Paul’s Toddler Table

Viewer Project - By Paul Kranz from Princeton, NJ
Added on June 19, 2014

This Toddler Table (my 3rd major project) came about because I wanted one table that could perform several functions: a writing surface, a Duplo/Lego Table, a surface for a train set, and a place to store the toys associated with each activity.

The default writing surface is cut down the middle and the wings flip up 270 degrees and rest on the sides of the table. Underneath is a flippable panel—on one side I attached Duplo building plates, the other side’s use is yet to be decided. Remove the panel and you have access to 4 Ikea storage bins below. These bins slide out from the side so you can access them when the table is closed or when the wings are open and they slide out completely to accommodate more kids at the table.

I used 1/2″ Baltic Birch plywood for the top, 4/4 Soft Maple for the frame, and 6/4 Soft Maple for the legs. This is the first project where I implemented the techniques from Marc’s finishing video, so I used a coat of Seal-A-Cell and 4 coats of Arm-R-Seal.

The joinery is nothing special, but quite a bit of effort was focused on adapting the 270 degree hinges, which are designed for 3/4″ materials (maybe too much effort, if I do this again I may just use a 3/4 table top). To make up the difference, I cut some pyramid bases to ease the transition from the underside of the table to the hinge, since when the table is open toddlers will be in contact this area. I also needed to cut a mortise to drop the hinge down a half inch.

The proportions here are not stunning, but there were some limitations in the max height of the table to draw comfortably, the height of the bottom of the table to sit comfortably, and having enough space inside the table to hang the bins and store the flippable panel. The leg proportions are based on the dimensions of a rare Grecian urn I’m found of— just kidding…they’re based on a couple jointer passes of the rough lumber (wanted to use every cubic centimeter). I didn’t edge band the plywood top. At 1/2″ it’s not too displeasing, plus there is a large chamfer for safety so much of the edge banding would have been routed anyway.

I’ve made a quick YouTube video that demonstrates how the table transforms:

Lessons learned:
1. Identify the hardware you’re going to use during the design phase, particularly when dealing with hardware like 270 degree hinges where there are not many options.
2. Don’t dry your show surface vertically. To save time I tried to coat the entire structure and needed to leave the wings hanging down to avoid surface contact. I got a pretty long drip across the table top.
3. Don’t drop the wood. I had some delicate 1/2″ pieces on the edges of a couple boards that broke off when I dropped them.
4. Don’t expect the panels to lay flat. Before finishing I spent time making sure the wings sat flat touching the entire surface of the frame, but after the first coat they were slightly off already. In the future I would probably hang the hinges a little higher and only expect the doors to touch the frame in the middle.