PLYWOOD PLAY PLANKS (Dec, 1953)

These look like they would be a blast. Giant tinkertoys!

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PLYWOOD PLAY PLANKS

Give your child countless hours of interesting, instructive, and clean play by making him this jumbo-size set of building blocks.

ANY kid who has this plank set will be . the hero of the block—and his hero will be his dad for making it for him. With the set, he is equipped to build any number of walk-in projects. Houses, forts, ships, castles, garages, locomotives—there’s no limit to the designs that healthy imagination and young hands can produce.

The planks are light and clean. They are simple enough for a three-year-old to use, yet interesting enough to keep a ten-year-old busy. No nails or fasteners are needed —the planks interlock strongly and safely. They won’t crack or warp and children can’t break them. Even the most ambitious play-plank buildings can be dismantled and stored in a few minutes.

A complete set consists of 48 planks 6 in. long, 36 planks 12 in. long, 24 planks 18 in. long, 24 planks 24 in. long, 24 planks 36 in. long, and 24 planks 48 in. long. Each plank is 4 in. wide. The ends are notched so the pieces lock together like logs in a log cabin.

They can be cut from four standard 4×8-ft. panels of fir plywood. Enough material will be left over for a box big enough to hold all the pieces. You can make the set from 3/4/ 5/8, or 1/2-in. panels. If you use 1/2-in. panels, don’t cut the center notches shown in the 4-ft. lengths. You don’t need standard-size panels—you can cut the pieces from scraps. Be sure that you cut the planks so the grain in the outer plys runs the long way.

The drawing shows you how to cut the planks. You can get all of the 48-in. lengths from one panel. Cut it in two first so you have two 4×4-ft. pieces. Then cut each of these into 2×4-ft. pieces for easier handling. Each saw kerf will take up to 1/8 in., so the planks will be slightly under the 4-in. width indicated.

You can cut 24 pieces 36 in. long and 12 pieces 24 in. long out of the second panel. For easier handling, cut the panel across the grain first.

From the third panel, you will get 12 pieces 24 in. long, 24 pieces 18 in. long, 24 pieces 12 in. long, and 24 pieces 6 in. long.

Make all the cuts across the grain first for easier handling as you did with the first and second panels.

From the fourth panel, you will get the additional planks you need and the material for the box.

Now that the planks are cut, you can begin notching. Every notch is 1 in. deep. The centers of most notches should be 3 in. from the ends of the planks. Note that each 48-in. piece is also notched at the center. Set the dado on your saw to cut a notch equal in width to the width of the plywood you are using plus 1/8 in. for plenty of clearance and easy building. If you are using 3/4-in. plywood, the notch should be 7/8 in. wide. With 5/8-in. plywood, it should be 3/4 in. wide, and with 1/2-in. plywood, it should be 5/8 in. wide.

When the pieces are cut and notched, ease the edges by sanding. If you want a professional-looking set, fill all small core gaps that may appear in the panel edges with wood putty.

A couple of coats of clear resin sealer will give the wood a surface that stays clean. If you want color, the resin can be tinted.

The storage box that holds the planks is also used to move them from room to room or outdoors. Inside dimensions are 15 in. high, 16-1/4 in. wide, and 48-1/4 in. long. Put swivel casters with 2-in. rubber wheels at the corners. Fasten them in place with bolts through the bottom of the box. When boring the bolt holes, counterbore inside the box so the nuts will lie below the surface.

9 comments
  1. Perry says: April 8, 20081:16 pm

    It is so great to see these. I am from a family of 10 kids, and my dad made a big double batch of Play Planks for us one Christmas. No storage box, though. We got years of great memories out of these things, speinding all our rainy Seattle afternoons building forts, pretend fishing boats, and all that. I am a little depressed that we never once thought to make a pitched roof. I’m pretty sure that the longest ones my dad made were 6-footers, not 4 like those shown. And he used marine grade plywood, too–he used to run a lumber yard, so he got it at cost. What great memories.

  2. Kathy Countryman says: September 8, 20084:57 pm

    Hooray for Play Planks! I was just thinking of the prototype set my dad made for Christmas 1951, when we were only five of the eventual thirteen children. So I googled. What a bonus: There is a picture of my dad, David Countryman when he worked for the Douglas Fir Plywood Association(DFPA), now known as the American Plywood Association. He is the man with the C clamps. He also made the box, deep enough for the expanded set, and long anough to hold the six footers that were part of the set. The plans that were available from the DFPA showed both sets, as I recall.

  3. Toronto says: September 8, 20086:59 pm

    Kathy – that is so cool! You should see if you can get a copy of that issue of MI.

    I had a similar Google experience this summer. I took a bike trip back to where I was born, a military base in semi-northern Quebec. While making some notes about the trip, I used google and the first hit that came up mentioned my father moving into base housing as they were expecting another child (me.)

    It’s a goggleable world, after all.

  4. Mary Ellen Countryman says: September 9, 20081:39 am

    As number 12 child, of those eventual 13, I can attest that we were still playing with these 15 years and more after my Dad constructed them. We had the most professional-looking kool-aid stands in town.
    We had nicknames for all the different sized planks, but my brothers should chime in here and remind me what they were. I seem to recall “Dinky Dories” for the 6 inch long ones.

  5. Kathy Countryman says: September 9, 200811:40 am

    Almost right, Mary Ellen. Kevin says they were Dinky Daltons, which apparently has some connection with Huckleberry Hound. It’s easy to check. I read somewhere that “It’s a goggleable world, after all.”

  6. Pete Countryman says: September 9, 20081:13 pm

    Dinky Dalton is correct, and as I recall, the next size up were “Double Daltons.” We also used to make a kind of scooter out of about 4 planks. They didn’t roll, but they scooted. Those things were seemingly indestructible.

  7. [...] Planks var addthis_product = 'wpp-255'; var addthis_config = {"data_track_clickback":false};These Plywood Play Planks look like the coolest thing since Lincoln Logs, although on a much grander scale.  When I was a [...]

  8. Daria says: January 13, 20127:55 pm

    Thanks so much for publishing this! My dad made a set for my brothers and I couldn’t stop thinking about these, so I found this link. And after I forwarded it to my brother, he did the sweetest thing and made my son a set for Christmas! They are fabulous!

    I will note for those googling this that he did have to router the edges–they were too sharp otherwise. And there are a lot of edges!

  9. Chuck says: December 30, 20127:25 pm

    My son and I built a version of these for one of my grandsons this Christmas. We used the dog-eared fence panels, which you can get at Lowes and Home Depot. These will require a lot of plaining to eliminate the rough edges and we made the panels a little wider to make the roof go to about 5.5 feet high.

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