Make: Train Table

by Cat on March 17, 2009

I absolutely love seeing all of the inspirational projects that our readers are making for their families. Jennifer sent over pics of this mod train table that she and her industrial designer husband made and I was so impressed that it can double as a play table as well as a functional “adult” piece for the living room. Such a great idea, especially for today’s living spaces. Thank you for sharing this Jennifer!

Make: Train Table

Over the last year as the train obsession grew in our house, my husband Glenn would suggest buying a train table for our son Owen. I knew my son would love it but I could not bear to bring a large table plastered with train images into our house, and since we live in a townhome, I knew it would most likely reside in our living room for all our guests to see. A few months later I saw an article in WonderTime Magazine that featured a modern-design loving family that had created a train table with a chalkboard painted surface. It served as a place for trains and art. I tore out the article and filed it under “good ideas for kids”.

In between this discussion we had another son and life got a little hectic. Recently, we revisited the train table and Glenn decided to make a table and Owen got to help. With a background in industrial design, Glenn set about designing the table as he would in his professional life; he worked on several sketches and concepts for the table before landing on the final design which he then mocked up in 3-d design software. The measurements were based on existing train tables on the market so the height and width would be appropriate for toddlers and accommodate enough train track. The final design was printed out full size so that we knew the proportions were correct.

Glenn and Owen visited several lumber yards to select birch plywood for the table top. Through his profession, Glenn has a lot of good connections with model-making shops, and someone offered to cut the wood at no cost. Glenn and Owen spent an afternoon varnishing the table top together. After discovering that the hairpin legs we wanted for the table would be costly to make, and not finding a local source for metal fabrication, we found an artist and welder online that produced a product close to our design and was willing to work with custom orders.

We wanted the table to be a seamless part of our existing furniture and decor. Glenn designed a hole in the middle of the table to hold extra train parts, but I like that I can fill it with ice and pop in some bubbly to serve to guests! The middle cut out holds a standard-size wastebasket, that can be interchanged for new styles and colors. I think the table will change and evolve with the interests of our family and will be a great piece for years to come.


Varnish: Orchard Supply Hardware

Wastebasket: IKEA

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Carrie's Mom March 17, 2009 at 5:43 pm

This is a terrific idea. My DH would love to try his hand at something like this!


jackie March 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm

love this! we have a train obsession in our house that is going on three years now.


shinmin March 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Wow! We have to give this a go! But maybe a simpler version since we are not too good with wood construction. My husband’s obsessed with the idea of a train set by a Christmas. So we might have enough time from now until Dec to get this done.


Annie Pazoo March 17, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Definitely the COOLEST train table I’ve seen!


Liz Lincoln March 18, 2009 at 5:50 am

Fabulous – fun for the kids AND parents. Bring on that bottle of bubbly!


The Ahrens Family April 3, 2009 at 3:05 am

Great Idea! Where did you get the train parts and scenery?


Glenn+Jenn+Owen+Ian May 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm

The train parts and scenery were from a set passed down from some family – all are by Brio or Thomas. Hope that helps!


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