Saturday, 28 February 2015

DIY Tinkering Table to Inspire Young Engineers

A few months ago I shared a post about 10 Ways to Support an Interest in Engineering. One of the ten ways to support engineering was to provide a work space where the young engineer can create, explore and make his or her ideas come alive. As our sons interest in engineering has grown, he has taken his work space outside. So to support this, my husband and I decided to make a tinkering table where he could work on his projects and get creative. We have previously made a DIY Outdoor Play Kitchen for our children so here is how we built a tinkering table from recycled materials.

Preparing the Recycled Wood
We pulled apart an old wooden crate to use as the main pieces of wood for our table. This involved removing all the nails and separating the pieces of wood to see which ones were good encough to use. We laid out the wood to set the frame for our table. 

Putting it together
I didn't know that if you used nails to join wood together, it would split the wood. Thankfully my husband, who used to build houses for a living, knows a thing or two about wood. He drilled the wholes first before drilling the screws into place.

Once the frame had been put together, we had to cut out the first part of the bench to fit into the frame. This involved using a set square (ruler) to mark it out, and a chisel and hammer to cut the wood. Again my husband pre-drilled the wood before putting the screws in and holding the wood in place.

The front part of the tinker table was easier to put together as it was just a matter of making sure the legs were the same length as the back ones and putting wood blocks between the legs and a brace along the back.

Engineering Tools and Resources
We needed some more support at the bottom of the tinker table so we used two wooden boxes that we had left over when we recycled an old wooden drawers and some long pieces of wood for bracing. We ended up filling one box with pieces of wood and another box with recycled cans, bottle tops and other metal objects. We also put a large plastic box in between that was filled with different electrical appliances that our son had been pulling apart.

We had some wooden board left over from another project so we added that as a back board so we could hang tools and other equipment from it. Although we only have a few tools hanging from the board at this stage, I'm sure over time we shall get more. Together with recycled items, we added some tools such as drills, screws, nails, hammer, square set, chisel, screw drivers and a hand saw to the tinker table.

Our son has used the recycled cans to organise his resources and has added a thermoeter so he can watch the temperature when he is outside working and a few nails to hang his larger tins from. Even though the weather is hot at the moment, our son has spent the cooler parts of the evening outside tinkering on his table.

I am fortunate enough to have a husband with the skills to build a tinker table for our son but for those who would like to build one too I have found 13 FREE Workbench Plans that are easy to follow so you can make your own tinker table. You can also view a YouTube clip on How To Build A Workbench by clicking on the link. 

For more ideas for supporting engineering learners, you can visit my Engineering Science pinterest board.


  1. Great inspiration, thank you :) I think my son would love something like this!

  2. Very interesting idea, I have never thought of that! inspiring!

  3. Lovely idea. I don't mean to be a troll, but flip-flops are not the safest shoes to be working around rusty nails.

    1. You're absolutely right Bonnie! I think we should definitely have a good look at safety clothing and equipment. Thanks for your comment.