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Free Train Table Plans

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Table of Contents

Overview of the Table

Materials Used for the Table

Steps I Took to Make the Table

Links to Other Train Table Plans

Changes of this Webpage


OVERVIEW

That's free plans for a train table, not plans on how to obtain a free train table.

This page describes how I built a train table / play table. The title was inspired by YACC.

Plans are given, including all necessary dimensions (finished size is 49.5" x 33.5" x 17.5") and a diagram of where to cut each board. I also included a Bill Of Materials (BOM) for how I made this do-it-yourself project.

My goal for this table was for it to have a smooth exterior. That meant no knots and no exposed screw heads. I also routed all the edges. The table has a 1" lip to keep trains, marbles, and other small objects from leaving the playing field.

Click here to download the plans. They are provided in PDF, so you'll need to have Adobe Acrobat reader to view the plans.

DISCLAIMER: I built my train table and it is working fine. However, I cannot oversee your work if you decide to use my plans, so I cannot guarantee that your table will be able to support its intended load. The table is meant to support children's wooden or plastic toys, not an actual train. Remember to wear eye and ear protection while using power tools or working with wood or being around anything that is noisy or can shatter or can project small pieces of material.


MATERIALS

Description Price Per Quantity Price Total
Nice pine (clear / knot-free) boards (1" x 4" x 8') 6.20 5 31.00
Normal pine (not knot-free) boards (1" x 4" x 8') 2.29 1 2.29
Normal pine (not knot-free) boards (1" x 6" x 6') 2.78 1 2.78
Plywood sheet (4' x 4') - see Final Step for thickness 15.95 1 15.95
Corner braces (metal brackets) - 4 count per bag 1.78 per bag 2 bags (8 brackets, includes screws) 3.56
#8 - 1.25" wood screws 4.00 for 100 16 screws (only part of the box) 0.64
#6 - 1.25" wood screws 4.00 for 100 4 screws (only part of the box) 0.16
Total Price for Materials (in US $) 56.38


Also needed:
  • Screwdriver for the wood screws (Phillips-head, in my case)
  • Wood glue
  • 1/4" dowels or biscuits/plates (or even more screws - however you want to join the boards for the legs and sides)
  • Tape measure and a pencil
  • Circular saw or jigsaw or table saw (something to cut the plywood and rip the braces)
  • Drill with a small bit (in case you want to drill holes before inserting the screws - highly recommended)
  • Router with round-over bit (to make the board edges more kid-friendly)
  • Sandpaper (also to make the board edges more kid-friendly)
  • Level

Optional Savings
WARNING: These savings suggestions could affect the appearance or the strength or integrity of the table. Implement these at at your own risk.
  • If you want to save money, you could opt for all normal pine boards.
    That would save $19.55 and bring the total down to $36.83, well under $50.
  • You don't need all the 1x4s to be 8 feet long 1x6; two of them can be 6'.
    However, I felt like being consistent and buying all the same length.
  • Also, you don't need a 6-foot long 1x6; you need only a 2-foot board.
    However, that was the shortest I could buy it. Since the board was only $2.78, the savings would not be that much for that one item.
  • You could also eliminate the 1x6 board completely - it is used for feet for the legs. The table should work without feet - it just won't look as nice and might be harder to move across the floor.
  • You could eliminate 1 of the 1x4s by not making them boxes. Make the legs out of 2 boards in an 'L' shape and save 1, possibly 2, 1x4s.
    But if you're going to do that, you might as well just use someone else's plans.


TIMING

I spent the following time on the project. Your mileage may vary. These times are approximate, as best I can remember since I didn't keep notes.
  • 15 minutes cutting plywood
  • 30 minutes cutting all the boards
  • 30 minutes routing all the boards
  • 4 hours assembling the legs (why so long? see Assemble the legs below)
  • 30 minutes preparing the frame for assembly
  • 15 minutes gluing the frame together
  • 30 minutes final assembly of table minus plywood
  • 15 minutes trimming the plywood to fit
Total Time: 6 hours and 45 minutes, spread over several weeks in my case

Note: I have not painted or stained the table, so add some time for those steps as you see fit. I was planning on finishing the wood somehow, but as soon as my then 2 year-old son saw the table, he immediately put it to use. I haven't felt like going back and doing those steps because the table works fine the way it is.




STEPS

Here are the steps that I used to make the table.

Note: wherever I say that I screwed something together, the step of drilling a pilot hole should be assumed to have occurred before that.
  1. Cut all the boards
    I did actually draw up the plans first and then build the table, rather than build the table first and then decide to draw it out.
    So I printed out the plans and measured the boards according to the cut sheet (page 4), marking each cut line with a pencil.

    I cut the plywood first because I used that (and sawhorses) as a base for my operations: stacking the unused boards on it, stacking completed legs on it, etc.

    I then cut all the boards and arranged them nicely for the photo on the right.

    Since the braces needed to be 2" tall but the 1x4 was 3.5" tall, I had to cut a strip of 1.5" off the normal pine board to get it to be 2". Without this step, the braces would protrude under the table and take away some clearance for storage boxes. I didn't want to just buy a 1x2 for the braces, as that extra 1/2" seems significant at those small dimensions. But I didn't do any analysis so I don't know that it really matters.
    pile of cut wood
  2. Assemble the legs
    This step took the longest because I didn't get a biscuit joiner until the end. If I had that at the beginning, it would have cut the leg assembly time in half. This work isn't necessary if you don't care about seeing screws or nails; you could just nail them together. I wanted a more finished look, so I took the time to join the boards more invisibly.

    The top picture on the near right shows the 4 boards that are used for one leg: two 14" boards and two 16" boards.

    The middle picture shows the 4 boards with holes drilled.
    I drilled 2 holes on the narrow edge of each board and then 2 holes on the wide face of each board to match the holes of the narrow edge of the next board.
    The 2 sets of holes on the top board don't look very aligned with each other. That is not a mistake - the top set of holes do match with the holes/dowels of the bottom boards.

    The bottom picture shows the 4 boards with dowels (1/4" diameter) installed. I used 2 dowels per joint and there are 4 joints per leg, so that makes 32 dowels for the legs.

    The picture on the far right shows the leg just before completion of the box. I joined the 2 tall boards together and the 2 short boards together to make the two halves. Then I joined the 2 halves together. Do this part without glue first, to make sure everything works before it is permanent.

    The last step is not shown, and that is putting the feet on the legs. I took the 4.25" square that was cut from the 1x6 and glued it to the bottom of the leg. This time I used the biscuit joiner, which is similar to dowels but it uses strips of wood and slots in the board instead of dowels of wood and holes drilled in the board.
    blank boards for leg holey boards for leg pegged boards for leg ready boards for leg
  3. Route the boards
    I used a 1/4" round-over bit on all the boards so that there were no sharp corners or edges.

    Initially, I had this step before assembling the legs.
    However, not every edge needed to be routed, such as the edges that would be inside the legs.
    Rather than try to figure out which edges those would be, I thought it would be easier to assemble the legs first and then route them.

    I recommend routing the frame as individual boards, because the assembled frame doesn't fit on the router table as well as the legs do.

    Here on the right you can see the differences between the inside edges and the outside edges. This picture is after assembly, but it's the best picture I had of the effect of routing so I'm putting it here in this step.
    close-up of some routed edges
  4. Assemble the frame
    No pictures on this step.

    For the frame, I used the same dowel method that I used on the legs. I drilled 2 holes on each end of each long rail, right where it would contact the short rail.
    Next, I drilled 2 holes on each end of the inside face of each short rail, aligning them with the holes of the long rails.

    Last, I put the dowels in the holes, without glue, to make sure they fit and the holes were aligned properly.
    I made note of which piece went where and then disassembled the frame in preparation for the next part.

    The garage did not have an open, level area large enough to accomodate the train table, so I decided to assemble everything in the living room, where the train table was supposed to be anyway. So I moved everything from the garage to the living room and assembled the frame.

    Everything was tested and ready to go from the garage, so all I had to do in the living room was glue the frame together.
    I waited until the next day, when the glue was dry, to proceed with the next step.
  5. Attach the legs
    It's easier to do this step if the braces are not installed because you'll find yourself sitting in the middle of the table.

    The frame was all assembled at this point, and the legs were all assembled, so I just screwed the two together.

    First, I set the frame on all 4 legs. As you can see from the picture of a leg, it has a tall side and a short side.
    I turned the legs backwards so that the frame rested on the short side and the tall side still stuck up above the bottom of the frame.
    This let the frame sit at the proper height and let me screw the legs on one by one.

    Next, I turned one leg back to normal and screwed it to the frame. The frame was supported by the other 3 legs until the screws went in.

    Then, I turned around the next leg (I believe I worked around the table in a Northern Hemisphere counter-clockwise fashion).
    This is where the level came into use. I set the level on the frame between the previously-attached leg and the current leg.
    Once the level indicated that the frame was level, I screwed in the current leg. This was repeated, moving the level to each frame rail, until all the legs were attached.

    I used two #8 x 1.25" wood screws per tall leg board, so 4 screws per leg, as you can see in the picture at the right.

    I originally planned on having some diagonal cross braces that would rest on (and cut across) the inside corner of each leg. I decided after the original planning not to use those cross braces, but I left the legs with the shorter 2 boards because it would allow much easier access for screwing the leg to the frame.
    corner leg assembly
  6. Attach the braces
    I did the center brace first and then the side braces. I don't know that it matters much, as long as they all get there eventually.

    Since the plywood is somewhat flexible, I did not want to set the plywood on just the legs and then add the braces from below to match the plywood. I placed a straight-edge on the upper part of the 2 legs on a long side of the table, to indicate where the plywood surface should go. I then screwed one end of the center brace on that side board (using the brackets) and repeated this process for the other long side of the table.

    For the side braces, I measured the center points of the center brace and short side boards.
    I then screwed in one side brace to the side board first, offsetting it just to one side of the center line.
    I then screwed in the other side brace to the other side board, offsetting it just to the other side of the center line.
    I then screwed in each side brace to the center brace, keeping each offset so that the boards did not align with each other.
    This was done to avoid having to buy another set of brackets.

    The brackets came with their own screws, so I don't know what size they were.
    The brackets were 1.5" tall by 0.75" wide (and deep).
    I used #6 x 1.25" long wood screws to attach the side braces to the center brace, 2 screws per side brace.
    top view of table without plywood
  7. Set the plywood on the frame
    I had erred on the larger side when initially cutting the plywood, so this step involved a couple of trips between the living room and garage to trim down the plywood for a good fit.

    The plywood is not secured by anything other than its own weight. I couldn't think of any easy way that wouldn't have screwheads showing on the plywood.

    Also, it allows for much easier transportation of the table if the plywood can be separated from the rest of the table.
    If you want really easy transportation, then you can unscrew the legs too.

    The plywood measures 7/16" thick, but it was not listed as such. It was either 1/2" or 1/4".
    view of finished table




LINKS