A few years back, there was a song about an average guy who -- by wrecking himself playing sandlot games with the local kids, became the 1429 Franklin Park Circle Hero.

If your kids are the right age, you can turn yourself into a Household Hero without half the investment in grief and aggravation he went through: About $35 in lumber, $5 or so in sand, a couple of dollars' worth of screws and nails and a Saturday will do it, and will buy at least one Sunday morning free to read the papers in peace -- about as high a reward as you're likely to get for household heroism.

A sandbox about 2'x4'x 1' deep offers kids hours of pleasure and parents a nearly equal number of hours of calm, deducting for time out to settle fights, which would break out even if there were no sandbox. Besides, it gives you a new club -- "If I hear one more word out of you it'll be Everybody Out of the Sandbox!" -- which, I seem to remember, worked on me, anyway. For a while, anyway.

You'll need 1"x 4" lumber: nine 8-footers and five 12-footers; plus four galvanized mending plates, 16 1/2" screws and some 2" and 2 1/2" galvanized nails.

If you expect the sandbox to serve for generations, skip one 8-foot board and two of the 12-footers, and buy 20 patio blocks (8" x 16"x 2") instead, and set them in the ground as a base. In that case you'll want to anchor the box with half a dozen 3/8" steel rods -- get two 3' lengths of curtain rod and cut each into three pieces.

Once you have your lumber asembled, cut three of the 8' boards in half; these are your side-pieces. Cut two more into four 46" pieces, as crosspieces for the top and bottom (obviously, if you're using the patio-block base, you skip the wooden bottom, so you cut only two crosspieces). Then cut three of the remaining 8-footers into two 26" end boards each, cutting the leftover pieces into 11" uprights. You'll wind up with two uprights more than you need, but save them -- they'll probably be good for something someday.

Then cut the boards for the lid and base: The plans call for 28 pieces 28 1/2 long, 14 each for the lid and the bottom. The 12-footers will cut to five pieces each, and the remaining 8-footer will give you three pieces and a 10" piece of scrap, which goes with the two extra uprights.

Now, to build: First assemble the sides and ends, nailing the uprights onto the three side-pieces with your 2" nails -- which, owing to the fact that nominal 1" lumber is really only 3/4" thick, will protrude 1/2" or so. Clinch the nails on the inside to keep the kids from scratching themselves and this will give the joints extra strength as well. Use six nails per upright (two for each board) and stagger them to prevent splitting the uprights. If you do split them, of course, you have a couple of spares.

Once the sides and ends are assembled, fasten them together with the 2 1/2" nails, two per side board, into the uprights of the ends.

For the lid, set the two crosspieces about a foot apart and put the 14 lid boards on top of them, aligning the ends. Nail them down with 2" nails, again staggering them to avoid splitting, and clinch the nails afterward. For the base, do the same thing. Then screw the mending plates to the corners of the top, for reinforcement. Nail the base to the assembled box, drill some drainage holes in the bottom to keep it from becoming mosquito heaven, put it where you want it and fill it with sand -- maybe a third to half a cubic yard.

From then on it's just a matter of keeping the lid on it when the kids aren't in it, so it doesn't turn into a huge kittybox. PARTS LIST 1. Side boards (6)x48". 2. End boards (6)x26". 3. Uprights (10)x11". 4. Lid boards (14)x28 1/2". 5. Lid crosspieces (2)x46". Note: Repeat steps 4 and 5 for base. CAPTION: Illustration, Parts numbers in this drawing match those in the parts list. Reprinted by permission from Reader's digest complete do it yourself manual; Copyright (c) 1973 The Reader's Digest Association Inc.