One of our most loved toys for our girls is the Pikler Triangle. The Pikler Triangle is a toddler-sized climbing frame. I loved the idea of the Pikler Triangle for encouraging gross motor skills play even indoors on cold, dark winter evenings. But I didn’t love the price tag. I totally understand the the high price tag; it’s high quality woodworking. Unfortunately it just doesn’t fit everyone’s budget. So I enlisted my handy brother to make one. He actually made this for the girls last Christmas (they were 12 months old at the time, which is a great time to introduce), and I have finally convinced him to share a tutorial on how he made it.
Before jumping into the directions, I wanted to bring up a few points to consider before embarking on making your own Pikler Triangle.
1.Bought vs. Handmade: Obviously since you are here, you are likely considering handmade. The benefits include cost savings, creating a one-of-a-kind heirloom piece and the ability to customize your Pikler. The downside is that making your own Pikler does require woodworking skills. If you, like me, do not have these skills, consider what family members can help out.
2. Foldable vs. Non-Foldable: A non-foldable triangle is easier to make; however, it takes up more space. We opted for a foldable triangle so it could be put away when not in use.
3. Size: I am not sure if there is a standard size for a Pikler Triangle, but I will warn you this tutorial is for a rather large version. If you like the idea of your kid being able to use the Pikler for a very long time (we’re thinking this will easily entertain until ten), a larger size can provide more of a challenge. If you are limited on space, this larger version might not be for you.
Okay now for the tutorial.
Tools you will need:
– Miter Saw
– Tape Measure
– Drill Press
– Center Punch
– 1 1/4″ Forstner Drill Bit
– 5/8″ Drill Bit1/2″ Drill Bit
– Jig Saw
– Circle Template 5 1/2″ diameter (round tupperware)
– Random Orbital Sander with 120 grit and 220 grit sandpaper
– 1/2″ Roundover Bit
– Bar Clamps
– Hand Drill
– Angle Grinder with cut-off wheel
Material you will need:
– 5/4″ x 6′ x 10′ Select Pine Board – Qty 21
– 1/4″ Wood Dowels – Qty 11
– 3/4″ x 4′ x 4′ ACX Handi-Panel (Plywood) – Qty 1
– Blue Painter’s Tape
– Wood Glue
– Quart of Wood Stain (and staining supplies)
– Quart of Paint (and painting supplies)
– 2-part EpoxyBlue Lock-tite
– Quick-Release Pin, Ball-Grip, 1/2″ Diameter, 3 1/4″ Usable Length – Qty 2
– Multipurpose Sleeve Bearing, 1/2″ Shaft Diameter, 5/8″ OD, 1″ Length – Qty 14
– Multipurpose Sleeve Bearing, 1/2″ Shaft Diameter, 5/8″ OD, 1″ Length – Qty 6
– Open-End Cap Nyt, 3/8″ – 16 Thread Size – Qty 6
– Pack of 1/2″ Screw Size Washers
– Shoulder Screw, 1/2″ Diameter, 1 3/4″ Long Shoulder, 3/8″ Thread – Qty 6
Step One: Cut four legs out of the two 10′ boards. Two boards are 48″ in length. Two boards are 42 1/4″ in length.
Step Two: Drill holes in the legs. Measure from end of legs and mark hole locations with center punch based on leg drawing dimensions in the assembly pdf. Apply Blue painters tape in hole locations to avoid splintering. Use Drill Press to drill various hole sizes (1 1/4″ Forstner Drill Bit – blue, 5/8″ Drill Bit – yellow, and 1/2″ Drill Bit – red) according to the leg drawing dimensions ensuring that holes are perpendicular to the boards.
Step Three: Round the ends of the legs. Trace the circle pattern on both ends of legs. Cut round ends with the jig saw. Smooth curves with orbital sander first using the 120 grit and then the 220 grit paper.
Step Four: Router edges of legs. Set depth of router bit to create perfect radius on a scrap piece of wood. Router all edges of the legs in a counter-clockwise direction (not climbing).
Step Five: Cut the eleven round dowels to length. Measure and mark the length to cut the round dowels to 40″ in length. Cut five of the round dowels for the swinging side a hair shorter (maybe 1/16″) to allow it to swing freely between the brackets. Apply painter’s tape to areas being cut to reduce splintering. Cut the round dowels to length on the miter saw. Cut both sides of the dowels to make sure they a square and smooth cuts. Also, the slower you cut with the miter saw, the better the finish of the cut surface will be.
Step Six: Glue legs together. Check the dowel to hole clearance before proceeding with this step (my dowels required some hand sanding to fit). Apply Glue to ends of the round dowels. Insert into the holes in the legs. Use clamps to keep the legs square and parallel while drying. It would be a good idea to cut some scrap 2x4s to clamp between the legs once the dowels are inserted (approximately 37 5/8″ and 37 9/16″ for the swinging leg). Keeping the sides of the legs parallel is critical to having the top bracket in the right position when it will be bolted on.
Step Seven: Cut out the top brackets. Trace bracket pattern for the top brackets onto the plywood (twice). Apply painter’s tape to areas that will be cut (both sides) to reduce splintering. Use the jigsaw to cut out the brackets.
Step Eight: Drill holes in brackets using the template and the center punch to mark all hole locations. Apply Blue painters tape to hole locations to reduce splintering (especially the back side). Drill holes (5/8″ Drill Bit – yellow and 1/2″ Drill Bit – red) according to drawing dimensions.
Step Nine: Sand legs and stain. It is critical to sand excess glue before staining. Paint brackets. We stained the legs and dowels a dark espresso and painted the brackets white. You could stain it all, but plywood is a lower quality wood, so paint hides the flaws better. Also, see picture below of the unfinished look. I like that look as well! If you choose to go that route, you can skip this step.
Step Ten: Assemble the Pikler triangle.
Use the angle grinder with cut-off wheel to cut brass bushings to the thickness of the boards. The leg bushings will be about 1 ¼” long, and the bracket bushings will be about ¾” long. I left them a hair long and finished the ends with the sander once they were glued in. Mix 2-part epoxy and coat the outside of the bushings before inserting into the legs and brackets. I also used a file to create some ridges around the outsides of the bushings to give to the epoxy a chance to hold them in place. Once the epoxy dries, use the hand drill with the 1/2″ drill bit to clean out the insides of the bushings. I had to do quite a bit of drilling to get my pins through and to get the leg holes to line up with the bracket holes.
Permanently bolt the brackets to the long leg through the ½” holes (red). I used lock-tite on the threads to keep them from coming loose. Loosely bolt the short leg to the bracket through the bushings in the corner. This will be the pivot point. I would also use lock-tite on these two bolts to keep the nuts from coming off.
Insert the Quick-Release Pins through the brackets and pivoting leg to select desired height or storage position.
As a ballpark, my brother spent about $275 to make our version but that’s because all of his bolts, screws and bushings were stainless steel, which accounted for $150 of the cost. You could definitely get it under $200 if you opted for more standard hardware.
I hope you find this tutorial helpful. If you decide to give it a go and have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask! And if you do build a replica of our Pikler Triangle please send me a picture or tag me @samantharaisingwildflowers or #hicksbbtwinspikler on social media! Also, if you are interested, my husband and I made a rock wall addition to the Pikler Triangle several months ago. If you managed to get this far, the rock wall would be a breeze. My post on that is here.
Thank you for reading and happy climbing!
Update: Someone used our tutorial to build their own Pikler Triangle! Here are some photos of their lovely creation.