Big Lego Table


January 17th, 2011

The basement Lego collection had grown beyond the capacity of the original Lego table tray I built a few months back. When the kids and I started on our Lego kick last year we could fit both the kids basic Lego collection and my Technic collection on the same table. With the big influx of new sets over the Christmas holiday (and my addiction to Bricklink) I thought an upgrade in our play space was in order. 

Along with that my father-in-law gave me a surprise gift of several power tools he found on eBay, including a Craftsman radial arm saw. I figured the updated Lego table would be a great first project to try out the new additions to the workshop.

General Design

Table Size

For the new table size I wanted something that was roughly twice the size of the old table tray which was based on a 4' x 4' sheet of plywood. I found a 4'x 8' sheet of 1/2" plywood on sale for $23 at Menards.

I didn't want a square table so I cut a 45 degree triangle section off of each corner of the plywood about one foot from the ends. 

Extra Storage

I wanted some extra storage space built into this table so I planned on adding some drawers just under the plywood top. Originally I was only going to have four drawers along the long side of the table. There was a lot of empty space at each end so I decided to include two smaller drawers at the table ends.

To keep the design of the drawers simple I decided to make the depth of the drawers the same as the standard board sizes. The width of a standard 2" x 3" seemed about right (2.5"). For the bottom floor of the drawers I picked up some 1/4" plywood.

Building Materials

Since this table was going to serve out its useful life hidden away in the basement play area I opted for using low cost basic Pine boards for the table framing. Those pine boards are cheap for a reason. Its was hard to find one that wasn't partiall warped or full of knots as I was sorting through the pile picking them out, especially the 2"x2" and 1/2" x 3" strips. 

I thought about using select boards to avoid having to deal with all the flaws. However with the table design I had in mind a majority of the cuts would only be a few feet long. Most of the basic boards had at least one had a section that was straight and I could buy three to four of the cheap boards for the price of once select board. My plan was to buy double the boards I needed and work around the non-straight sections. Additionally I thought the extra knots in some of the cheaper boards would look neat once I stained and sealed the table.  

Side Rail Design

I thought about digging out my router table, which was still boxed from when we moved two years ago, to make some neat looking side rails but decided against it. One of my primary directives for the table was to use cheap, non-select lumber. A few routed edges wasn't going to cover up the pedigree of the lumber so I decided to go with a more basic design. 

I ended up layering two 2" x 2" and one 2" x 3" together for the side rails. The 2" x 2" boards on the outsides would sandwich the 2"x 3" in the middle. I made the bottom of the 1/2" plywood table-top flush with the bottom of the upper 2" x 2" board in the side rail. That gave the table a slight lip which would help keep the Legos from falling off the table and left the center 2" x 3" open to make room for the drawers.

For the rails I mitered all the corners at 22.5 degrees to neatly surround the elongated rectangle plywood top. The radial arm saw made this job much easier but it was not easy getting the board lengths right the first time. I had to re-cut a few of the rail pieces due to under cutting. There are a few gaps between the plywood top and rails but for the most part the rails went together well.       


Measure and Cutting

This project took the whole idea of "cut to fit" to the extreme level. I don't do enough carpentry work to become practiced enough to make really consistent cuts. I knew I was in trouble after comparing the four plywood corners after cutting out the plywood table top corner triangles and realizing no two were alike. Given the variability of my cuts I decided to cut a piece, install it, then measure what I needed for the next piece instead of cutting a bunch of pieces all at once they trying to make them fit together.

Table Legs

I assumed the table would be heavy when it was completed so I wanted to use 4" x 4" table legs. In keeping with the theme of using cheaper lumber I screwed and glued two 2" x 4" boards together instead of buying a full 4" x 4".  For the length of the legs the board divided naturally into four 2' sections. This made the table height a little on the high side for the kids (age 3 and 5) but I figured they would grow into it in a few years.  


I picked  1" x 3" furing strips to use as the drawer side board material because I thought it would match up exactly with the height of the 2" x 3" boards I used for the center span. Those two boards did match up but I forgot to account for the 1/4' plywood I used for the drawer base. I ended up having to rip about 1/4 off the sides of the drawers to get them to fit. This would have been really hard if I didn't have the radial arm saw available.

For the front of the drawers I used 1" x 4" boards. To match the octagonal shape of the table top I mitered the corners of the drawer faces at 45 degrees.

One issue I ran into when putting the drawers together was how to secure the plywood bottom to the front of the drawer. For the sides and back of the drawer it was straight-forward to pound a few finishing nails through the plywood bottom, because the bottom overlapped those pieces. The bottom did not overlap the front of the drawer so there really wasn't anything to nail too. To get around this I took the 1/4" leftover from ripping the drawer back wall and glued it to the front and bottom of the drawer. This gave the bottom a solid attachment to the front of the drawer. 

Keeping It Together

I used construction screws to keep big pieces together, specifically the legs and inner framing. For all the rest of the assembly I used various sizes of finishing nails. In addition to the nails and screws I used wood glue on every joint.

During the whole assembly the wood never split once with either while driving the constructions screws or nails which was surprising to me. The finishing nails were the hardened, thin type which I think helped a lot with potential splitting. Also I only used the construction screws in areas were there was lots of wood around the insertion point.

Removable Rails

Since this was a Lego table I wanted to make at least some of the rails around the top of the playing surface removable. The idea being that if we wanted to take a break from playing with the Legos we could just remove a rail and push all the peices into one of the drawers. 

I had some leftover 3/8" dowels from a previous project. To make the removable rails I drilled and glued a 1 1/2" section of the dowels into the rail section. Then I drilled over sized holes on the removable rails so they were easy to pop off. 


I had some leftover caster wheels laying around the workshop. I thought if I could make the table mobile it would make cleaning the basement easier. The wheels were on the small side so I used two per table leg.

Big Lego Table Completed

Looking back the table went together pretty well. It took two weekends working on it half time or less. I would guess I could make the whole table in one focused day. If it wasn't for the radial arm saw this project would have taken weeks longer.

Total Lego Table Cost

I put together the rough material of the table. I didn't have all the receipts but I think the figures are pretty close. Like I said above I bought extra boards so I could work around the warping of some of the smaller boards. I think I have roughly a half dozen left over.

 ItemUnit Cost  Quantity Total Cost
 4' x 8' x 1/2" plywood $23.00 1 $23.00
 4' x 8' x 1/4" plywood $11.00 1 $11.00
 1" x 3" x 8' Furring Strip $1.07 8 $8.56
 1 x 4" x 8' board $1.65 3 $4.95
 2" x 2" x 8' Furring Strip $1.29 8 $10.32
 2" x 3" x 8' Furring Strip $1.65 6 $9.90
 2" x 4" x 8' stud $1.75 3 $5.25
 Box of 2.5" Finishing Nails $6.00 1 $6.00
 Box of 1.5" Finishing Nails $3.00 1 $3.00
 Box of 2.5" Construction Screws $4.00 1 $4.00
 Bottle of Wood Glue $3.00 1 $3.00
Grand Total   $88.89


The plan is to stain and seal the table at some point in the future. I will probably wait till this Spring when I can open a window to vent the fumes out of the basement. I could try carrying the table up the garage to finish it there but it would take a lot of effort to get it up the stairs and around the hallway corner to the garage