Brighten up a child's room with this colorful playset. Kids can play on the tabletop - and you hide the art supplies and store the benches when they're done!
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This project is constructed primarily of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), a mixture of sawdust and resin that’s used for a number of home products and furniture. It machines easily, sands nicely, and takes a painted finish. Follow these steps to assemble your project, and make MDF a go-to material in your workshop.
Always drill pilot holes and countersinks for screw heads when working with MDF. Place the screw at least 1-in away from the edge of the board to avoid splits (Photo 1).
After predrilling a countersunk pilot hole for a #8 screw, oversize the pilot hole with a 5/32-in drill bit. Use a tape flag to make sure the hole is 1/8-in deeper than the screw (Photo 2).
A sheet-metal screw is the perfect choice because its straight shank won't split the board. A wood screw's wedge shape will force the fibers apart and split the MDF (Photo 3).
Cut the 3/4-in MDF panel into strips 18-in, 9-3/4-in, and 19-1/2-in wide (Cutting Diagram). Cut two 18-in × 36-in blanks from the 18-in-wide strip for the bench sides A and table sides E.
Use a carpenter's square and a beam compass to lay out the bench sides and table sides (Drawing 1, Photo 4). Jigsaw the parts from the blank. Sand the curved faces smooth with a sander and set aside.
From the remaining 9-3/4-in- and 19-1/2-in-wide blanks, cut the bench backs B, legs C, and seats D.
To cut out the handle openings near the top edges of the backs (Drawing 2), drill 1-1/2-in holes at each end of the handles and remove the remaining material with a jigsaw. Sand smooth.
A 4-in-1 file with a convex and a flat surface makes quick work of cleaning up the openings from the jigsaw cut.
Glue and screw the sides to the backs (Drawing 2). Use a square to verify the assembly is square as you go (Photo 5).
Stand the bench upright and add the legs, gluing them to the inside faces of the sides.
Apply glue to the back edge of the seat and the tops of the legs; position the seats in the benches (Photo 6). Drive screws to secure the front edges of the seat to the legs. Use a 1/8-in roundover router bit to smooth the edges of the bench.
Round the edges for safety (Photo 7). It's a good idea to smooth the sharp wood edges of any project, and for kids' furniture, soft edges are a must. Getting those roundovers on every part can be tricky, though. The base of a router doesn't always fit into corners. Use a block of wood wrapped with sandpaper to ease those tight inside corners and make the wood look like it flows together.
From poplar boards, cut the footrest F, risers G, cleats H, trough sides I, and bottom J to length and sand the parts with 220-grit sandpaper.
Construct the footrest assembly and the trough assembly using glue and screws (Photo 8, Drawing 3).
From poplar, cut the top cleats K; from MDF, cut the tops L to size. Sand the parts before assembly.
Place the tops on your work surface. Rest the trough upside down on the tops and clamp the sides in position (Photo 9). Now clamp the top cleats in position and secure to the sides with glue and screws (Drawing 4). Do not glue the tops in position at this time.
Flip the table upright and slide the footrest assembly into the table and secure with screws (Photo 10).
Cut the lid M to size and drill 1-1/2-in-diameter finger holes (Drawing 4). Position the tops and secure them to the table using screws -- don't use glue at this time. Smooth the edges of the table with a 1/8-in roundover bit and remove the tops.
Using a paste wood filler, fill any visible screw holes in the table and benches. Detail-sand all the edges and surfaces in preparation for the finish.
The edges of MDF are like a sponge and can leave a project looking unfinished. To seal the edges for a perfect paint job, mix a 50/50 ratio of wood glue and water. Apply with a foam brush and let dry (Photo 11).
With the material preparation complete, apply a good-quality primer to all of the surfaces. A foam brush and roller are perfect for getting primer into all the nooks and crannies (Photo 12).
Sand all of the surfaces with a medium-grit sanding sponge to knock down any rough spots. Touch up any exposed areas with primer; now roll on that perfect top coat of paint (Photo 13). The benches were painted Roasted Pumpkin, and the table was painted with Someday. For the tops and lid, we used chalkboard paint. Be sure to apply two coats to all surfaces. Another option for the top is dry-erase paint.
Complete the table assembly by placing the tops between the sides resting on the cleats H and the top cleats K. Reinstall the screws. Now it's time to add kids and chalk!
To make sure your painted project holds up to wear, let the latex paint cure for one week before use. You should also condition the painted chalkboard surface by lightly rubbing chalk, held horizontally, over the entire surface and then wiping it with a damp cloth.