zach dumais
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Hello Everyone!

Ever wanted one of those really expensive gaming tables? If you are anything like me, spending that much on anything is out of the question. I was able to think of a solution: What if I could transform my existing dining room table into a gaming table? I could save a lot of money and have a nice gaming table for a fraction of the cost. Plus, I really enjoy my current table and I didn't really want to get rid of it. The more I thought about it, the more this seemed like a viable option.

So where to begin? First and foremost, I drew up some rudimentary plans. Once I was relatively satisfied, a trip to the big box hardware store was in order. Then once all the materials were purchased, it was time to get to work. I'll be detailing the steps of this process and adding pictures of my progress as the project goes on.

If your plan is to use my idea and tackle this project on your own table, here is the list of materials and tools that I used.

MATERIALS:
1x4x6 oak boards (3)
1x4x4 oak board (1)
1x3x6 pine board (3)

4x8 sheet 1/2" quality plywood (1)

wood screws of various length (3/8", 3/4", and 1 1/4")
wood glue
desired playing surface material (have not purchased yet)

1/2 gallon wood stain (to match current table)
1/2 gallon furniture varnish

1 yard automotive headliner
1 yard furniture-grade micro-suede
1 can 3M super 77 spray adhesive
1 package assorted sticky-backed furniture pads (thin)
TOOLS:
cordless drill
#6 countersink and drill bit combo
chopsaw or miter saw
table saw
handheld random orbital sander
skillsaw
phillips head screwdriver
tape measure
hook and loop sanding discs (110 and 220 grit)
4 adjustable clamps (with rubber padded "gripping" face)
Pocket screw jig
Rolling pin

In all, I have spent around $150 (Update: $200) for materials. All that I need now is the playing surface material, which I am still deciding on what to use. I will update the list as needed as I get further into the project.



A couple on notes if you are planning on attempting this:

*In no way can I guarantee the condition of your table. If you ruin it, it is of your own doing. That said, as long as you are careful and take your time, there is no reason you shouldn't end up with a nice table in the end.

*BE CAREFUL and wear eye and ear protection. Being the victim of a nailgun accident (my eye), I can say that you should ALWAYS wear your safety glasses. Power tools can be dangerous and care should always be taken when using them.

*Measure 10 times, cut once. If mistakes are made, keep an open mind and realize that changes may need to happen.

*Use your ingenuity. Not all tables will be able to be modified in this way, since all tables aren't exactly like mine.


STEP 1: REMOVE TABLE TOP

Most tables have a series of screws on the underside of the table skirt (The board that goes around the underside and attaches to the legs)which will need to be removed for the top to come off. Remove these screws, and have someone help you lift the top off and place it in an area that it is safe and will not be disturbed.



What you should end up with is something like this:




STEP 2: INSTALL PLAYING SURFACE RESTS/ARMREST SPACERS

The next step is to cut the length of the 1x3 pine boards so that they are 1/2" narrower (on their longest edge) than the side skirts of the existing table. This cut is universally known as a "rip" and is achieved by setting the fence on a table saw, so I'll just refer to any further cuts as such. Remember to set the fence to EXACTLY 1/2" less than the width of the table skirt. After this is done, cut the pine boards to 1/2" less than the length of each side of the skirt using a chopsaw or miter saw. So once you are done with your cuts, you should end up with four pine boards that are 1/2" shorter and 1/2" narrower than the boards used for the existing table skirt.

These boards will be used as a base for the playing surface to mount to as well as a spacer for the "face", or inner edges of the game vault. If this confuses you, that's ok. The pictures below should explain better than I can.



As you can see, I've flipped my table upside down onto a nice flat and even surface. If you do it this way, make sure the ground is flat and level. I did it this way to ease the installation of the pine boards.
To install them, you will need your cordless drill, some 1" screws (assuming you are working with 2 1"* boards), and
a #6 countersinking drill bit. Start by dry-fitting the boards against the inside of the table skirt. To "dry fit" something means to simply hold the piece in place without attaching it in any way to ensure a proper fit. Once you are satisfied, place the board on the ground surface so that there is a 1/2" reveal of the original table skirt. A "reveal" is the amount of overlapping material when joining two or more surfaces. In other words, you want a nice 1/2" deep "ledge" to be on the underside of the table. Later on, this is where your game surface will mount (which is 1/2" plywood). Attach the pine boards to the skirt using the screws, pre-drilling each hole as you go and starting in the center of each board. You'll want a group of two screws every 6" or so.

*It should be noted that there is something called a "nominal thickness" when using dimensional lumber. This means that a 1" thick board is actually a 3/4" board, even though it is labeled as a 1". This is because when the lumber is first cut, it's dimensions are in fact that thick. To get the nice smooth surfaces, lumber companies have to run the fresh cut boards through a machine that removes some of the outer material, leaving the board smaller than it's rough original shape.

After you are done this, flip the table back over. Your pine boards should now be perfectly flush with the table skirt.




STEP 3: CUT AND ATTACH GAME VAULT "FLOOR"

A couple of notes in this step, I used 1/2" thick pine boards with a 3/16" luan instead of plywood, because I already had them. But the principals and methods should still be the same either way. I will still include some pictures below for clarification. Also, if you are planning on having the playing surface as wood, it is best to stain/poly the plywood BEFORE attaching it to the table.

Ok so now that we have our pine boards attached, it's time to measure and cut the bottom surface for the game vault. To get the dimensions for this, just measure the inside edges of the table skirt. Take the measurements from a few different points on both the length and width of the skirt boards, just to make sure you've got it right. Mark and cut the 1/2 inch plywood to these dimensions using a skillsaw. You may want to sand any jagged edges smooth before you install this cut piece. Also as noted before, you may want to finish the floor before installing it. Use your own judgement here.

Turn your table upside down again. Dry fit the plywood base onto the "shelf" of pine you created in the last step. Make sure that if your table has bolts holding the legs to the skirt like mine, you will have enough room to get a tool in after to tighten these bolts. You may have to cut 45 degree angles into the corners of your plywood to achieve this.

Pre-drill the plywood so that your screws will end up going into the pine boards. You'll want one screw every 6 inches or so. When you are done, the underside of the game vault should sit flush with the bottom edge of the table skirt.



STEP 4: CUT AND ATTACH GAME VAULT "WALLS"

Remember the measurements for the pine boards? Well we are going to use those same dimensions for the inner frame of the game vault (the part that will be exposed). So once the nicer oak has been cut to these dimensions, the next thing to do is attach them to the table. Since My vault floor will be exposed at times and I wanted it to be a different color, I stained and lacquered one side of these boards before installing them to make staining and finishing easier. You'll probably want to do the same. Just follow the instructions on the can(s) to ensure proper coloring and finish. You might have to sand the edges of the boards where there might be some runoff from the clear coat. Or, you can wait until the table is all put together if you are brave. Always wait until the topcoat or clear is completely dry before attempting to install them. In either case, the oak boards will be glued to the pine boards as well as screwed from the top edge and down into the game vault floor. Apply a thin layer of wood glue to both the back side (unfinished) of the oak boards and the face of the pine boards. Once these are in place, use some clamps with rubber pads to hold the oak board tight against the face of the pine. As always, pre-drill all of your holes and start in the center of the board and work outwards, applying wood screws as you go*. You'll want to make sure that the screws do not puncture the game vault floor, which would create some sharp points underneath the table. Also, it may be a good idea to use a screw that has a finer thread pitch for hardwoods such as oak, as they have less of a chance of causing the harder wood to split or splinter. Allow the recommended time for the glue to dry, wiping away any excess tat squeezes out of the top joint before it does so with a damp cloth.



If you have the need to make angled corners like I did, It is ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL to make them removable so you can still get a tool in the corners to tighten the leg bolts if needed. Other than that, making them is relatively simple. Two opposing 45 degree angles will do nicely. When cutting these, just choose a length that seems like it will work well (with me, it was a 4 1/2" long edge) and set your chopsaw to a 45 degree miter cut. DO NOT attempt to change the vertical angle of the blade to make these angles. You will end up with incorrect angles if the blade is not a perfect 90 degrees to the table. When you screw the corner blocks in, pre-drill one hole in each side of the block and down into the side rails as well as down into the vault floor. Don't use glue on these! You want to be able to take them off if need be. As always, use a clamp to obtain a tight fit.



*A couple of notes here, as I ran into some problems. First, this was my first time dealing with hardwood. The pre-drilling process is quite different than working with pine or other softwoods. My first couple of screws ended up snapping the heads off. So when you pre-drill, I would recommend using a drill bit that is a little larger in diameter so that the screw has less resistance. Also, apply a little bit of liquid soap to the threaded shaft of your wood screws. This helps a lot. Second, I didn't notice until now, but the legs on my table are not flush with the tops of the skirt. In order to fix this, rather than cut the legs to the proper height, I'm planning on using a router to make a recess in the arm rest rail. I'll post more pictures when I get to that step



STEP 5: MEASURE AND CUT TOP RAIL

This step is tricky and very critical, so take your time and make sure you get it right. To get the correct width, take two 1x4x6 oak boards and clamp one to each of the longer table skirt edges. This is the tricky part. Because you want the overhang to be relatively the same on each side. I personally wanted the top rail to overhang the walls of the game vault just slightly (1/8 of an inch). You may decide you want a slight reveal, or you might want to construct a table top that sits inside of the arm rest (more like a geek chic table. If this is desired, I would suggest you leave 11/16" of the top vault wall edge exposed to make sure your top has enough support). In any case, you can make a measuring jig to help you out. To do this, take a scrap piece of wood with a flat edge and measure and mark your recess or reveal, whatever it may be. Draw a straight line across the wood. The screw another small piece onto the first at a 90 degree angle on the line. You should end up with something that looks like an "L" or "T" from the side. You can run the jig along the length of the rail and the vault wall to ensure you have the right reveal/recess. Clamp as you go and
"bump" the rails with your palm to get these as close to perfect as possible. Then, measure the INSIDE distance between both of the clamped rails with a measurement at each short end of the table. With me, I had a 1/16" variance from end to end. Instead of splitting the difference, I decided to go with the smaller measurement to leave a little more of a overhang on one end of the table, but you can do as you wish.



Once I had my measurement, I cut one of the 1x4x6 oak boards into two identical pieces of that length. Then, I dry fit the end rails into the other two rails. Some adjustments might be needed. Clamp the end rails you just cut into the correct places using the measuring jig. Make marks on the two long rails where they need to be cut (flush with the two end rails). Un-clamp all of the rails and cut the long rails to length using your chopsaw.




STEP 6: ASSEMBLE TOP RAIL

This step is where a pocket screw kit will save you a lot of time and effort. You could alternately use a number of other things to assemble the top rail including a biscuit joint or dowel joint, but a pocket screw jig is the easiest and quickest way, in my estimation. Assembly should be fairly self explanatory, but just make sure that the joints on the topside of the boards (the part that will be showing) is as flush as you can make it. For this, it helps to have a large and perfectly flat surface to work on such as a table saw table or even a sheet of spare plywood on some saw horses. Pocket screw jigs vary in their operation, but if you have a Kreg jig like me, using it is very simple. All you need to do is set the depth of the wood (in our case, 3/4") on the jig and the included drill bit, clamp one of the short boards to your flat working surface, and drill your holes. Once you have both ends drilled, apply some glue and attach the long boards by clamping both boards to the work surface and applying the wood screws (They should be 1 1/4" screws for 3/4" wood). Wipe any excess glue with a damp cloth and make sure that no glue is visible. Glue does not stain the same color as wood does, and it will stick out like a sore thumb. I'll let the pictures explain the rest, but the end result here is a "picture frame" with tight joints and a flush surface.





STEP 7: FINISH AND INSTALL TOP RAIL

Now that we have our completed top rail, give the whole thing a sanding first with 110 grit followed by 220. Clean all sanding dust off with a damp rag or tack cloth. Apply stain. As before, it is best to follow the instructions on the stain can. Once the appropriate amount of time has passed for drying, apply your topcoat. Wait the recommended amount of time to let the clear dry. Once the topcoat is dry, install the top rail and clamp it into position on the table. Using the screws that you removed from the skirt in step 1, attach the top rail (Only use these same screws if your railing is the same thickness as your tabletop).


STEP 8: ADD PLAYING SURFACE (OPTIONAL)

If you want to have a plain wood playing surface, you can skip to step 9.

After doing some research and pricing, I found that the method that provided the most durability for value was to use fabric. I seriously contemplated ordering a sheet of mouse pad material (neoprene), but decided it was too expensive in the long run. A trip to my local fabric warehouse lent me some great ideas. I ended up going with a micro-suede surface laminated onto an automotive headliner back. I think most combinations of foam/fabric will work, but I would recommend fabrics that are made to withstand repeated use. The headliner had a textured nylon surface on one side and a plain foam on the other. If you plan on using this method, (which in all cost me around $20) here's how to do it.

First, lay the backer (headliner) down on a hard and flat surface, such as a sheet of plywood. Next, lay the micro-suede (or other fabric) down on top of the backer so that it lays flat without any wrinkles. You could use a few clothespins, chip clips, or other clamping devices to hold the two fabrics together. Fold the micro-suede in half, leaving the other half in place on the backer. You should end up with something like this:




Now the tricky part. Spray a liberal amount of 3M super 77 spray adhesive onto the backer and the exposed underside of the micro-suede. Lay the micro-suede back onto the backer, taking care not to let the fabric stick to itself or "bubble" too much. Take a rolling pin and roll it along the micro-sude, smoothing any folds and imperfections. Keep in mind that if you touch any glue with the rolling pin that it will leave glue spots on wherever you roll it. Let this dry for the recommended amount of time, then do the same to the opposite side. When you are finished you should have a full sheet of micro-suede laminated onto a backing.

Now measure the inner part of your game vault and make a light pencil outline on the micro-suede. Optionally, if you are having a hard time measuring you could remove the game vault floor, flip the table upside down on top of the suede and trace the inner rails onto the fabric. Cutting is next. I used a SHARP utility knife and a stainless steel ruler, as such:



Make sure your fingers aren't in the way. I got careless here, and almost lost the tip of my thumb. Luckily, not a drop of blood ended up on the fabric, which was a small miracle. Anyhow, once you have SAFELY cut the fabric you can glue it to the bottom of your game vault using the spray adhesive. In my case, I wanted to have an interchangeable surface for different games (such as bare wood for dexterity games), so I just set the fabric into the table so I could remove it later if I wanted to.

NOTE: I also cut a sheet of white poly that i found at the hardware store to protect the fabric surface and have a surface that is nice and smooth for dexterity games.




STEP 9: CORNER BLOCKS

If your table has angled corners that aren't covered by the top rail like mine, then you'll have to make some small removable triangles to fill the spaces (removable to tighten the legs if necessary). By now, you should be familiar enough with the tools and techniques to tackle this. There are two pointers that I will share, however.

First, to measure these corner blocks easily, take some spare cardboard or cardstock that has a square edge and hold it tightly against the corner. Then fold the cardstock over the lip of the wall, leaving you with this:



Add or subtract your reveal to the fold line and mark a straight line. Cut along this line with some scissors. You now have a measuring template.

Second, to keep these corner blocks in place, I added little blocks of wood (stops) to the underside of each corner block. In retrospect, I would have just gone out and bought some hook and loop (velcro) with sticky back and attached them that way, removing (planing) some material off of each block to account for the added thickness of the velcro. If you like the sound of my first method better, here is how to do it. Take the small stop you are using (I used some leftover pine) and coat the top surface (the one that will attach to the underside of the corner block)with a very light layer of wood glue. Place the block into where it will rest (against the backside of the angled vault wall) glue side up.

Then press and hold the corner block into place tightly, and hold for about a minute. Remove the corner block carefully, and trace the outside of the stop. This will be the location of the stop. Pre-drill and screw these stops into place, and you should have a tight fitting corner block. If it is too tight, you can sand the contact surface of the stop until it fits snug, but is not too difficult to remove.

Now finish the corner blocks using the same methods you have used before, and you should be done except for one final step.


STEP 10: ADDING STOPS TO EXISTING TABLE TOP

The purpose of this step is to ensure that the table top that will cover the game vault does not move too much and that it does not fall off. To do this, flip your table top upside down on a flat surface, taking care not to damage it in any way. Trace the outline of your removable playing surface onto the underside (now facing up) of the tabletop, centering the outline. If you don't have a removable surface and have already glued it down, then measure the inner dimensions of the game vault and trace them on, centered. Measure in 1/8" + the thickness of your felt furniture pads (to make your outline smaller) and make marks around the entire outline, drawing a mark every 12" or so. Attach some scrap boards with wood screws of the proper length so they won't poke through the top side. One board on every side will do nicely. With my table, there were already boards on the underside of the top, so they just needed to be removed and cut down to size, but any board that is at least 1x1 will do. Apply some felt pads to the mating surface of the arm rail and the underside of the tabletop to the underside of the tabletop. Also apply a couple on the outside of each stop (the boards you just screwed to the tabletop). Applying the felt will ensure you do not damage the finish of the arm rail. Place the tabletop back on the table, allowing the stops to sit inside the game vault.


Stand back, and admire your hard work.
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Joseph Propati
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Interesting! Subscribed and hoping for a bunch of photos!!!

UPDATE: Truly a remarkable job! The table is beautiful and now practical! Plus the mark of a true craftsman is the fact that you can't even tell anything was changed on the table! A bam bam combo!
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james napoli
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awesome,

can i ask/recommend larger photos?

looking forward to more photos etc.
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James
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Joe Huff
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I was planning on doing the same thing with our dining room table. Thanks for the inspiration. Can't wait to see more pictures!
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Stuart Hemmings
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This makes me want to go to Good Will and get a beat up table and transform it
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zach dumais
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Quote:
awesome,

can i ask/recommend larger photos?

looking forward to more photos etc.
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James
Sure thing, James! This being the first time I've uploaded photos, I wasn't exactly sure how large to make them. Any recommendations on dimensions in inches? Thanks for the interest in my project!
 
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Darren
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Very interesting!

Make sure you add an image after finishing so I can use it in this thread: Game Table Design Series: Completed BGG Game Tables.
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zach dumais
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Quote:
Very interesting!

Make sure you add an image after finishing so I can use it in this thread: Game Table Design Series: Completed BGG Game Tables.
Sure thing, Darren!
 
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Darren
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darrenguyver wrote:
STEP 4: CUT AND ATTACH GAME VAULT "WALLS"
...
If you have the need to make angled corners like I did, It would be a good idea to make them removable so you can still get a tool in the corners to tighten the leg bolts if needed.
I gotta stress how important I think making the corners removable especially if your table is setup in this manner. You need to access those bolts/nuts to tighten them every once in a while.

My kitchen table has legs similar to this as they have a bolt sticking out that uses a removable nut to tighten the leg to the table. I use a wrench every so often to tighten the nut as the every day use of the table ends up loosening the nuts. Sometimes I find a nut sitting under the table having completely worked its way off the bolt. Easy to fix unless you can't access the bolt at which point you are in a lot of trouble and grief.

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Darren
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I forgot to mention you should make a new posting when you update the first posting as no one knows when you have added new images or a new section. Edits have no updates notices.
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zach dumais
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Kaiyoot wrote:
darrenguyver wrote:
STEP 4: CUT AND ATTACH GAME VAULT "WALLS"
...
If you have the need to make angled corners like I did, It would be a good idea to make them removable so you can still get a tool in the corners to tighten the leg bolts if needed.
I gotta stress how important I think making the corners removable especially if your table is setup in this manner. You need to access those bolts/nuts to tighten them every once in a while.

My kitchen table has legs similar to this as they have a bolt sticking out that uses a removable nut to tighten the leg to the table. I use a wrench every so often to tighten the nut as the every day use of the table ends up loosening the nuts. Sometimes I find a nut sitting under the table having completely worked its way off the bolt. Easy to fix unless you can't access the bolt at which point you are in a lot of trouble and grief.



Yes it is very important! I've edited my description accordingly.
 
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zach dumais
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Kaiyoot wrote:
I forgot to mention you should make a new posting when you update the first posting as no one knows when you have added new images or a new section. Edits have no updates notices.

Ahh ok. Thanks again for your helpful suggestions, Darren. Still getting used to this whole thing. Thanks for sticking with me!
 
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zach dumais
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UPDATE: STEP 6 FINISHED WITH ADDITIONAL PICTURES
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John Breckenridge
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The title of this thread keeps making me picture a hypothetical sketch by Conan's propmaster Bill Tull:

"Take a dining table, play a game on it - Boom! Gaming table."


(No criticism of the original concept intended; your table looks great.)
 
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zach dumais
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Almost Done! Added steps 7-9 and updated photos.
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zach dumais
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UPDATE: ADDED STEP 10...ALL DONE! Finished photos are up! Thanks everyone!
 
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Darren
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darrenguyver wrote:
UPDATE: ADDED STEP 10...ALL DONE! Finished photos are up! Thanks everyone!
Great job! I just added it to my thread: Game Table Design Series: Completed BGG Game Tables
 
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Derry Salewski
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I have never understood wanting a recessed table, but if I ever wanted to turn a perfectly good flat table into one, I hope to do it with your skill and creativity!
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zach dumais
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scifiantihero wrote:
I have never understood wanting a recessed table, but if I ever wanted to turn a perfectly good flat table into one, I hope to do it with your skill and creativity!

Well, to me the appeal was being able to play dexterity games without losing the pieces all the time. Also, it will catch any pesky dice that decide they want to take a trip to the floor. Not only that, but having no fingernails like me means that picking up a card from a flat and hard surface is like work. Not so with enough padding! I can't describe the feeling of picking up a card on the first attempt every time. Wonderful. And thank you for the kind remarks, Derry.
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Tiffany Brown
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This is an awesome idea that would cost significantly less than buying a gaming table...especially if you can find a table on Craigslist to repurpose. I'd be down to attempt this in the near future!! Thanks for the info!
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Stephan Reese
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Truly beautiful work.
 
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zach dumais
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Honestly I hadn't even considered it. I'm only an amateur woodworker at best, but I'm flattered that you think I could make a living doing it. Maybe I could. The only problem is that I live in Maine - not too many gamers here. Thanks again!
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Ryan Barber
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This is awesome. Exactly what I am planning to do. I have the same style table, just a little smaller. I just read thru everything carefully. One question - why not make the corner bolts accessible to tighten from the bottom? Then you could permanently place the corner pieces on. If I'm thinking correctly, you could make corner openings of your vault floor a little bigger and this would work? (Fyi - I'm not criticizing. You did an amazing job. I'm just asking if this would have worked, cause I'm considering it.)
 
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My guess is because that this design doesn't leave much room to get a hex wrench in from underneath, especially when reaching the top bolt. The short leg of the wrench has to fit between the bolt and the triangle-shaped corner piece, plus leave room to back the bolt off completely if you want to remove the legs. That's quite a bit of tabletop real estate to give up.

Also, even if there was enough room, the hex wrench would only move 1/10 or 1/12 of a turn before hitting the side rails. If you've ever S-L-O-W-L-Y backed off a nut or bolt that way, you never want to do it again, much less eight times total. Don't ask me how I know.
 
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Ryan Barber
United States
Arizona
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Ok. I finally finished my project based off your plans. Thanks again. Here's a link to the post:

Dining table turned removable top gaming/dining table
 
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