View bayspt's profile


292 posts in 3704 days

#2 posted 10-03-2008 07:06 AM

My son’s first table was two wooden saw horses and a sheet of 3/4” ply cut at the home center. We lived in an apartment at the time. I have found most wipe on/ off finishes to be fairly fool proof so far. I have used tung oil, BLO, and wipe on poly. For trains it certainly needs to be very durable or easily refinished. Of course depending on the age of the children playing, it needs to dry fairly non toxic as well.

-- Jimmy, Oklahoma "It's a dog-eat-dog world, and I'm wearing milkbone underwear!"

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4246 days

#3 posted 10-03-2008 11:34 AM

Welcome to Lumber Jocks. you did good. If you made your son happy, thats all that matters. Buy a book on basic carpentry and start there. Join a club or guild in your area if there is one. Maybe you know a friend with some carpentry skills, ask him to show you some tricks. The best way to learn anything is by doing, and it looks like you have a good start. Good luck.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View rtb's profile


1101 posts in 3713 days

#4 posted 10-03-2008 04:14 PM

Frist project very well done. nice straight lines, square corners, good dementions. So whats wrong with Elmers carpenters glue, this is whats its made for. Brass screws a very well thought out choice. You are one up on my first projects. I think that you have done very well. I agree wipe on for a finish I probably would choose poly. Kids do spill things and poly is really protective against that sort of thing. Advice, check this site every day to look at new projects, follow the blogs and forums, befor you buy looks at the reviews and ask, ask, ask. Welcome, your going to like it here.

-- RTB. stray animals are just looking for love

View Derek Lyons's profile

Derek Lyons

584 posts in 3568 days

#5 posted 10-03-2008 04:44 PM

“Outside of identical cabinets or certain built-ins, most woodworking is about nicely fitting the parts to each other, not necessarily to an outside standard.”

Translated as: “That’s not an oops, it’s supposed to be that way”. :) :)

-- Derek, Bremerton WA --

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 3712 days

#6 posted 10-03-2008 05:30 PM

It’s not bad at all! Next time you glue, I’ve loved tightbond glues, and as for finishing, the trick is to take some scrap from the project, and just test on those til you get a process you like. For this, you might start with some Arm-R-Seal (made by General Finishes) which has tung oil in it, as well as other things, and maybe poly on the top of that for extra protection from the kids.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View woodchips's profile


238 posts in 3964 days

#7 posted 10-03-2008 05:46 PM


welcome to lumberjocks! glad you’re here and i’m sure you’ll enjoy it. that is a great first project especially considering your lack of tools. as for foolproof finishes, although it’s not great at protecting from spills, i have found Watco Danish Oil to be about as foolproof as there is. i’m also bad at finishing stuff and this oil is wipe on, 2 coats with 30 minutes inbetween the first and second coat, then 15 minutes after the 2nd coat you just wipe it off with a dry clean cloth and that’s it. and as long as the wood is sanded to at least 220 it doesn’t even raise the grain at all. so you’re left with a nice satiny smooth finish.



-- "Repetition is a leading cause of carelessness, and carelessness usually leads to injury"

View EEngineer's profile


1102 posts in 3613 days

#8 posted 10-03-2008 06:31 PM

No need to apologize for any of this! It looks good.

I put many things together with Elmer’s wood glue and many of them are still in use. I use TiteBond now based on the recommendations of other woodworkers but in a pinch, Elmer’s works just fine!

For durability and easy clean-up, water-based polyurethane always works for me. I would consider staining the oak first to bring out the grain. As Will said, experiment with scrap from the project until you get the process right, then proceed to the table.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

View Joshua Sargent's profile

Joshua Sargent

7 posts in 3523 days

#9 posted 10-03-2008 06:33 PM

Wow! Thanks for all the feedback and encouragement, guys. This community/site rocks!

I’m going to check into both of the finishing recommendations…will probably buy some Arm-R-Seal and some Watco Danish Oil today and try them both on some scrap. Then I guess I’ll have to experiment with the poly…I understand that how you sand it between coats determines how it looks, correct?

Next question to research: Is poly non-toxic after it dries? (Thanks for the reminder, bayspt!)

Thanks again, all!

-- -=Josh - Gurnee, IL=-

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3585 days

#10 posted 10-03-2008 08:33 PM

good practical nice looking little table I like the train idea I am sure the little uns will love this regards Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3935 days

#11 posted 10-04-2008 03:55 AM

Welcome to LumberJocks. The train table looks fine to me, sometimes the plans in your head are the best type, I got a lot of them. You seemed to do a good job getting it out and built. As I was told on this site a little while ago, if its for your child they will love it and be able to boost about what their dad made for them. That is a great project.

Keep up the goodwork and look forward to seeing your future projects.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View EEngineer's profile


1102 posts in 3613 days

#12 posted 10-05-2008 03:23 PM

Is poly non-toxic after it dries?

Short answer, YES! Many years ago, when my son was born, I researched this for a finish on his crib. Even then (water-based polyurethane was not available then), the concern was for outgassing while the stuff dried. After drying, it was considered completely non-toxic. Toady, with water-based polys about the only thing you can buy, I can only believe the situation is better. Just allow thorough drying (1 week+) before turning your kid loose on it.

No supporting docs, I’ll research this later if I have time.

-- "Find out what you cannot do and then go do it!"

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