Homemade Wood Blocks

When I was a kid, one of the all-time best toys we had was a bin full of wood blocks that my grandfather had made for us. Maybe I’m just being nostalgic, but I remember spending hours building cities and towers with them. We decided every child should have their own set of blocks and Christmas is the perfect excuse to make a set for our 2 year old nephew Hank.  We tried to replicate my memory of the blocks my grandfather made and I think we did a pretty good job. Here’s what we did in 5 easy steps:

1. Sand down the 2 x 4s. Our goal of the first sanding was to get the major stuff sanded down while the pieces were still long and easy to set up on the saw horses.  

Tip: Fingerless gloves are a must have if you plan to do projects in an unheated garage in December in Minnesota!

2. Cut boards to length.

Can't you already imagine the possible towers you can build with these?

If you are interested here are the lengths we used:  

  • Short rectangle:  1.25 in.
  • Square:  3.5 in.
  • Rectangle: 7 in.
  • Long rectangle: 10.5 in.
  • Super long rectangle: 14in.

3. Route – we used a simple roundover/beading bit along all the edges to make sure there were no sharp corners or edges.

Reuben is awesome at routing!

4. Final sanding. Once the pieces were cut and routed we turned our belt sander upside down and mounted it on the saw horse for the final sanding. It was much easier to hold those routed edges up to the belt than try to keep the block stationary and maneuver the sander.

5. Shellac. We debated if this was necessary or not. I don’t recall the blocks I had as a kid having anything on them, but then again I haven’t seen those blocks in…um… let’s just say it’s been a while.  We finally decided to spray them so that they would be protected against damage and to make sure the little hands that would be playing with them would have a nice smooth finished surface to grab. We laid them out in our basement and used semi-gloss finish spray polyurethane. Each side got a couple coats and then a final brush down with steel wool once they were dry so we had a nice smooth and shiny surface. 

Tip: It's always better to do several light coats of finish and let it dry between each coat. We were able to leave these out and go downstairs every night and flip and re-spray them.

That’s it- Done!

Ready for play time!


So pretty!

We put a bow on the bin (we’re way too lazy to figure out a better way to wrap them!) and they’ll sneak under the tree on Christmas morning just like this. We’re really excited with how they turned out and we hope to have a follow-up with how they were received

Merry Christmas Hank!

8 thoughts on “Homemade Wood Blocks”

  1. These look great you guys!! Good job!
    Are you worried about your little one sticking these in her mouth after your’ve sprayed them with the polyurothane? Or am I just being a crazy mom?

  2. We fully expect these blocks to end up in the kiddos mouths. My understanding is that polyurethane is non-toxic once is has completely cured, so we aren’t worried about it.
    That said, there are some other finishes that are sold specifically for finishing children’s toys and I think most blocks are just sanded really well and left with no coating, so if you were going to do this you might want to consider those options if you are worried about it.

  3. Hank loves his new blocks! Most every day he wants to get them out and “buiwd a ower” (build a tower). I think he will get a lot of use out of them in the years to come.

  4. I thought about doing the same thing for my nephew this Christmas! I have a bunch of scrap 2×4 from framing and I don’t want to just throw them away. I ended up not having time (and not having a router which would save even more time) so I didn’t do it. I’m glad you were able to make it happen! I was trying to remember if my blocks were sealed. They were either just sanded or they had a thin matte finish. I think either would work and I agree that poly should be kid safe. I eat off a counter that’s been sealed with poly 🙂

  5. You guys are awesome! I can’t even imagine how much work that was. So Tess was wondering, if we put our order in now, when you guys make some for KP will you just double it for her? She’ll start saving her allowance now to pay for shipping.

  6. These look great! When I was a kid my mom went to a local carpenter and got a bunch of wood scraps, sanded and painted them, and gave them to us for Christmas. But they were just odd-shaped pieces. These look even better.

    If you’re finishing wood for kids, shellac is the best non-toxic option, although water can ruin it.

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