Simple table for dolls house

Quick improvised kids table

First up, a confession – despite the post title, this table wasn’t put together that quickly!

However, I think that was mainly due to my lack of a decent chunk of free time to get on with it, and the regular occasional interruption by my offspring during various stages.

That said, I reckon this is easily doable in a day – with most of the time spent waiting for glue to dry (though ideally you’d want to leave it as long as you can to make sure it cured right) and less time wondering how you want it to look.

Second confession – this isn’t an instruction on how to make this table. It’s a description of the approach I took. I wouldn’t follow instructions I wrote, so I can’t expect anyone else to! If you really want to know more – leave a comment below, or get in touch.

DIY kids tableAnyway, before I start talking through how I – an idiot, fool, and simpleton of much renown – managed to make an actual table that remains standing, there’s a bit of back story…

A couple of Christmas’s ago, my parents wanted to get The Girl something special that she’d get to play with for years and years.

They eventually decided to go for a classic wooden dolls house, which was to be presented to her when we were up there for Christmas. I agreed to this before it dawned on me that it’s all well and good driving nearly 300 miles to God’s Own County for the festive season, but you also need to drive back.

With all the presents.

And grandparents tend to get their grandchildren a lot of presents.

Big ones!

When we got up there, we also discovered we’d have to build the house as it wasn’t pre-assembled, which I’d normally see as fun, but it could only be done on the night of Christmas Eve, and we also had to make a Thunderbirds Tracy Island for the boy…

Anyway, they got made, we had some sleep, the kids we’re chuffed to bits, I managed to squeeze everything in the car, and despite my initial misgivings, we managed to fit both children in as well.

Getting home, the dolls house eventually found a home in the floor of her room where she could happily play with it.

Fast forward a year of so, and she’s now grown a bit, so it was a struggle for her to reach in to play with  it properly. Having salvaged up a load of random bits of wood from someone moving house, and replacing the open shelves in the kitchen with some scaffold boards, for some reason I thought it might be an idea to make her something to put it on.

Temporary outdoor workshopMy starting point was the three shelf planks I’d taken out of the kitchen as I wasn’t happy with the stain on them. Happily, they were slightly longer than the dolls house was wide, so I figured I could use two of them as a top for the table, and then figure something out for the legs.

I’d picked up some cheap 600mm (2 foot in old money) clamps from Homebase, so once I’d given the planks a good going over with the belt sander to get rid of the stain, I went for a straightforward glue together with lots of clamping to hold it together both laterally and vertically.

Table top in progress (the planks would need a slight trim as there was a few mm difference in length as I only had cheap jigsaw when I’d cut them originally) I then turned my attention to what the hell I was going to do for legs.

In an ideal world, I’d have gone traditional mortise and tenon joints approach – where the legs are joined to the frame with beautiful hand cut joints. However, I know the limitations of both my own skill and the bargain chisels I was given some years ago, and whilst I do want to get some proper joinery done at some point, I didn’t feel my efforts would be any good at this stage.

Instead, I went for a very basic rectangle frame which would be attached to the bottom of the tabletop, to which I could then attach the legs.

Rummaging through my stash of wood, I found some bits that seemed suitable for the legs, which I then then matched it up with some other bits for the frame – I wanted the proportions to look right.

I decided about 18″ would be a reasonable height, so cut the legs to length with my crappy circular saw in the belief it would cut square. Alas, no. So I had to remedy that by clamping all four legs together and shaving a few mm off to get them all the same length.

Clamping frame to tabletopFor the frame bit, I eyed up how much of a lip I wanted on the table top, and did some maths to make sure I was cutting the right lengths and made a basic rectangle. This was then glued and screwed together, before gluing and clamping it to the underside of the table.

I left this to cure for a while whilst pondering if I wanted to put a shelf on the bottom – it would be handy for her to have another surface to put things on, but as I’d only just thought of it, I hadn’t factored it into my plans.

Carrying on regardless, I then screwed the legs into place, with a little pilot hole and a bit of a recess to for the screw heads to ‘hide’ in.

This is when I realised the shelf wasn’t really an option, it was a necessity – the wood I’d picked for the legs had a definite curve across it, and a shelf would be a good way of holding them square.

This then lead to much mulling about how the hell to add a shelf, and after much umm-ing and ah-ing, I found a few lengths that had been planed on three sides, with slight curve on one edge. Whilst I thought this would look ok, my main reason for choosing it was I actually had enough to do what I wanted!

To attach this onto the legs I decided to repeat the frame technique and made a rectangle to fit between the legs, both to hold them in place, and to act as the support for the strips I’d use for the shelves.

I spent a good amount of time faffing with clamps and spirit levels making sure this was level before attaching it to the legs, as I was determined not to rush and ruin what I’d managed so far.

Lining up the strips before fittingAgain, I made the mistake of trusting the circular saw when I was cutting the strips that would become the shelf as I thought it would cope more easily with the thinner wood. Instead, I ended up with 10 lengths with edges that tapered from the top to bottom, rather than being nice and square.

Once again the clamps came out and I bundled them altogether to attack the ends with the belt sander to square them up. I know this isn’t a craftsman’s-guild-approved technique, but when you have limited skill, you have to improvise!

Satisfied, I then spent more time than was probably necessary spacing these out nicely before nailing them into place.

Then I realised I seemed to have made something that could honestly be described as table-like!

After a bit of a fine sanding (and cleaning!) I then gave the legs/frame a lick of paint – I’ve left the top unstained so far as I can’t decide how to finish it, and it doesn’t look terrible as it is. I know it needs doing, and it will be at some point, but I wanted The Girl to enjoy it, and all the evidence so far suggests she does!

So, another job off the list (though, technicaly, it wasn’t on the list, and I fear I may have done this as a way of avoiding the list…) and a few more lessons learned, including:

  • I need a decent circular saw.
  • Don’t attach bottom strips before painting
  • Kids’ narrow paintbrushes are handy for painting inside gaps where you’ve nailed strips down too early.
  • You can never have too many clamps. Though I think I pushed my luck on with the cheap ones as they were starting to flex.
  • Take your time at each stage – there’s bits of sanding I’m not happy with as I was rushing one evening or another, and by measuring and re-measuring I avoided making mistakes I know I would have made a year ago.
  • Keep an eye on the time – neighbours not so keen on power tools in the garden after 9pm
  • Plans aren’t always needed – I free-styled this and with thought and patience managed to work something pretty reasonable out.

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