Monday, August 22, 2011

Handy and Hands On

My boys have used an old toy train table to stage countless battles between their toys. Unfortunately, the table is made out of really cheap particle board, so it has broken several times. 

The first breakage simply required larger wood screws. The second breakage required a combination of larger wood screws and hot glue. After the third breakage, I was planning to toss it since the work required to fix it was going to take a bit of effort. But, when the boys pleaded with me to fix it, I decided to turn this into a dadly project. 

First, I explained why the table was not such a great design, and how we were going to improve it. (Tip: be prepared to answer why people would make such bad products.)

Next, we made a list of what we need to do and materials we needed to buy at the hardware store. I made the boys help with the list, but the little ones will probably have difficult time getting thing in order. For complicated projects, you might want to put the tasks that need to be done on flash cards so that you can switch the order. My boys used rulers to measure the length of screws necessary to fix the table correctly, and I was able to introduce a memorable maxim, "Measure twice, cut once."

At the hardware store, I made a point to show the different types of screws (machine screws, wood screws, sheet metal screws, flathead screws, countersunk screws, hex cap screws, allen head screws, etc.) and explain the different applications they were used. It's very convenient that you can easily point to real examples at the hardware store. I also tried to explain how the screws are categorized. (Tip: don't ask them to count the number of threads on a 8-32 x 1" screw… )

When we returned, I let them use my power drill WITH very close supervision, AND I made sure that they used safety goggles.  They LOVED this part. I was very clear that they were not allowed to use any power tools without my close supervision. 

The rest of the fix was quite simple, they had to use the screwdriver and wrench to tighten the new and improved fasteners. 

The cleanup was also a very important part of finishing a project, and they fully participated. They are enjoying the train table once again, and they have been telling each other how great it was to be able to fix it. 

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