I’ve completed my son’s Christmas present (ok, awhile ago!), which is a really cool “tower” that he can climb up into to see everything happening on the kitchen counter, and be involved himself. In the previous post on this topic, I went over the design phase and initial template-building. At that point, I was ready to start cutting up some plywood!
I had on hand some pretty nice 3/4 plywood from the local supply store. Nothing fancy, but both sides are smooth B grade. I needed a total of 12 parts:
- (2) Sides
- (2) Long Legs
- (4) Short Legs
- (2) Top Cross Members
- (2) Lower Cross Members
The sides are the critical component, so I started with those. I cut out two identical rectangles from the plywood that defined the overall height and width. I then pinned those together with my brad nailer, so I could work both pieces at the same time. I drew the openings to be cut by tracing the templates. It was easy to rough out the areas with my TS55 (to get straight lines) and my jigsaw (for the curves). The rough cutout was definitely rough. Unfortunately I did a bad job of preparing and so got pretty serious tear out. The problem was the jigsaw and the really dumb part is that the Festool Jigsaw has a great disposal splinter guard and I simply forgot to use it. (I’ve since been using it and get zero tear out, so oops!)
I then taped on the appropriate template and used a 2″ long, 1/2″ diameter flush trim bit to route out both plywood sides at the same time. It took a few passes for each template with such a lot of material to remove (I didn’t rough out close enough to the final edges) – and I did get some fairly bad burning. The burning I wasn’t worried about since I was going to use a black stain on the whole piece – the burns just melted into the overall color.
I cut the two sides apart and finished the sides by rounding over all the edges with a 1/4″ round over bit. The rest of the components were very straightforward since they are just straight leg pieces and straight pieces connecting the sides. I also rounded over those pieces so they are very smooth for my son.
I bought 1.5″ square hardwood rails for the platform to ride up and down on the adjustable sides. I cut them to length and then shaped the end of each piece to fit the shape in the side.
I pre-assembled everything to check that it all fit correctly. The pieces are put together with RTA connectors from McFeely’s for easy and strong butt joints – and they look pretty good too (I mean, for this type of piece). I drilled a single hole for each mating piece and then aligned them and drilled the second hole in place (two connectors per joint). It all went smoothly, so back apart for finishing.
The finish started with a coat of Bullseye SealCoat so that the gel stain would go on evenly. Easy wiping and buffing. I then applied a Bartley Espresso gel stain by wiping it on, letting is sit for about 5 minutes and wiping it back off. This went well, although it was hard to exactly match the color from piece to piece which for this project is no big deal. Finally there are 3 coats of Poly/Acrylic with sanding in between.
I finished the night before Christmas and it came out really well. My son was admittedly more interested in pulling off the wrapping paper than any gift, but he’s since been using it a lot. What’s great is that it’ll last with him (and his younger sister) for years to come. It’s very sturdy and can fit kids of various sizes.