This year I decided the gift I wanted to make was a set of wooden blocks. Only problem is, I don't know the first thing about making wood toys. I looked online and most instructions are geared towards hobbyist and wood workers with a workshop to rival Santa's elves. I don't have many tools of my own, but luckily my dad does. I used his tabletop mitre saw and carpenters square.
Making blocks usually requires you to rip cut, or cut the board lengthwise, to get small narrow pieces. That is difficult to do and usually requires a table saw. Instead I found long narrow hobby boards that didn't need to be rip cut. They are made of nice hardwood. I picked poplar but they also had oak and maple. They were already the perfect width and depth, I just needed to cut them into the size blocks that I wanted. That is where the power saw came in.
The boards I bought were 1 1/2 inches by 1 1/2 inches. I cut twelve blocks 1 1/2 inches long to make cubes, I cut six into three inch lengths and four into 4 1/2 inch lengths. In total I made 22 blocks. I liked these sizes because you could stack a 3 inch and a 1 1/2 inch block together to fit beside a 4 1/2 block. Or two 1 1/2 inch blocks next to a 3 inch block. It all seemed nice and proportional.
After I cut the boards I needed to sand them. The poplar cut pretty easily even though I had never used that kind of power saw before. I had a few rough cut edges and a little bit of minor splintering. I sanded the blocks by hand. If I had access to a belt sander I would have loved to use one. It took me a couple hours to sand all the blocks. I wanted to smooth them as well as blunt the corners and points.
Once the blocks were sanded I wanted to add some color. I knew I didn't want to paint them. The poplar has some beautiful wood grain that I wanted to show. I instead opted to dye the wood with food coloring. I started with one color, yellow, red, blue and green. Then I started mixing two colors. Mixing blue with green, mixing red with yellow, mixing red with blue and so on. Once I had those in-between colors I continued to mix until I had 22 unique shades.
I let the blocks dry overnight and when I went to check on them on the morning I found that the dye rubbed off the blocks. I washed the blocks under running water to rinse the majority of the dye out of the wood then let them dry again. This time there was only very minor color transfer even with vigorous scrubbing.
My last step was to condition and polish the wood. I made a batch of Woodmouse beeswax wood polish using coconut oil and beeswax. I rubbed the wood polish into the wood, let it soak in for a couple hours them I buffed the blocks with a clean cotton cloth. I added essential oils to the leftover wood polish and gifted it to my mom as a lip balm/cuticle cream/rough skin treatment. Two gifts in one!
These blocks were a labor of love. Made for my sweet girl for her second Christmas. I'm really proud of how they turned out and I hope she has lots of fun with them.