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Execution of a 4th Grade Woodworking Project

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An Oakland elementary school (with a Maker crafts’ program) recently contacted our local woodworking club (Diablo Woodworkers) with a challenge: Would it be possible to have twenty-eight 4th grade students construct two picnic tables for their patio area? These would be tables built, owned, managed, moved, located, and used by the children.

This project presented some unique design considerations such as:

  • Construction occurs in the school cafeteria
  • Tools for 4th grade construction are limited – no saws, chisels, knives, etc.
  • Time for construction is about 2 hours
  • No gluing
  • Must involve 28 students simultaneously in one session
  • Tables should not be too heavy for 4th graders
  • Sustainable outdoor materials

SketchUp becomes the primary backbone tool for developing these projects as it enables a collaborative environment for:

  1. Creating preliminary alternative designs,
  2. Communicating these alternatives in easily understood 3D models,
  3. Developing the detail design,
  4. Quantifying and selecting lumber and hardware, and
  5. Displaying the steps of construction

After several iterations in SketchUp, we came up with a design having these characteristics:

  • All components would be pre-drilled and milled to size and shape by the woodworking club
  • There will be no pre-assembled parts
  • All joinery is by bolts and wood screws and connected by students
  • The table and benches would be adult size, but slightly shortened to limit weight
  • Benches should be independent of the table – no connections

We successfully achieved the objectives of this project. Here are examples of the SketchUp documentation used.

The Assembled View:


The Exploded View


One page of the Lumber Plan (Redwood).


Construction Steps 1 & 2:

Assembly Steps

Construction Step 5:

Table Step 5

One of the finished assemblies:


Here are two photos of the actual construction at the school cafeteria:

Emerson Elementary 1.01_06_52_01.Still001

Emerson Elementary 1.01_47_46_04.Still009



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Published at Wed, 07 Jun 2017 13:41:13 +0000