As the girls’ birthday and Christmas rolled around, I started eyeing the Grimm’s large stepped pyramid as the dream block set to get them. Blocks are a classic, amazing open-ended toy. Sure there are definitely cheaper block sets out there, but this particular one is a piece of art. I also appreciated the symmetry and order to the block set. Each step is an increase of one unit size starting from a perfect square to a 4x length rectangle at the top. Also, it is the only block set that I came across that put away well. So, I irrationally added it to the girls’ wish list despite the price. Then my brother reached out to me and asked if he could make it. You guys I about died! In case you haven’t seen my previous posts, my brother is super handy! He ended up making the raw block set, and I painted it. I love how it turned out! Here is how we did it, so you can do it too.
To build the blocks you will need to purchase ten (10) of these poplar boards from Lowes: Common 2″ x 2″; Actual 1.5″ x 1.5″ by 3 foot Poplar boards. They are perfectly square at 1.5″ on each side. The cost for these boards comes to about $55. You could get off cheaper by purchasing pine or not pre-sized boards. The great thing about these is they are already the right size and just need to be cut to length. I prefer the quality of poplar compared to pine.
Then use a saw to cut the boards to the proper length and then use a sander to sand them smooth. Below is a chart that summarizes the lengths and quantities you will need. There are five different tiers of blocks with the shortest blocks being perfectly square at 1.5″ in height and having the most blocks up to the tallest blocks of which there are only four. In total you will have 100 blocks.
My brother showing off the raw block set. These remind of the age range for Magna-tiles stating 3-99 because Uncle Micah and Daddy have had just as much fun with them as the girls.
Once you have the blocks cut, the next big step is to paint them. I purchased a set of non-toxic acrylic paint. I like that this set already had several shades for each color as well as black and white. To paint all of the various colors to match the Grimm’s set, I brought up a picture of it on my computer (see picture below) and did my best to imitate the color variation that their block set has. It generally starts with warmer colors on the larger pieces and moves to cool blues and greens for the squares with a lot of gradation. I just mixed the available colors and used the black and white paint to lighten or darken as needed.
Pro Tip: You are only going to be able to paint five sides at once, so you need to make sure to leave enough of your homemade color to paint the sixth side later. I didn’t think about that at first so I had to remix and try to get back to the same color for a handful of the variations, and that was very difficult. I usually stood the pieces on end leaving one of the small square sides unpainted and used my thumb on the top square side to hold the block steady. After about an hour flipped the block over to paint the remaining small square.
Let your blocks dry for 48 hours. Then you can come back and seal with a beeswax. This is the product that I used. I used a cloth to wipe it on, waited 24 hours, and used another clean cloth to wipe it back off.
The Grimm’s set also comes in a square wooden tray. My brother made us one of those as well. To make you would need four 15″ long narrow poplar boards for the sides (he used 1x2s which are 1 1/2″ in height and 3/4″ in width). My brother used a miter saw to cut and fit the sides like a picture frame and small nails and wood glue to assemble. Then cut a square of plywood that is 15″ x 15″. Then nail/glue the picture frame around the square bottom to complete the tray. Finish by sanding.
And then you will have your very own imitation Grimm’s large step pyramid!
Here are some shots of the block set in action.
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