Alphabet Blocks - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 01-03-2019, 04:36 PM Thread Starter
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Alphabet Blocks

Hey everyone, Iím considering making alphabet blocks, like the attached photo, for my god daughter, who is due in March. The easiest way appears to be using a router bit with a router template/stencil jig for sign making.

But has anyone ever used a router for carving the letters in relief so the blocks look more like the traditional ones? Seems like it would be more work, but I could buy 1.5Ē 0.25Ē thick wooden letters off amazon, and on a piece of quarter inch ply route a 2Ē square hole with 0.25Ē rounded corners. Then lay the letters inside the hole, temp attach it to my piece and carve out the negative area with my router. If I set my bit depth so that the shank catches the letters/ply, it should stay fairly true, right?

Iíll most likely be using 3x3x96 piece of wood, carve letters on 4 sides, and then cut the blocks to size on my chip saw. Iím also thinking I may paint the 4 sides first, then cover the sides in painters tape for carving. This should help with chip out too. That way Iím exposing clean wood, rather than try to go back and paint each letter by hand.

Thoughts?


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post #2 of 15 Old 01-03-2019, 04:53 PM
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Rob - this project comes up every now and then on many woodworking forums.
basically, trying to reinvent the wheel.
the mass produced commercial blocks like you show are hydraulically pressed into the wood with tons of pressure with a steel dye.
if you wanted the same look with less expense and labor like you suggested,
making the wood blocks and gluing the alpha-numeric wood characters onto it is the best choice.
the second question regarding this project is the type of paint and finish to use.
all the above is well documented through google search.

but to answer your question: yes, it can be done using a special
holding jig that you build yourself to hold the blocks and a trim
router with a 1/8" flat bottom bit. make some stencils on your
computer and print them out.
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post #3 of 15 Old 01-03-2019, 05:09 PM
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A domino is twice as long as it is wide. A double-nine set is 54 pieces.
Cut them all 4" x 8" or 5" x 10" to play outdoors in the yard. Fence boards are excellent stock.

Black house paint then use a Forstner bit and a 3x3 pattern to drill all the spots.
Paint all the spots white house paint primer.
Maybe, just maybe, paint a lot of matching spot patterns with colors =
violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red.

Little kids can learn colors and to match colors. Then numbers.
After 8 beers, the kids can play proxy for the gassed-out adults.
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post #4 of 15 Old 01-03-2019, 05:24 PM
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My thoughts.

Not to rain on your parade but, it would be a lot of work to make something that is readily available for a reasonable price from any toy store. Why not put the effort into something unique that can't be bought at any price.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #5 of 15 Old 01-03-2019, 05:50 PM
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A little off-topic, and for when the child gets a little older, I saw "lawn dice" made from 4" x 4" stock cut to size so that they are perfect cubes. Then round over for the edges and a forstner bit for a shallow indent for the dots which are painted in. Any excess paint is sanded off with a sanding block as the paint is recessed.

They will work on carpet too, if you want to get your granddaughter ready for her first visit to Vegas.

Dice are a much easier project than blocks. But not as wholesome.
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post #6 of 15 Old 01-03-2019, 09:29 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies and help everyone. Appreciate the advice and alternatives.

I donít disagree with you @FrankC, but I could still see a handmade version of a commercially available product being valued and cherished more than buying it off the shelf. Any thoughts on an alternative for a newborn? The dice and dominoes are great ideas, but probably for a later birthday or Christmas gift.

I tried searching this forum for newborn and baby, but didnít find much.


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post #7 of 15 Old 01-04-2019, 10:03 AM
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Rob - a plastic rattle, a warm bottle and fresh diapers
is all that is needed to keep a baby happy for the first year.
you may be overthinking this one just a little.

IMO - a nice set of wood blocks with visual elements,
clear coated with Tung Oil and food safe paints would be
most appreciated and treasured by the child into adulthood.
especially if you make a custom wood box to keep them in.
I would make them larger than the generic off-the-shelf blocks just to
make them different and show that they were HandCrafted by you.
maybe 3.5" square. get some quality 1/8" flat bottom bits and a
laminate trim router (I have the ole Roto-Zip), make a jig so that
the blocks will be recessed in a table of sorts for easy routing and
just have at it.
you can make some nice templates with your own printer.
and in the box, have a section that will accommodate some 1/8" x 3.5x7"
wood strips the size of two blocks for building things with the blocks.
this would be a nice winter project.

and to answer your question of: "has anyone ever done this"?
yes, I have . . . . not wood blocks for babies, but, as a sign maker
for over 40 years and custom woodworker, I have done my fair share
of routing many unique things by hand. (I don't have a CNC).
through the years (decades) I have perfected my skill set of carving,
routing, painting and finishing. it takes TIME and SKILL to pull off
good projects that the customers will pay for.
SHARP TOOLS is the secret to what you want to do. a chop saw
with a dull blade or the wrong tooth setup is asking for trouble.
regardless if you use painter's tape or not.
a quality wood to start with. a comfortable workstation,
good lighting, PATIENCE and a steady hand is required.
after you get them all made, I can help you with the mass painting
project that will go painless and quickly and look professional.
(do not pre-paint anything). [I would use basswood over HD pine].
and IMO, the "Cooper Black" type style is the easiest to route freehand
because of the rounded corners of all the elements. clear plastic templates
are available in different sizes from your local art stores or online to make
tracing the elements consistent in size. after you purchase the wood that
you want to use, practice on your technique and tool handling.
an option to doing the recessed background and raised letters is to
cut the elements with the 1/4" "V" bit to have recessed graphics.
much easier to make and paint for the novice.
(practice ~ practice ~ practice).
looking forward to following your project.

.
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post #8 of 15 Old 01-04-2019, 11:41 AM
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When my niece was born I made a height measuring chart for her mother to hang on the wall.

My parents marked our heights on a molding on the wall in the kitchen. When they remodeled the kitchen that piece of family history was lost. A height chart is forever.

It is made from 3/4" x 6" x 6' poplar (or maybe clear pine, I cannot really remember.) I can show other images demonstrate how is was made if there is any interest. It has been hanging in my grandniece's home for the last 8 years. In my brother's home before that.

The three facets allow marking for three kids. It is about 6' 6" tall.



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post #9 of 15 Old 01-05-2019, 12:11 AM Thread Starter
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Wow, great responses John and Packard. I will keep these in mind as I move forward. Iíve had about a million other thoughts since last night, and this gives me even more to chew on.

Iíll be sure to keep you guys up to date as I progress.

Thanks and have a good weekend.

Rob


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post #10 of 15 Old 01-07-2019, 12:25 PM
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An alternative is to get a rubber mask and sand blast it. Wood signs are typically made this way.

You can cut it by hand, or you can order them cut at a sign shop. I favor cutting by hand. It will give the hand made look.

https://www.milessupply.com/product-...ncil-supplies/

Small sand blasters are cheap but you will either need to work outdoors with real goggles to keep the sand out of your eyes or you will have to buy or build a cabinet. I favor outdoors with swimmers goggles.

https://www.amazon.com/Sandblaster-P.../dp/B01M0CRUUM

It does not say how many CFM you need to run this. You will have to query.

It will give a hand cut look and will be fast and easy (once you cut the stencil). I think I would do it this way.
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post #11 of 15 Old 01-07-2019, 02:38 PM
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Speaking as a grandfather of three under 9 years old... dont make anything of wood untill they are over three years old. They will destroy it, mostly by chewing, and their parents will be after your blood for the splinters they find (lol). Plastic baby toys are completely safe and will have just as many memories for them as wood.

Once past three, they were enjoying playing with wooden toys I made, and are still playing with them occassionaly at 8.
You have lots of time.
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post #12 of 15 Old 01-07-2019, 05:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnybob View Post
Speaking as a grandfather of three under 9 years old... dont make anything of wood untill they are over three years old. They will destroy it, mostly by chewing, and their parents will be after your blood for the splinters they find (lol). Plastic baby toys are completely safe and will have just as many memories for them as wood.

Once past three, they were enjoying playing with wooden toys I made, and are still playing with them occassionaly at 8.
You have lots of time.
I agree. For the first three or four years you are building to please the parents and not the kids. A toy storage trunk is a nice one too. Make sure to use a safety lid closing hinge though.
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post #13 of 15 Old 01-08-2019, 04:00 PM Thread Starter
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Bob - great point! I am leaning towards a toy chest now, which I will build similar in style/panels to a file cabinet I recently built, just elongated and with a lid instead of drawers.


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post #14 of 15 Old 01-08-2019, 05:30 PM
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I think the toy box is a really good project that has the potential to become a family heirloom.

Don't skimp on the soft close lid support. They are pricy but will save fingers.

https://www.rockler.com/soft-down-li...4aApZ-EALw_wcB
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post #15 of 15 Old 01-08-2019, 05:31 PM
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A very useful item.
Just make sure you fit soft close hinges. baby fingers are quite fragile (g)
I know a man who made similar for his daughter. He made the hinges so that they could not fully close without lifting the box slightly and moving a catch to one side.

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