Help designing Lego table

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Forum topic by joshtp posted 08-23-2016 04:18 PM 1019 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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35 posts in 1025 days

08-23-2016 04:18 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lego table question

My two boys, 6 and 8, are very much into Legos, and I’d like to build them a table dedicated to that purpose. I’d like to get some help designing this.

A family member built this table which inspired us to make one for our kids:

I did some searching, and came across this design which I like better:

(taken from this site)

I’m having trouble figuring out some of the dimensions. The play surface appears to be a melamine panel, and maybe 30”x60”, perhaps joined via a groove to the inner band. I believe the inner and outer bands and dividers are about 1×6. The bottom surface could be more 1×6 or plywood. Legs kind of look to be laminated plywood.

I don’t need to copy this exactly, but want to get pretty close. I’m also wondering if I should worry that the kids will sit/stand/jump on the table, and design it accordingly.

Any input is appreciated, thanks!

17 replies so far

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1066 days

#1 posted 08-24-2016 02:06 AM


There are surprisingly a number of design considerations for a Lego table. I offer some thoughts on a few of these. However, probably the best approach, before locking in a design, is to closely watch the kids as they build Lego projects. Close observation can reveal how they approach a project and therefore what would help them in their play. Some ideas on beneficial features of a table could emerge. Also asking them what features they would like could be an interesting conversation and reveal some project requirements that would otherwise be overlooked.

I suspect that at some point, one of the boys and/or a friend might think it would be fun to get up on the table and then jump off. Therefore, it would probably be a good idea to ensure the table can support at least 200 pounds or maybe more at the center of the table. Assuming one of the boys gets the idea to stand on the table, ensuring the perimeter troughs are wide enough that it would be unlikely that a foot could get wedged and a broken ankle result could save a trip to the ER.

A melamine table surface would offer a slick surface that would allow the Legos to slide easily. I am not sure this is a good or bad thing. Since melamine is particle board and if you elect to design the table to support the weight of the boys, some supporting substructure would be needed. As an alternative to melamine, ¾” thick plywood with a few coats of polyurethane would stronger than melamine and could keep the Legos from sliding every which way while still allowing a large Lego sub-assembly to be slid out of the way. Whatever material is used for the top, getting and keeping it dead flat will make snapping Legos together much easier.

The size of the table work surface could be driven by the reach of the boys. I would think the ideal overall width would be about half the reach of the boys. That way an object in the center of the table could be reached from one or the other the side.

A similar method for determining the overall table length could be used. Assuming each boy is working at the same time at their end of the table, sizing the table so that center is just beyond reach would allow each boy to assemble their Legos without getting the pieces mixed up. Also a removable center divide could partition the table so that pieces used at one end of the table do not make their way to the other end of the table. If the center divider is removable, an especially large project could be assembled by removing the divide.

The other consideration related to table sizing is whether green Lego base plates are used. I am not sure but I suspect these are available in standardized sizes. Ensuring the table work surface can accommodate these green Lego base sheets would allow the table to be used with these Lego base sheets. I know that the Lego police station is a complex build consisting of three subassemblies. Unless it is built on one of these Lego base plates, lifting and setting the completed project on a display shelf would be difficult. If the Leg base plates are not used, providing a base on which the Lego project could be built would be handy. When done the Lego assembly can be moved by picking up the home made base and thus avoid the frustration of the project falling apart. The homemade base could be a ¼” sheet of plywood set in groves in a ¾” x ¾” or ¾” x 1” wooden frame.

I suppose the height of the table depends on whether the boys will be seated or whether they will stand when working on a project. Either way, making the table height a comfortable height would increase the utility of the table. I also would think that constructing the legs from relatively inexpensive material and then having the ability to detach the legs would allow a new set of legs to be constructed if the boys’ interest continues and they grow a few inches.

The last notion I have is for storage of Lego pieces. It seems that Legos are like rabbits; a few today and thousands tomorrow. Depending on the design you ultimately select, perhaps an under the table Lego storage cabinet could be added, fitted with draws that are accessible from each side of the table. If a storage cabinet is added, it could be sized to support the center of the table and thus allow the thickness of the work surface to be reduced. Even if you forego the storage cabinet, incorporating storage for all those Lego manuals would keep them from getting lost.

View skatefriday's profile


424 posts in 1629 days

#2 posted 08-24-2016 03:05 AM

Get them on an FLL team.

View joshtp's profile


35 posts in 1025 days

#3 posted 08-24-2016 01:55 PM

JBrow, thank you for the very detailed response! Observing the kids now, they have a giant bin with all their Legos that they spend quite a bit of time digging through, and they build their cars/boats/houses/etc on the floor or a nearby table. Simply having a shallower space to put a lot of Legos like the trough would help a lot.

Great, I’ll plan for it to hold about 200lbs at the center. 3/4” plywood with polyurethane sounds great to me.

I need to measure the kids reach, but right now I’m planning on allowing two large base plates (15”x15”) to fit on the table in each direction, so a 30”x30” surface. I’d rather avoid gluing the base plates down, and just have them float, but with a tight fit if a total of four are placed down. I kind of like the center divider idea, but I’m not exactly sure how I’d realize that.

We have some chairs for the boys, I’ll check the height and make sure they can clear. I definitely think doing the legs with inexpensive material is a good idea, as I might want to just experiment with the height.

Yes, Legos multiply! Built-in storage is a great idea, though I’m not sure how I’d integrate that without getting in the way of the kids knees if they’ll be seated.

I’ve wanted to try Sketchup for some time, so I tried my hand at modeling a basic table using 3/4” plywood, and 2×6 and 2×4 lumber. Not the most elegant solution, but I’m thinking I might want to iterate, so something quick and cheap if not beautiful might be a good thing to try.

(bigger versions)

I’m thinking for a cheap iteration this might be too complicated with all the grooves for supporting the trough. What if I used a 2×4 for the bottom of the trough, attached to the 2×6 with visible but sunken screws?

If that worked, then I already have scrap 3/4” plywood for the top and 2×4 for trough bottom and legs, I’d just need to buy some 2×6.

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35 posts in 1025 days

#4 posted 08-24-2016 01:57 PM

Get them on an FLL team.

- skatefriday

We did Jr. FLL for the boys last year, but personal dynamics didn’t work out so well. This year we’re doing either our own team, or doing an informal Lego group with some families we know.

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1066 days

#5 posted 08-25-2016 12:24 AM


The simplest divider would be a ¾” x ¾” piece of wood that would extend from edge to edge of the work table. Assuming there will be a shallow lip around the work table to keep Legos from slipping off into the trough, the divider could be just long enough for a friction fit between the work table lips on opposite edges. The advantage and disadvantage of this style of divider is that can be positioned anywhere on the work table, dividing the work table into two separate space.

A pair of ¼” dowels glued into the bottom face of the divider which align with a pair of holes in the work table would keep the divider from moving around. If dowels are added, ensuring the holes that align with the dowels are a little oversized would make removing and installing the divider easy. But then when the divider is not used, the holes in the work table could swallow some of those tiny Lego pieces. This could be addressed by either creating plugs for the holes or extending the length of the divider and notching the ends so that the notched ends of the divider set over the assumed lip around the work table. The dowels could then be installed in the notches and the aligned holes on the lip.

At 30×30, there would not be much room for a Lego storage cabinet under the table. Depending on whether you are up for the added work, a pair of small plywood cabinets with drawers on casters could be built. Then a slanted book stand could be added on top of the cabinet. In this configuration, the cabinet could be rolled up to where the boys are working. Any Lego instructions can be set on the book stand, keeping it handy and off the table.

If you have straight 2×4 and 2×6 lumber, screwing things together would work fine. The trough could also be glued without screws and thus avoid countersinking and hiding screws. Once the trough is built, some cleats could be screwed and glued on the inside face of the trough and the top screwed to the cleats from underneath. If the cleats are held down a little from the top edge of the inner trough wall, a shallow lip around the perimeter of the top could be created that would help keep Legos corralled. The legs could then be also bolted to the inside face of the trough.

View muleskinner's profile


897 posts in 2583 days

#6 posted 08-25-2016 01:50 AM

The guys above have pretty much covered the design aspect. As to your last question. You don’t need to worry about the boys sitting, standing or jumping on the table. If they’re between the ages of 2 1/2 and anywhere south of needing a walker, you need to expect it.

-- Visualize whirled peas

View Baddad84's profile


19 posts in 1028 days

#7 posted 08-25-2016 02:21 AM

My boys are 24, 21, and 18 so my lego table predates digital pictures so i will try to describe a few things for consideration. First if you have the space, don’t skimp on the size. My table was a full sheet of 4’x 8’ of 3/4” paticle board framed with 1”x6” i cut a hole in yhe middle so the kids could crawl under the table and build from the middle. The entire surface of the table was covered with glued down lego plates. mynkids loved the lego trains so there was always at least one set of trains on the table. The plates let the kids make buildings around the track creating lego cities before they sold the kits. Anyway, just some thoughts.

-- Brad

View joshtp's profile


35 posts in 1025 days

#8 posted 08-27-2016 06:31 PM

Wow, thanks for the great detail on how to make a divider. I think for this iteration I’ll forgo this feature, but I appreciate the idea.

I love the idea of the rolling cabinets, and it’ll let me focus on the table first.

My wife vetoed the chunky look of the 2x lumber, so I went ahead and bought some 1x.

How’s this for a design? The inner and outer frame will be from 1×6 with mitered corners. The bottom of the trough will be from 1×5, supported by cleats glued and screwed to the inner and outer frame and the bottom piece. The play surface inside the inner frame will again be attached with glued and screwed cleats. Where the legs go I’ll glue and screw scrap 1x to give more for them to hold on to. All of this means no visible fasteners.

My only concern is the weakness of the glued mitered joints of the outer frame. Will the cleats and trough bottom be enough to keep it together? Of course there’s no support on the top of the outer frame. Should I be worried? I could have a visible inner or outer metal brace, or maybe dividers in the trough that would connect the inner and outer frame and prevent the outer frame frame separating at the mitered corners.


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35 posts in 1025 days

#9 posted 08-27-2016 06:34 PM

muleskinner: Haha, yes, if they can climb it, jump off it, slide down it, etc., they will do it!

Baddad84: I’d like to make a giant table, but not sure if we can spare that much space, at least not yet. I like the idea of the middle hole, I’m sure the kids would love it. If we ever make a bigger one I will certainly consider that!


View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1066 days

#10 posted 08-28-2016 01:16 AM


Yeah, when the wife gets involved, designs seem to change. You are not alone. I have finally learned to run my designs past the wife, expecting her to make changes. But in the end, my projects, which are complicated a bit by her changes, really do look better.

Cleats are a good alternative to groves. The 1X lumber for the trough should be fine. However, by my way of thinking, the inner corners of the frame where the legs would be attached could be beefed up so that lags or screws attaching the legs would have plenty of bite. Short lengths of 1X glued in the corners could provide this added structure.

I too would be concerned of the strength of the mitre joints at the corners of the trough. Reinforcing these joints with dowels, splines, biscuits, or even some brads would be best. I personally like splines.

The troughs could be significantly strengthened with some dividers. Since an end grain glue joint is inherently weak, gluing the dividers in so that the end grain is oriented up and down would result in a strong bond between the sides of the trough and the divider. Some screws through the bottom of the trough into the dividers would strengthen this bottom end grain joint. I personally would avoid metal brackets to reinforce joints because they tend to be ugly, can get in the way, and can scrap or cut the kids.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1133 posts in 2996 days

#11 posted 08-28-2016 04:55 PM

Josh, I just sold this one on CL after it served my 3 kids over 12+ years. My son was the mad Lego builder but each of my girls also used the table for various craft type builds as well. A table with a lip was a godsend when the girls were in to beads… This was just a simple table before I had a table saw, built it with a circ, router & screwgun. The first version used the pre`made screw in legs to a bracket. Once I got a TS I tapered a left over 4×4 DF to make the legs that would not be so “wiggly”

Skirt – Routed 3/4” plywood groove 2” from top in 6”x1” poplar board; mitered ends to wrap the 24”x 48” cab ply, all edges rounded over with 3/8” roundover, DF legs screwed & glued into the lower apron skirt.

To get the storage, shown, I would put a 2nd dadao onto the outside face of the apron/skirt and essentially build a deep frame around the table.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View joshtp's profile


35 posts in 1025 days

#12 posted 08-29-2016 12:26 PM

Ok, got a plan I’ll start on today, following pretty much all your advice. I’ve never done splines before and would like to try them, but I’ll at least put some brads in the corners. I’d like to avoid the dividers if possible for the trough, but might have to do it for strength. Are 3/4”x3/4” cleats sufficient to support the trough and play surface?

As you can tell I have far more computer time than shop time, unfortunately, so more Sketchup figures:

(bigger versions here)

I like that design as well, maybe I should make that one for the girls!

View JBrow's profile


1366 posts in 1066 days

#13 posted 08-29-2016 10:57 PM


The ¾” x ¾” play surface and trough bottom cleats should work, though gluing and screwing the cleats in place would enhance the strength should the boys climb up on the play surface. Cleats of this size that are free of knots would be less susceptible to breaking.

Adding blocking to the inside faces of the trough on each side of the corner would allow longer screws to secure the legs. If I were building the table, I would want to ensure the leg-to-table connection is as secure as possible. Screws with only a ½” of bit in the trough side wall are not much support at these high stress points. Also, table wobble could emerge as an issue especially if the play surface is 30” high. If this becomes an issue, some diagonal bracing in one form or another may be required. Shorter legs I would think would result in less wobble.

If you determine later that center dividers are needed in the trough (for strength or function) they could be added later. Assuming a finish of some kind is applied and since glue does not stick well to varnished surfaces, the dividers could be cut to fit and secured in place with dowels and screws. Dowels would look better than screws on the show faces of the trough. Screws could be used behind the scene where they would not be seen.

FYI, if I read your underside sketch of the cleats correctly, it appears the cleats that support the bottom of the trough should be moved to the outside face of the trough’s inner wall. These cleats appear to be drawn under the play surface directly below the play surface supporting cleats.

View MrRon's profile


5086 posts in 3390 days

#14 posted 08-31-2016 06:27 PM

As an idea, you could have a lift out panel in the top so the lego pieces can be pushed into the opening into a box under the table.

View joshtp's profile


35 posts in 1025 days

#15 posted 09-02-2016 03:24 AM

I finished constructing the table, but haven’t applied a finish yet. I did add blocking for the legs (just 2×4s for now). It would be great if I could devise some easily removable legs, as the height is almost 30”, and it was rather difficult to move it through a doorway.

This was my first time trying a spline, or even a miter joint for that matter. It took a few tries to get the right thickness but I got it pretty close. I found good tips from a Shop Notes piece on how to do this that helped a lot.

I’m pretty happy with it, but might cut out a hinged panel in the middle for easily cleaning the Legos from the table (as suggested by MrRon), though most times there’ll probably be the four base plates. Or I could raise the surface to eliminate the lip, I’ll just let the kids play with it for a bit and see what they think.

Thanks for all the advice!

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