Friday, March 6, 2015

DIY Hidden Lego Play Station

This was one of my most exciting projects to date, and that is saying a lot. I think it was so exciting because it was unique (never saw the idea on Pinterest before) and it would make my four boys happy (much happier than the play kitchen I made). This was a relatively easy project and it cost me only $80...$65 of that being for Lego Baseplates...dang those puppies are expensive!! Wanna know how to do it yourself? This posting starts with a find from Craigslist and an idea...

One of my passions is perusing Craigslist. If you have yet to catch the Craigslist bug and feel intimidated by the idea, check out this posting. You have no idea how much fun awaits you! Anyway I was looking through ads hoping to find a potential project piece and I saw this "desk" for $15...

Nothing too amazing, but it was solid oak (very strong wood and long-lasting), in good shape, and said, "I have potential". I got to thinking about it and thought how awesome would this be if it was for Legos?! Every parent knows that the problem with Legos is this...
A HUGE mess. Every parent also knows that Legos are some of the best toys because they encourage creativity in a world of very little. Every toy out there comes with batteries or video games, or other things that can only be used for one purpose. But Legos allow our little people unlimited possibilities for creativity, and I love that. So the mess is the problem and this furniture piece would help contain that issue. Rather than always making my kids play in the basement with their Legos so I don't have to see the constant mess they make, I could allow them to play around us (which is what they want), and yet have a place for them to store their works in progress, their completed pieces they want to admire, and store all of the millions of pieces leftover, yet have a nice furniture piece enclosing it all.

So I bought the honey oak "desk" and brought it home singing with happiness and excitement. I knew I didn't like the honey look so I put the question out there to all of my Facebook followers and asked them paint or stain? Within that question are a ton of other questions, but in the end they all said this will be for kids and it needs to be able to withstand abuse, which stain takes the cake on that one. So I went with General Finishes Java Gel Stain (something that I always have on hand, and which goes a long way).

Rather than dismantle it, I just took out the pull out areas and taped off hardware. I did a very light sanding all over it with 220 grit sandpaper (make sure to go with the grain), and then cleaned it all up. Then I wiped on the first coat of stain...

I then added 1-2 more coats of stain all over it and then did the top coat using General Finishes clear topcoat in Satin finish. Next was the glueing on of the Lego baseplates.

I measured the areas I wanted to be building areas and shopped on Amazon and eBay for the right sizes. I debated about going with a knock off brand, but they weren't much cheaper and everyone complained that they came somewhat bowed/warped. I splurged and got the Lego brand which totaled up to $65. I bought the furniture for $15 so to think of spending WAYYY more on Lego baseplates was kind of like stabbing myself, but for $80 I knew it would provide a ton of fun.  I decided to glue down the plates with Gorilla Glue. That stuff is amazing. I was a little curious how it would work with plastic and smooth wood, but I followed the directions and held down the pieces while they dried with lots of heavy things. It worked, but then I ran into this problem...
I know you can't tell, but the plates I made extend over the tracks (on purpose) so that there was more building area. Well I didn't know that when the slides were put back on the tracks that it would rip up the plates that were extending over the edge. That stunk. Lesson learned...put plates in the middle of the furniture area. Also learned, there is probably a better glue for dealing with Lego baseplates. I am not sure what it is, I am still trying to figure that out. But what I ended up doing was using my Dremel Sawmax (pictured in the Lego baseplates picture above) and cut off the small edge so that it would glide on the tracks well. I re-glued, and everything seems to be working well enough.

Doesn't it look nice? You would never know what is hiding inside!

My 8 year old was so excited to start playing with the "Lego Play Station". He and his brothers have been anxiously waiting for me to finish it. The ugly storage bin is from the Costco detergent we use and I love the heavy duty bins for other purposes when empty. All of their many Lego sets fit nicely in it and rather than organize all of the pieces, a big dumping bin works best for us.

3/19/2015 Update: So I have found a solution to all of the problems I encountered with the baseplates not being strongly held down. Since the Gorilla Glue wasn't working great on all of the baseplates I removed them all, cleaned off the dried glue and moved the plates back that were too close to where the cupboard doors needed to close. Before re-gluing the plates down I used Lego pieces to connect the baseplates to each other so that Lego pieces could go from one plate onto the adjoining plate (which was impossible when I had glued the plates down right next to one another). Based on something I found online that another person had tried and found success with, I went and bought Liquid Nails, which is just a couple dollars. Here is what it all looked like while the glue was drying...
The colors are off in my picture, but I just wanted to show you how the plates were separated just enough from one another to allow building to work anywhere, show you what Liquid Nails looks like, and then see my makeshift weights holding down the plates while they dried. I gave them a full 24 hours to dry before allowing my boys to build. It worked! Liquid Nails is the solution. 

Note: Gorilla Glue I still love you...I know you are amazingly strong and work wonders adhering most types of materials.

So what do you think? Something you want to try now? Have you ever transformed a piece of furniture into a Lego play area? What are some tips and tricks you learned?

Thanks so much!

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