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Subject: Coffee Table rss

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Kelsey Rinella
United States
Rochester
New York
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My most recent woodworking project has just finished. I designed a coffee table to evoke the pieces made by my brother-in-law, a much more talented woodworker than I, to replace our old storage ottoman which was getting kind of ratty at the corners. I wanted something with a 2' x 3' playing surface, storage underneath accessible from the sides, and a rim to contain dice with a slot to hold cards all the way around which would be high enough to set up a game, then put a lid down over it to hold the game state until we next played. My initial design was a bit too tall, which I only really understood once I brought the half-finished table upstairs and tried putting my feet on it in place, so I attached the rim a little lower to compensate.

Here are some pics of the process.



The design involves a top supported by two sides which connect to a bottom, itself held up by feet (to avoid bonking one's toes). The sides are three pieces: a central piece of plywood stained to roughly match the walnut used by my brother-in-law, and two pieces of cherry with a bit of a curve at the bottom, again roughly aping his brilliant evocation of Japanese architecture in the legs of his pieces. The cherry piece shown has blind sliding dovetails at the top and bottom, which I cut from a central groove (later occupied by the plywood) toward the edge, but stopping just short to avoid having a triangular cut visible from the side.



For the top, I used an existing 2' x 3' piece on which I and my wife had painted a variant board for Crusader Rex on one side, and an Ancient Mediterranean map for Diplomacy on the other. I had to sacrifice one of them to be the bottom, and I'd chosen more garish colors for the Crusader Rex side, so it was the loser. The bottom was actually a frame around a piece of plywood, so it was much easier to cut the dovetails.



Here it is finished and in place, loaded with games to play with my kids. The plan is to put a gripmat on top, once they're available, which should help reduce the visual clutter when the map gets visually tiresome.



Here it is with the card holder in action. That was actually kind of a challenge--I wanted something pretty shallow, so I could see most of the card, and set at about 15˚, because the table is fairly low and I feared making cards too visible from the opposite side. I don't have a table saw, though, and I've found that I'm not able to make as smooth a cut as I would like with my circular saw (and, of course, it's very difficult to sand inside a thin groove). My solution was to buy a 15˚ chamfer bit for my router (I'm fortunate to have a Woodcraft nearby, as it's an unusual bit), chamfer a piece of 1" x 3", and then sandwich another piece of 1" x 3" outside of that.

I'm quite pleased with the result. As always, I screwed up more times than I can count and would do things differently a second time, but it seems moderately attractive and well-suited to my needs. The next task is to put together a lid to set on top; this was more important in the original design with the taller rim, but I think it's probably still worth doing.
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Darrell Hanning
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Nicely done!
 
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Noreen
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Very cool!
 
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Brian
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Looks good. I've had a few ideas about board game frames and tables. Do you sit on the sofa (or other) while playing? How is the size and height working out? (What is the height?)

BTW, the difference between a pro and amateur woodworker is just how well you hide your mistakes.
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Kelsey Rinella
United States
Rochester
New York
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ionizedbrian wrote:
Looks good. I've had a few ideas about board game frames and tables. Do you sit on the sofa (or other) while playing? How is the size and height working out? (What is the height?)


I generally sit on the sofa, while the kids often kneel on the ground. I'm considering getting some kind of bean-bag or floor pillow for their side.

As for the height, the rim is just about 18" from the floor, with the playing surface about 3/4" lower. We've been traveling a lot for the past two weeks, so I haven't made the lid yet, but that'll add an additional 3/4" above the rim. I'm pretty happy with this as a compromise--it's comfortable to play games of the duration my children have the attention span to handle, but not so high you can't comfortably rest your feet on it. It's not quite ideal for either, because what I'd really want is about a 16" high place to put my feet and a 22" high gaming surface, but that's impossible, so this is okay. Should I find myself wanting it slightly higher, the feet are adjustable and can add up to about another inch, but right now they're at their lowest.

The size is great. We haven't pulled out Mice and Mystics yet, which will probably take as much room as anything, but I think it'll fit well enough, and everything we've actually tried has had room to spare without seating the opponent half a room away. Keep in mind, though, that I chose this project largely because I wanted to play with a 4- and 6-year-old who have neither the attention span nor arm length to handle large games. If I were looking to set up Arkham Horror with a few expansions, I'd probably need the dining room table, but then I'd also be playing with people who have greater reach.

One unintentional design feature I find I quite like is that the ends of the bottom, which are about 3" wide, serve as a highly visible, very easily reached vertical-storage cache. That's been great for three purposes:
1. Storing the empty box of the game currently on the table.
2. Quickly putting away a game when we're hurried during cleanup and don't want to take the time to rearrange the game storage in the bottom center to fit everything very nicely.
3. Making a game I think the kids would like, but have stopped actively thinking about, more salient. They're much more likely to request whatever's sitting there than they would be if it were buried in the main storage area.
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Andrew Finke
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Looks nice. I like the card holder slots.
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