DIY Wooden Building Blocks

If you have access to a drill press, saw, and sander, and are looking for a great present for smaller children this holiday season, [Jonny] may have you covered. He’s come up with a pretty good how to on making some simple block and dowel building blocks similar to the Tinkertoy building sets.

This is a fairly simple build if you have the shop tools, and if you only have hand tools available, is still quite doable. The blocks consist of square wooden blocks with holes drilled into them and a bunch of wooden dowels cut to size. [Jonny] adds a wooden box with a hinged lid for storing the blocks in as an added feature of the build,.

There are no LEDs lighting up, no Arduino-powered microcontroller involved, and they don’t connect to the internet, but that doesn’t make them any less of a great toy. Even without the shop tools, these could be made pretty quickly even by someone without prior experience with woodworking. If you’re interested in building block toys, check out this write-up about a way to combine different types of building blocks together, or check out this write-up about creating the frame of a DIY CNC mill with a metal building set.

via Reddit.

15 thoughts on “DIY Wooden Building Blocks

  1. This looks very cool. I’d like to see a little more control over the subtle elements that will make or break the success of the toy though.

    For example, there are lots of lego copies on the market, but lego still wins because the force required to snap the pieces together is just right, and the pieces are all just the right shape – no warping etc.

    For this toy, how can you make sure that the model doesn’t fall apart because the fit is too loose, or, that the fit isn’t too tight to get the pin in the hole properly?

    We are a problem solving community, and we appreciate that functionality is king!

    1. The Connector set I played with as a kid had little slots sawed into the ends of slightly oversized rods, so that they got squeezed together a bit when inserted into the blocks. That supplied the “just right” that you refer to.

    2. You’d have to experiment, but I recall that the fit of a commercial 1/4″ wood dowel in a drilled 1/4″ hole is pretty snug. Possibly due to the drilled wood block “rebounding” a bit after drilling, or simply the friction of wood on wood.

    1. Looks like some AA grade (you can get grades A-C w/ one letter per side detailing the quality based on knots & voids) sanded finish plywood. Nothing too fancy since you can see the laminations are pretty thick.He might have bought a half sheet. Sometimes you can find better stuff in the ‘project board’ section. Or better yet go to a lumber yard instead of the home improvement boxes, they often buy wood that isn’t dry enough & store it outside to get warped.

    1. Yeah, In the US probably Southern yellow pine (SYP) Fir is just called ‘white wood’ in most big box stores. A common trick to get good quality wood is buy wide boards near the heartwood & cut out the center so you’re left with quarter (vertical grain) or rift (30-50deg) sawn stock. Since it’s construction grade lumber even though you waste a bunch it’s still cheaper (ignoring time) than going to a lumbermill & buying quarter/rift sawn stock from them.

      If you’re willing to sort through a bundle of 2×4’s you can find a few quarter sawn boards. But be sure to keep the stack neat so some highschooler doesn’t have to come back through w/ a hoe (I saw this in a store) and maul the stack back into place. It’ll also keep lumber mills happy with you if you go that route.

  2. My uncle had a magnificent wood workshop, and there were a couple of Christmases when he made gifts for his kids and nieces/nephews. One year he made whole “Lincoln Logs” type sets, including a custom wood suitcase to hold the thing. Such home-made gifts really stand out.

    The featured set is well within the abilities of most home workshops, and there’s still enough time to get the set done in time for Christmas. Get busy!

    Only thing I’d mention is that you can only do so much with a set that just builds structures that are a series of cubes. The young me would probably find it limiting. But I was a toy zealot. Meccano FTW!

  3. Appreciate the video. I was trying to find this toy online (to augment some we still have from ~30 years ago that our kids played with for…the grandkids) and had literally just thought, “I can make this myself” and ***the next thing to come up*** was this video.
    It’s very clear– those less familiar with woodworking will be able to feel more confident.
    I think I would just use two by, so the blocks would be 1.5 inches square, to get going. If I wanted to make a nice set I’d use eight quarter maple. Birch dowels I think. Walnut blocks would look quite nice. I’d just varnish or oil maple or walnut, the pine i would be inclined to paint in primary colors.

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