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Subject: Our New Child! Or How To Spend A Year Making A Gaming Table! rss

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Zach Prater
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Hilliard
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What started off as a funny idea between friends turned into a year long project that ate up plenty of Mrs Arch City and I's money and time. But now that's it done, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Our gaming group The El Sleezo Cuties have always admired the Geek Chic tables we've seen at conventions and on Tabletop. They are incredible pieces of art and function that are WAY out of price range. Especially the wait time which can easily stretch to a year and a half. I always thought you could do it yourself with enough tools and gumption, darn it, that'd it be worth the time and money you put into it. Except I had no tools. Gumption was in short supply. But I had one thing going for me:



"My old man is a television repairman, he's got this ultimate set of tools."

Well, he's not a television repairman, but he does have an ultimate set of tools. Ever since my step-mother and him moved to the country, he's got a barn to place all of his woodworking tools that he's purchased or inherited from his father. Other than making boxes to hold the ashes of passed pets or a few large frames for prints I used to make as a photographer, my Dad hadn't done a ton of woodworking in the last few years. I wasn't even sure he would be interested in an undertaking like this. It would require a ton of time and the cost wouldn't be cheap, because we wanted this table to be our gaming table but would also need to be our dining table for the majority of the time.

We brought the idea to Dad at our Christmas gathering in 2014. We started laying out the idea of how big the table would need to be. Our gaming group can be anywhere between 4-8 people strong, so we wanted an 8 person table that would allow everyone to sit comfortably. We average 6 people for D&D so we decided to have at least 6 drawers, 2 for each long side and 1 for each end (we originally thought maybe 8 drawers but we couldn't figure out a way to do it properly the way we wanted). My Dad doesn't have a lathe so we knew we'd have to order the legs ourselves, which I think we were more than happy to do as I don't think any of us had the patience to learn a skill like that. We had many thoughts on what playing surface we would have for the gaming portion of the table: my dad suggested speed felt like on a pool table, we looked at some velvet. It would be a while before we found the best one for us.

So we brought our hopes and dreams for this table to my Dad and basically just said: you wanna get in on this and let it take over a lot of your personal time for the next 6 months? Heh, 6 months.

HE SAID YES!

Wait, he said yes?! Oh shit, what have we done? To say my Dad and I can be a bit combative is...well, an understatement. But hey, what Dad and son aren't? We both decided to take this opportunity to truly have an experience that would be a first for us, something he had done with his father when he was my age.

We knew we weren't going to really start any woodworking until Winter was over. We used that time to finalize the design (heh, finalize the design) and order the wood and any other items we'd need. We had a max budget of about $1500 (yes, that's a lot and if you're part of the forum of custom made tables on BGG, people spend a lot less for nice tables). We decided to spend a decent amount because we basically plan on making this a centerpiece of our dining room for a long, long time. Which is where we took Dad's first great idea to use quarter sawn oak as the main wood in the table.

Let's be clear, I have no experience in carpentry at all. I think I made a bad bird house in middle school. There will be almost no technical jargon in this post. I just don't have the knowledge or terminology. I'll be more than happy to pass any questions along to my Dad and post an update, but it won't be me.

Back to it, after we had chosen quarter sawn oak, we had to figure out whether to stain or not. I love the look of natural oak, but we had always imagined a bit of a different look to our table. The Mrs had liked the look of the red material that Wil Wheaton used on the Tabletop table, so we thought a bit of reddish tint to our table would be a nice compliment to it. We ended up choosing Minwax Red Oak 215 and it really turned out spot on. My Dad uses Muterspaw https://crlumber.com/ in Xenia, OH for our lumber (we're located in Columbus, about an hour and change from Xenia), so he had that covered. We used http://tablelegs.com to order the legs, I just had them shipped to my Dad to hold on to. They were a pretty great site, offering good prices on legs that you didn't have to order in sets. They also presanded them for you, which I thought was a great value. I also figured that meant sanding on them would be minimal. Heh.



As you can see, the wood is just gorgeous.



We also had our plywood that would become the removable top for the table. We decided on a breadboard design that would keep it very sturdy but easy to remove (except for the weight).



Our first order of business was to cut the apron pieces. My Dad and I had found some amazing QS pieces at the lumber yard that we knew after sanding, sealing, staining and finishing were gonna turn out terrific.



My dad did most of the work of putting the aprons together. Once assembled, the Mrs and I set to fine sanding, sealing and staining the apron pieces. But while dad worked on assembly, we spent many...MANY MANY...hours working on the five legs.





We had decided on 5 legs because we knew this was going to be a heavy table and adding the 5th leg in the center gave us some much needed support. Remember how I said I thought a leg being presanded meant little work? Yeah, that was fun to learn the hard way because we spent about 15 hours total on the 5 legs between sanding, sealing, staining and putting poly on them.




My Dad made us a little set up so we could really assembly line the poly process for the legs. They ended up with I believe 7 coats of poly by the end of the construction. The apron also received the same amount of poly.



The assembled apron and base after staining.




For the drawers, we wanted something that could be used for storage or for someplace for our friends to put their tablets or sets of dice for when we play D&D. Dad came up with the lids for the drawers so it could be both.




Dad found a nice set of drawer slides that worked really well with the extension we wanted. He did have to use some Ash boards to help with the base so they were easier to attach to the sides.





The next big step was the arm rest/railing/whatever you want to call it. We decided that we weren't going to do a deep vault as we had no plans for war gaming or any need to keep games under the top for long periods of time. We wanted something that would be comfortable to rest your arms on while playing cards/board games/D&D.



After assembling the railing and applying lots of coats of poly, we were nearing the end of construction on the table.



Early on, we figured it would be a good idea to put a pad underneath our material. We found a company that would sell us a big sheet of neoprene pad that was 1/16th of an inch thick. Not very noticeable but would give just enough to allow you to pick up cards easily without them bending.



We used a spray adhesive to glue the pad down and with a healthy coating, it worked very well. Next, we were getting ready to wrap the board and pad with the bella velvet. I have to thank user Luckroy for his help on the material:

luckroy wrote:
I converted an extra ikea coffee table top into a gaming surface that sits right on our coffee table. The original version used "premium felt" from Joann but pilled after just a couple of sessions.

The surface on the Geek Chic tables featured on Tabletop were appealing and after some Sherlocking, I discovered that the fabric was readily available. Search "bella velvet fabric" and you'll find plenty of online fabric shops selling it. We've been using it for several months now and are very happy with the results.

FWIW, the biggest takeaway is the use of upholstery fabric. They're meant to be durable, which should be at or near the top of the list for any gaming surface.



We found a really nice almost Burgundy color for our material.



It was when the fabric was draped and we had taken a break that I realized a small problem. I put a temp piece of the railing on the edge and realized we never factored in the thickness of the velvet and pad and the overhang would show and create a ledge of sorts that would show. So we came up with a quick fix.



We then stapled the fabric around the edges and drilled screws through the bottom of the board into the rest to attach the railing and the playing surface together. We had used tabletop fasteners on the inside of the apron to attach the playing surface/railing to the base. So it was now a solid table. The night we got everything attached was kind of a crazy time.



Last, but certainly not least was the top.



My Dad worked on the assembly of the top pretty much solo. And he did an incredible job. The first time we set it down on top of the table (which he hadn't done yet), it fit so snug in a good way. He thought it was going to have a bit more leeway to move around but it just sits perfectly on top of it.





And then three days after Christmas, we welcomed our new child into our home. We had made the legs removable, which was a must because we knew getting the table into our apartment would be a struggle without the legs. Luckily we had Dad and "Uncle" Jerry to help us get it in (Jerry's helped us move a few times, he says this was the last time he moves anything for us. It's why we pay him in gas money and pizza.) And after re-attaching the legs and getting it in it's proper place, we were done. Almost a year to the day from the initial idea.





Again, any technical questions can go in the comments and I'll pass them on to my Dad. I really was just a grunt most of the time when it came to this, he has all the technical know how. There's no way we'd have been able to do this the way we wanted to without him. I think one of the best things to come out of it is the renewed interest my Dad now has in wood working again. He's already got a few projects coming up he'll be spending the Spring working on. We also have a few projects we may get to towards the end of the year: a coffee table and some dice towers.
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Darren
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That looks fantastic! Any chance you could give us an image with the top removed in your house?
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Lance G
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Wow, that looks awesome!
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Christopher Richter
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Looks good Zach. Wish I was up north to play games with you all.
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Joe Kundlak
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Oh well... how I wish I had a workshop space somewhere around here and all the necessary tools... My dad has a large garage, true, and he is a hobbyist as well (that I luckily inherited from him mostly), so who knows what future will bring?
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Garth van Doorn
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Two words: Spec. Tacular.

This is probably the best DIY I've seen.
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Ringo Stalin
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Arch City Zach wrote:
Our gaming group The El Sleezo Cuties


Just don't shoot the piano player.

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Narfi Jónsson
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This is amazing, great work!
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Zach Prater
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Kaiyoot wrote:
That looks fantastic! Any chance you could give us an image with the top removed in your house?


Yeah, I'll try to get a pic up tonight or tomorrow. We're having our first D&D session on Sunday so I'll probably post some of those as well.
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Todd B
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Your new table looks awesome, I'm very jealous. Maybe I missed this in your original post, but how much did you actually end up spending on the finished table out of your $1500 budget?
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Dave Dodson
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That's beautiful. Your dad really knows what he's doing!

How does the table top fit over the gaming surface? Is there anything holding it in place?

Thanks.
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Zach Prater
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Kaiyoot wrote:
That looks fantastic! Any chance you could give us an image with the top removed in your house?






Livewire6 wrote:
Your new table looks awesome, I'm very jealous. Maybe I missed this in your original post, but how much did you actually end up spending on the finished table out of your $1500 budget?


The wood cost about $600 after planing and cutting.
We had to pick up a new bit to cut the angle we wanted for the railing and another plywood piece, which was about $100.
The legs we ordered were between $250-300.
Stains, poly, bronze wool (we used bronze wool since the poly was water based) was about $50-60.
Other bits and bobs (table fasteners, discs for the legs feet so they'd slide a bit more) were about $30.
Slides for the table drawers and the handles were about $150.
We bought 6 new chairs for the table so they'd be a closer match: $250.

So we were pretty much right at our $1500 budget in the end.

DaveNewcastle wrote:
That's beautiful. Your dad really knows what he's doing!

How does the table top fit over the gaming surface? Is there anything holding it in place?

Thanks.




So there's a lip around the table top that slides right over the arm rest. We covered that area of the top with the same material we used for the playing surface to not scuff it. It really does fit perfectly, almost no wiggle room but easy to lift off.
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Jiri "Sleepy"
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You did incredible piece of work. That table looks fantastic.
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Candace Mercer
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What a great story. There was a lot of love in it!
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Lance G
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It's confirmed, I am in Awe!
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Dave Dodson
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Awesome, thanks. I'm hoping to make my own table sometime soon and seeing how others are put together is very helpful. Especially when they look as good as this one!
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Mike Forrey
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Now people have a better understanding of why custom built tables cost so much.

Our family going back at least 12 generations has been doing custom millwork and there is nothing more exciting than seeing such a fine hand crafted piece of furniture put together. That table looks beautiful and you should all be proud of the work you put into it.
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Meat Popsicle
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thumbsup for the table, obviously, but also for the still and quote from Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Makes me want to watch it again.
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Zach Prater
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bearn wrote:
Now people have a better understanding of why custom built tables cost so much.

Our family going back at least 12 generations has been doing custom millwork and there is nothing more exciting than seeing such a fine hand crafted piece of furniture put together. That table looks beautiful and you should all be proud of the work you put into it.


Yeah, there's absolutely nothing wrong with the quick $200-500 tables that you can put together. It was something we actually considered. But we really wanted a centerpiece for our dining room and we knew we were moving to a house in a year or two's time, so we went big. Ended up working out very well for us.
 
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Anthony Gambatese
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Awesome !!!!
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Brad Brilliant
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Table looks great. Can you give me the name of the company you bought the neoprene pad from. And a quick question: Is the 1/16 pad working well now that you've had some time playing on it?
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Zach Prater
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EasyZ wrote:
Table looks great. Can you give me the name of the company you bought the neoprene pad from. And a quick question: Is the 1/16 pad working well now that you've had some time playing on it?


http://www.thefoamfactory.com/closedcellfoam/neoprene.html

And the pad works wonderfully, you can feel the give if you push down on the surface but otherwise you don't notice it. Your dice may bounce a bit higher since there's some give but man, it really did make a difference.

The one issue (and it's not really an issue) we came across after having the table now for about six months is up keep on the surface. And by up keep, I mean cat hair. We have 2 cats, one short hair and one long hair. We never leave the top off if we're done with the table and they are NEVER allowed on it, but hair does seem to congregate there after a while. But luckily, the very nice vacuum I bought my wife many moons ago came with two very good hose attachments that can really do the job well. About once every two months we give it a once over and we're golden. We're probably due to oil up the wood soon, so I'll update again on that process.
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Jimmy Hensel
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Awesome table!

Love the detailed post/saga with all the great photos.
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Adastra
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That is one absolutely amazing table!

How heavy is the lid to lift off? It looks very heavy
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Zach Prater
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raevynn wrote:
That is one absolutely amazing table!

How heavy is the lid to lift off? It looks very heavy


I don't have an actual weight, but it does require two people to lift it.
 
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