I was going to a Christmas wind-down blog post but I’m just too excited to share my project and how it turned out!
The boys love to play trains. Dean loves to drive his trains along the tracks while Sammy destroys the tracks climbing across them and smashing his train along the rails.
I wanted to give them a train table for Christmas – something that they can play together and no one is left in tears (them or me!) We’ve been to a few stores that have them and they always play so peacefully. It’s precious watching them.
I started browsing where to buy a train table but my husband encouraged me to take on the task of making one. I am so glad he did – it was so much fun designing and planning and building it! And I’m so happy with how it turned out and how much the boys love it. It’s easily the favourite Christmas present. Eat your heart out, Santa!
I began my research where I always do – PINTEREST!
There are so many options out there : built from hand, IKEA hacks, felt, painted… It’s never ending.
I know my boys are rough when they play. (Such an understatement!) I wanted something that would dampen the noise and wouldn’t get chipped off. Felt seemed to be our best bet. For a quicker base, we went with the infamous IKEA Lack table. It’s perfect sized for Dean’s bedroom and the kids are able to reach all parts of the table from the four sides (well, almost, Sammy is just out of reach for the turn table – darn!)
I left the legs off during the construction phase. I did prop the table top on some boxes so I could work on it raised a bit.
My supplies were as follows :
IKEA Lack coffee table (we went with the bigger rectangle)
Green felt that is big enough to cover the table top AND the edges of the table
Felt for the details – different coloured green for the bushes, blue for the water, etc
Hot glue gun
Train tracks, roundhouses, turn tables, switches, bridges, whatever your heart fancies!
Duct tape (green or you can get creative with other colours or patterns)
First, create a plan. I took the tabletop and lined it with paper (the big roll of paper from IKEA is great!) and fiddled with the train tracks until I had a set up I liked. I took the tracks off, one by one, after tracing them, roughly, with a pen. It makes for easier assembly later. I cut my felt accessories from the map – I wanted a lake with a beach and then some bushes around for some contrast to the light green.
Next thing I did was sand the outer 3-4 inch border of the table top along with all along the outer edge. I wanted to rub off a bit of the smooth paint finish so that the glue could hold better. I used a 100 grit sandpaper sponge. Do this outdoors. Seriously. I didn’t think sanding it would be an issue indoors, but man oh man! It stunk up the living room. I ended up sweeping and mopping the area I was working in after to make sure I got all the residue that came off. Definitely do this outside where there is fresh air and not as much worry about the dust.
After sanding it down, I put the felt on the table in place. You want it to overhang down the sides of the table top and slightly more. Don’t cut it to size just yet.
Peel back a quarter of it and liberally apply the glue using a paint brush. You’ll want to start on an edge so it lines up properly. Trust me. (This is part of why I decided to do the duct tape along the outer edge – also because my children are feral and destroy things) Don’t apply it thick or it will seep through. Don’t try to skip the brush and just squirt the glue all over. It’s really essential to get a good solid hold.
Give that edge 10 minutes to dry. Go throw a load of laundry on, read a book, clean the kitchen…. Or put the kid back to bed. Because that’s what happened six times while trying to get the felt attached at my house!
Flip the fabric over so the large portion of the table is exposed. Slowly, in 4-6 inch sections, paint the glue onto the table and smooth the felt as you go. Do it slow, don’t rush. You really want the felt secure – this is the groundwork for years of fun!
Once the table top is covered, pop the table on it’s side and do all the edges. I was debating between a “present” or a flush corner but I decided the fold the felt on the corners for a little extra padding. I used lots of glue on the corners because it doesn’t matter too much if it seeps through. It isn’t super noticeable but does have a rougher surface. It has a slight white tint to it, too. I then cut the felt along the edge to make it flush with the bottom lip. You could make it go the underside of the table and that would help keep little fingers from finding the edge of it to pull at, but I decided to use some duct tape along the bottom edge. It gave it a nice finishing touch, in my opinion. Give the wood glue 12 hours to dry and set.
Now take your track map and reassemble your tracks accordingly. Make sure you’re happy with it. Fiddle more if you need to. Are you happy? Then let’s grab the glue gun!
Add the details with the glue gun. The water, beaches, trees, bushes, mountains, snow, whatever you want – the possibilities are endless!
You could leave the table free for the kids to assemble the tracks how they want on a daily basis but I wanted to attach them to the table top in a non-permanent way. The hot glue gun is perfect for this : it comes off the felt with minimal fraying and then peels off the train tracks without a mark! Piece by piece I took the tracks off, applied glue and then squished it into place… And then repeated for all 83250 pieces. If you have a piece that has to go onto a piece (vs a piece being able to be attached after) keep that in mind. My roundhouse was my first piece I attached. I stuck it down to the table and then realized that the way the doors sit atop of the track leading to it meant that I couldn’t pull that piece up. Whoops! So that piece didn’t get attached to the table but it’s being held in by the roundhouse.
I took trains as I was gluing pieces down and drove them down the tracks to make sure everything was in working order.
I was so excited for the boys to see their present on Christmas morning. Thank goodness it was too big and awkward for me to carry through the doors, otherwise I probably would have pulled it out from the garage the next day while Jason was at work!
On Christmas Eve we (okay, Jason, I ended up having some nausea and had to sit on the couch trying not to throw up) brought it in and put the legs on the table. I covered it with a blanket, tucking the blanket edges under the legs and pushed it to the opposite side of the living room from where the tree and presents and stockings were in hopes that it wouldn’t be spotted until after all the other presents.
Amazingly, the surprise wasn’t spoiled. There was so much excitement when we unveiled it. The boys were full of laughter as they immediately started driving trains all around the tracks. The smiles and giggles were worth every ounce of effort in creating the table.
It’s been four days and the boys are still ALL OVER their train table. Literally, in S’s case. The little man has figured out how to climb up on the table with a stool so we hid the stools only for him to learn how to climb up without a stool. Jerk.
Mommy and Daddy won Christmas this year!