Are you ready for a fun, easy, affordable project that will blow your kids (and parents, and friends) away?! Well, today I have one for you! This Tiny Tot Tool Bench is the perfect gift for that little one in your life, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to make it. For about $25 in supplies, you can craft a handmade, solid wood tool-a-palooza for the toddler in your life.
Every part is hand made, down to the tiny tools! And all you need is a jigsaw. The bench has 12 holes for practicing fine motor skills, and a little shelf that is fun for the little organizer.
Seriously, what is cuter than teeny weenie little tools? The saw even has little teeth!
The screwdriver fits inside the grooves to twist the screws.
The wrench is perfectly sized for the square pegs.
And the hammer is light yet sturdy enough for lots of heavy banging.
Even though this is a Christmas gift for my one year old, I wanted to make sure it was sized appropriately. I measured a pair of her pants to get the height, but wanted to double check before I wrote up plans. So during one of those midnight “I have to wake up and play right NOW!” sessions (I know you know what I mean!) I let Caroline take a whirl on the bench. She had a BLAST! I was thrilled to see how much she loved it. It is the perfect height. She can reach the tools up top to grab them easily, and bend down to put things on the shelf. I was a little unsure of my decision to leave the screws as flat dowels, but it was a good call. At 15 months she wouldn’t be able to do the screwing motion. Right now she had so much fun just putting the tools and screws into the different holes. She was awake for TWO HOURS! before I could convince her to go back to bed. She was just having too much fun playing!
The height of the table hits right at her hips, which leaves some room to grow. My three year old also had fun playing with the parts while I was building it, so this could be a great toy to last a few years. And much much cuter than those plastic ones from the store!
With one month until Christmas, it’s time to get building! Let’s go!
• 1 – 2x2x8
• 1 – 1x4x4
• 1 – 1x2x4
• 1 – 1x12x4
• 1 – 7/8″ dowel @ 4′
• 1 – pack of 4 2″ wood wheels (these will be rounded and about 1/2″ thick, found at a craft store)
• 1 – pack of 4 2.5″ wood rounds (flat 1/4″ thickness, at craft store)
• 1 1/4″ screws
• 1 – pack of dowel pegs for joining
• wood glue
Cut List: measure and cut as you go, rather than all at once
• 4 – 2×2 @ 13″ (legs)
• 2 – 2×2 @ 5 1/2″ (top shelf supports)
• 1 – 1×4 @ 16″ (apron)
• 1 – 1×4 @ 15 1/2″ (top shelf)
• 2 – 1×2 @ 13 1/2″ (lower shelf supports)
• 2 – 1×2 @ 10″ (lower shelf supports)
• 1 – 1×12 @ 16″ (top)
• 1 – 1×12 cut down to fit inside shelf supports, about 10″ x 8 3/4″
• 10 – 7/8″ dowel @ 2 1/2″ (screw pegs)
• 2 – 7/8″ dowel @ 5″ (tool handles)
• 6 – 2×2 @ 1/2″ (screw tops)
• 2 – scrap 1×4 for tools, 7″ each
Attach inner shelf supports to 2×2 legs. I decided to place my shelf 5″ from the bottom. If attaching top with pocket holes, drill them now.
Add front shelf supports, lining up with the side supports. Use 1 1/4″ screws and glue. Pre-drilling will prevent splitting.
Attach the top, measuring 3/4″ in from the front. I actually used a the 3/4″ thick apron to make sure it would be flush. Measure the side gaps evenly, mine were 1″. I used glue and screws from the top, but you can also use pocket holes.
Optional: if you want curved bottom edges, find a round object to trace. I used a small can of stain. Cut with a jigsaw.
Attach the front apron with glue and screws. They will be hidden with the decorative rounds.
Measure from the edge to the inner edge of your legs, and add about 1/2″ and mark the top for the outer edge of the top support. I attached them with glue and a screw from below, though you could use pocket holes. Mine were about 3 3/4″ in from each edge.
Optional: If you want rounded edges on your upper shelf, find a round object (a sour cream carton worked for me) and trace it. Then cut with a jigsaw.
Attach to the supports with glue and screws.
Time for the shelf! Measure your inner openings and cut to fit. Mine was 10″ by 8 3/4″. I used pocket hole screws, but you can pre-drill and use screws on the outside as well, or mount the shelf below the supports, drilling up into them.
Hole drilling time! I marked out 12 holes, evenly spacing them. I believe the distance was 3 1/4″ apart, with a little wiggle room here or there.
I used a 1″ spade bit for my holes. I also added a 1″ hole on the outer edges of the top shelf for the screwdriver and hammer.
To make the wrench, start by cutting a 1/2″ slice of 2×2 for the top. I traced two sides on a diagonal, then added two short straight lines. I used my stain can to make the circle, then freehanded the handle. I should have used a ruler to make the lines straight and then a straight end. The total length is 7″ long and about 3″ wide. Cut out with a jigsaw and sand smooth, making sure there are no sharp edges.
To make the center holes for the larger tools, I made two 1″ holes with my spade bit then cut out the center with my jigsaw. I also made the hand saw shape, again 7″ long and about 3″ tall. I used a ruler to make the top line, added a rounded end, then some teeth below. I freehanded the handle shape based on a saw we have. Cut and sand smooth.
Step 14 & 15
To make the hammer, I used a scrap piece of 2×2 and cut one end on a 45 degree angle. For the screw driver, I just used my jigsaw to shave one end into a point and sanded it to about a 1/8″ thickness. I had some scrap 1 1/4″ dowel for my screwdriver handle, but you could use some 2×2 and sand the edges smooth.
To join the tool tops to handles, I used a 1/4″ drill bit into the bases and the tops. Then I dabbed in glue, and used these wooden pegs to join the pieces together. This is the same method for joining the screw pegs to the tops.
For the rounded screws to be used with the flathead screw driver, I held them by the stem and passed them over my table saw to cut a blade groove. I had to do a couple of passes to get them thick enough.
You can get creative with the screws! You could use store-bought pegs for the bases instead of dowels so they have a tighter fit that needs to be banged in. Or you could try adding grooves by whittling or with hot glue / putty. I found that for the 12-18 month age range, smooth seems to be best. Just learning to fit them in the holes makes them so happy!
Once all your tools are made, sand the whole bench and make sure everything is smooth. Then paint or finish as desired. I topped the wood portions with Feed N Wax for a nice subtle sheen, and used Mod Podge on the colored parts to prevent off gassing as well as paint transfer. Once it’s all painted and dried, I attached the decorative rounds (which had one pass over my table saw blade) with wood glue in the center, and a bead of hot glue around the edges to hold it in place while the wood glue set. That’s it! The table is done. The devil is in the details on this one, for sure! It only took about two hours to build, but probably three more on the tools and screws. Then another 5 painting, drying, sealing, and finishing up. But it’s totally worth it! I’m so excited to give my kids a toy I know they will love for years to come, and will definitely be a family heirloom.
*Disclaimer: Build at your own risk. This is a toy, not intended for climbing or rough play. Please use caution and supervision at all times.*