Tessa's Toy (1)

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Project by azwoodman posted 04-07-2009 11:08 AM 2855 views 12 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have to start this description out with a little bragging session about my new niece… Tessa Kay O’Dell was born on April 2, 2009 at 10:52 am to my wife’s sister and her husband. Tessa is the first grand baby in either of her parents’ families so I guess that makes her the “golden child” :) She also happens to be the baby that makes me an uncle for the first time!!! She is pretty special. (I’ll have to include a picture of her…)

Tessa’s mother, Suzanne, teaches Montessori preschool with her mom out of her house. As I have become a part of the family I have been exposed to some of the philosophies of that type of teaching (which is pretty cool…). Anyway, there are toys that are made to teach children certain lessons and help with their mental development… This project happens to be known as an Object Permanence Toy (if you Google that you can find out more about it…) When Suzanne found out that she was going to be having a baby she asked me if I could make some of the toys that are available from a certain Montessori toy distributor’s catalog. As soon as I looked at the pictures I thought that it would be a fun and worthwhile project… so I accepted…

Project description:

This toy was built using 1/2 inch baltic birch plywood, 1/4 inch pine dowels and yellow glue. I painted the red “mouse hole door” and finished the rest of the piece with a rattle-can water-based polyurethane. Next time I think Im going to use a wipe on poly because I wasn’t 100% satisfied with how the finish turned out (sometimes I can be kind of a perfectionist…)

First, I had to play with the dimensions a little bit to get it to look just like the picture in the catalog, but it didn’t take too much hassle.

Then once I figured that part out I cut all of the pieces out on my table saw. For the hole in the top and round opening in the front I used a 2 1/8 inch hole saw. As you will notice, the corners of the tray and the top of the toy are rounded… That probably would have been easier to do on a bandsaw but since I don’t have one yet, I just marked the radius out with a pencil and cut close to the line with a few chops of the miter saw. I cleaned it up with a wooden block wrapped in #80 grit sand paper. That made pretty quick work of it.

On the inside of the box there is an angled piece of wood slanted toward the opening in the front so that the ball will always roll out the front after being dropped into the hole in the top. That was a little challenging because my table saw doesn’t tilt (or at least I haven’t taken the time to figure that out…). To cut that I just figured out a rough angle that I thought would probably work and cut it with a hand saw. Then took it to the #80 grit and cleaned it up. To fill in the inside of the box a little and make sure that the ball would not get stuck inside the box I added pieces to the sides of the slanted piece with 45 degree angles toward the main ramp. It works well and looks pretty cool too since the baltic birch plywood doesn’t have any voids in the layers and the edges finish up really well…

After the glue-up I turned the toy over and drilled holes through the bottom and into each vertical piece. Then inserted a 1/4 inch dowel in each 1 inch deep hole with a little glue… I felt that this would help make the thing a little more kid-proof than just relying on the glue and butt joints themselves.

I assembled the toy minus the little red front and finished it with the poly. Then just glued the red part in and there you have it.

I presented the toy to Suzanne and her husband, Scott, the day after little Tessa was born. They love it and were impressed at its likeness to the pictures that they saw in the catalog… It was a great feeling to see them admire something that I had made. The only drawback is that the toy will have to wait to be played with until Tessa can actually sit up by herself… :)

-- Spencer, Gilbert Az (

4 comments so far

View philF's profile


17 posts in 4804 days

#1 posted 04-07-2009 11:41 AM

Very nice, I love toys. I have built a few doll cradles over the years for kids.

-- Bored Feet

View ND2ELK's profile


13494 posts in 4688 days

#2 posted 04-07-2009 02:49 PM

Very informative and well written blog. I think you are going to be a great uncle! Thank you for posting.

God Bless

-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View DaleM's profile


958 posts in 4298 days

#3 posted 04-07-2009 11:24 PM

That’s a great project. I’m sure it will be a few months before she plays with it but she will. Congratulations on becoming an uncle.

-- Dale Manning, Carthage, NY

View babyboomerang's profile


1 post in 4250 days

#4 posted 04-08-2009 06:43 AM

Wicked Awesome. Looks great. Well finished.

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