Carving Alphabet Blocks – Summary

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Yep… I need to vacuum the carpet. Oh, and that set of alphabet blocks I started seven months ago? I finally got them finished. Thus ends the first crafts project undertaken for my daughter.

I’ve never been much for crafts, and clearly they’re not the prettiest blocks in the world. Still, I did learn quite a lot in the process of making these. A lot of these may be obvious, but in the hope that my random observations will help someone else, here are a few notes.

  1. Use the right tool. A Dremel rotary tool is great for these crafts projects… but I really wish someone had told me they make a router attachment for the thing. The carving bits work well for carving, and the sanding disks work well for sanding (imagine that). Likewise, tracing the letter shapes onto the blocks was much easier once I bought some carbon paper from the office supply store.
  2. Get the real tools. I bought a cheap set of sanding bands, and the mandrel that came with them wouldn’t tighten down.
  3. You can buy wooden blocks online. I bought from Barclay Blocks and got a whole boxful of appropriately dimensioned wooden blocks delivered to my door. I wasn’t able to locate these locally, and I’m certainly not equipped to cut blocks out of raw lumber.
  4. The letter shapes will not be perfect. Or maybe you have the hands of a surgeon and infinite patience, and they will turn out perfect. My letters, however, are visibly misshapen in some places.
  5. Most store-bought blocks engrave the face, but leave the letter shape raised. It’s much easier at home to just engrave the letter shape.
  6. This also makes painting simpler: you can fill the engraved shape with paint without worrying too much about staying within the lines. After you paint, let the paint dry, then sand away the stray paint.
  7. Paint with bright primary colors. My wife and I picked out colors that we liked, but they turned out too dark. We went back and picked out the brightest colors we could find to brighten up the set.
  8. Shellac. Try not to get it on your hands, but when you do, use some rubbing alcohol to get it off. Also, don’t tell your wife what it’s made from.
  9. Out of sight, out of mind. Most of the seven-month span of the project passed with no work being done, just because I forgot about it.

Every project is a learning experience. So does that mean I’m done with the alphabet blocks? Probably not. I think the letter distribution is a good start (it’s based loosely on Scrabble tile distributions), but I may need to make more once my daughter starts spelling with the blocks, rather than just drooling on them. At least she can spell her name with this set.

My wife has expressed interest in continuing to work with the blocks, possibly by painting additional letter shapes or pictures on the blank sides. I think that’s a great idea, and I look forward to it.

Has anyone else done something like this? What would you add to this project?

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