Sand and Water Table plans

Before you begin, be sure you understand how to operate your power tools. Read the manual(s) that were included with them. You should ONLY work with proper eye and ear protection and a dust mask.

Tools Supplies Needed:

  • Drill – either an electric drill or hand drill will work nicely
  • Screwdriver – phillips for deck screws
  • Band saw, scroll saw or jig saw
  • Carpenters Square or Adjustable Square
  • Hand sanding block
  • Goggles, ear protection, dust mask.

Optional tools:

  • Pilot hole bit for drill
  • Phillips screwdriver bit for drill
  • Belt sander (bench type)
  • Circular saw

Download and Print these Drawings

  • Sand and Water Table parts PDF * This drawing details the dimensions of the parts, including cutting the legs and the location of holes that need to be drilled.

Wood

  • (1) ten foot 1 inch x 10 inch board
  • (1) 10 foot 1 inch by 4 inch board
  • (1) 8 foot 2 inch by 4 inch board

Selecting Wood
Your wood should be chosen carefully. While knots may add character to a project, warps and gouges do not. Inspect all sides of your wood. Make sure that the wood does not bend, twist or cup. The time honored method of sighting down a length of wood is still the best to gauge it�s straightness. No wood is perfect. You may have to select an imperfect board with a good section. If you have it cut at the store, you may even be able to purchase just the section you want. Wood is a living thing. Even after it is cut, your wood will change. I�ve had wood develop warps on the trip home from the store. Wood may bend, twist or cup after it is cut. You should use your wood as soon as you can. If you have to leave it after it is cut, do not store it at an angle. Lay it flat on the floor, or make sure it is vertical.

Other materials

  • Plastic Utility Tub24 inch by 36 inch utility tub. I purchased one from Lowe’s. It should be about 8 inches from the bottom to the underside of the rim on top. I found it in the building supplies section, near the concrete. Here is a link to the Lowe’s website.
  • Sandpaper – 60, 100 and 150 grit.
  • Wood glue – water resistant preferred.
  • (12) 2 inch deck screws (for the legs)
  • (20) 1 5/8 inch deck screws
  • Oil Finish or Polyurethane *see section on Finishes

Cutting

All dimensions in the text of this project have a 1/8th inch sanding allowance. You will sand off about this much (1/16 from each side). The drawings show finished sizes!

Most saws cut a 1/16 to 1/8 inch gap in the wood. You will need to make sure you cut on the waste side (side you are not going to keep) side you of the line you have drawn. Otherwise you will be cutting your sanding allowance away. Measure one piece, cut it and then measure the next.

Main cuts

The best tool for this job is a circular saw or radial arm saw. You can use a band saw and with practice, you can make straight cuts. If you don�t own one of these, have the wood cut where you purchase it.

  • (2) 36 1/8 inch pieces from 1 x 10 board (front & back)
  • (2) 22 5/8 inch pieces from 1 x 10 board (sides)
  • (2) 22 5/8 inch pieces from 1 x 4 board (bottom slats)
  • (2) 34 7/8 inch pieces from 1 x 4 board (bottom boards)
  • (4) 23 inch pieces of a 2 x 4 board (legs)

Legs

sandandwater-legs.jpgCut out part of the 2x4s and round the top as indicated in the image.
Sand

Don’t round the edges until after it’s assembled otherwise you might round an edge that shouldn’t be.

Things that are important when sanding:

  1. Use the appropriate grit
  2. Change your sand paper often
  3. Sand with the grain.

Start with the 60 grit. Use this to shape the wood, remove imperfections and mistakes from cutting (that�s why even the experts add an 1/8 inch sanding allowance).

Once the wood looks the way you want it, switch to 100 grit sand paper and smooth it out. If you find that the sandpaper �glides� over the wood very smoothly, you need a new sheet of sand paper. You can switch to 150 grit when you have removed the cuts and gouges left by the 60 grit.

Pine is a soft wood, which makes it difficult to get it as smooth as a hard wood like maple. Your pieces may have �fuzzies�, which look like sanding dust, but are stuck to the wood. Don�t worry, if you are applying an oil finish, they will disappear. With Polyurethane, you can sand between coats to remove them.

Drill
sandandwatertable-drill.jpgUse the pilot hole bit or a drill bit that will almost allow the screws to be pushed through the wood. All of the holes are on the front and back boards. See drawing to right or download the PDF for locations of holes.
Sand
Smooth the holes you just drilled. Also, remove any extra pencil marks left.

Assemble

  1. sandandwatertable-placement.jpgBuild the box. Attach the front to the sides, then attach the back. Use the carpenters square to make sure that the box is square.
  2. Install the bottom boards. Make sure that bottom edge of the bottom boards is level with or below the bottom of sides. We will want the legs to contact the bottom board.
  3. Attach the legs. Make sure that the legs are all the way up. We want them to contact the bottom boards, to help support the weight in the tub.
  4. Put in the slats. Not screwed into place. Slid them until they fit between the ridges in the bottom of the plastic tub.

Excess glue can be removed with a damp cloth. Try not to soak the wood or smear the glue. It is better to sand off a dry bead of glue than sand off a dry glue smear. Dry beads of glue can also be removed (carefully!) with a sharp chisel or knife.

Finishing

See Finishes for tips on oil and polyurethane finishes.

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21 thoughts on “Sand and Water Table plans”

  1. I was wondering what section of Lowes you found the utility tub in? We only have access to Home Depot and Kent here in Newfoundland. I am really looking forward to making this project for my 17 mth old son for the summer.

    Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the design we just finished our sand box today and it’s absolutely awesome. We did use a different tub and not as deep and a little longer and not as wide. Thanks again for this great project.

  3. Thanks. I can email your wife a picture since we were in the same playgroup I have her email address. Thanks again.

  4. Do you think it would be possible to drill a hole into the tub to remove water when needed? I am a teacher and would need to be able to move the table in side at night. I thought about adding wheels to the bottom to make it easier to move, but am not a “handy” person!
    Thanks for the design! I could not afford the $300 tables in the stores!

  5. Kate:

    I suggest putting wheels on only two legs (two that are close). You can lift up the other side and move it like a wheel barrow and when you set it down, it stays put. Not casters that spin in all directions, but fixed wheels that do not turn left and right. You’ll have to make two of the legs shorter, to accommodate the wheels. You should be able to find wheels at you local hardware store.

    I’ve tried holes, but they can leak and you will have to plug them, which is just the kind of thing small children love to investigate .

    US Plastics has a spigot for $1.64, that could work for you. I have a similar one in my brewing supplies. I suggest drilling a hole in the bottom of the tub, between the slat boards, and attach the spigot. The spigot shutoff would be out of the way from small hands. It could even be duct taped to keep it closed.

    You can attach tubing to the spigot, for drainage. Just take the spigot to your local hardware store to find the right size.

    http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/variant.asp?catalog_name=usplastic&category_name=41&product_id=16264&variant_id=17251

  6. Hello Eric. Just completed the sand/water table
    using your design for my daughter’s kindergarten class. It was so good of you to share your design as it was the only one that I could locate on the web.
    Went with 2 wheels but due to the dimensions of wheel mounting plate had to place wheels on the front; however, it is easily moveable and at the same time very stable.

  7. I am currently finishing one for my wife’s preschool. We would like to say thank you very much for providing such great plans. We also could not afford the expensive sand tables found at educational suppliers. She works for a small Christian school that has limited funding. Her kids will love it!

    Also, any thoughts on how to make an attachable / removable cover?

    Thanks again!

  8. Thanks for your idea! It is close to my creation.
    I actually designed a cover from white board (for dry erase markers) that was purchased from Lowe’s. I inverted the tub and sketched an outline. After cutting the board with a jigswaw, I used the scrap wood from the cut 2×4′s and attached them using the shorter screws (this keeps the top from sliding/warping). For handles (to easily remove/replace cover), I made two holes on both ends and used nylon rope that was knotted with washers. Then I painted both the box and the cover. I’ll take some photos and send them to you. For a first time project, I think it turned out great. Thanks again!

  9. Eric,
    Thank you for posting this. We are building this for our children for a X-Mas present. We, like everyone else here could not afford the $175-$300 stores charge for a wooden Water/Sand table.
    they love the ones they have in school!
    For anyone else who visits, be creative in what you put in there. Dried rice/beans are a blast for the kids, those shipping peanuts that come in your packages from UPS…kids love all this stuff!

  10. Hello!

    I’m really excited about making this for my kids! I’m having a LOT of trouble finding the black insert. Lowes doesn’t seem to know anything about it, and I can’t find anything like it online, either. Does anyone have a specific place to purchase it and a specific product name to ask for?

  11. Great plans! We put ours together last night and can’t wait for xmas! Total it cost us arround 55 bucks, thats including the polyurithane finish, and lowes cutting each piece of wood to size!

    It looks Great! Thanks soo much for the plans. It’s a $300 gift for a fraction of the price!!!

  12. Pingback: JenBob.net
  13. Thanks so much! This looks really nice! I’ve been looking for DIY sensory tables FOREVER for our preschool, but everything looked so cheap, but yours actually looked pretty close to the ones found at school supplies stores and catalogs!!! I am putting my husband to work on it right away!!!!! Can’t wait!

  14. I lengthened the sides by 6″ each and let this amount extend past the end piece. Then drill 1″ hole in each side and insert a dowel rod -you can use this as a handle to move it if you put wheels on the opposite end and you can hang a towel from it. A modification I liked for my classroom.

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A computer geek with a taste for sustainable living, organic food, green products, buying local, woodworking, bicycling, running, yoga, recycling and doing-it-yourself.