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Brett Szudy
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So I went into this project with the goal of making a game table on the cheap compared to the 6k-10k table I was basing my design on, but still willing to put in money where necessary (I wish I had splurged more on oak, but I digress), and the expectation that this being my first major project, there was bound to be mistakes here and there. I had concrete plans going in, but a willingness to change on the fly if something wasn't working as planned. How did it turn out? Scroll down to see.

I wanted a 3' wide playing surface for various reasons; that would fit both standard Heroclix maps as well as XWing playspaces. The lengthwise size I was torn on. I was getting a 4'x8' piece of pre-sanded plywood. Because my rail width was going to be 6" boards or nominal 5.5", that was going to take up 11" of space in both dimensions. I didn't want it to be too long just for basement considerations. I landed on 64" playing space and 75" length on the plywood.

I wanted a vault as close to the 2.5" vault that GeekChic seems to use. Therefore, I bought 4" boards with a nominal width of 3.5" for that reason (I'm not fit to cut length boards with a table saw, nor do I have one). I also wanted built in cupholders on all 4 corners.

Here is the start, with the 2 long rails screwed and glued in place. We went down through the top of the playing surface so that the screw head would keep it in place. And then the plan was to fill in the holes on top. We were going to just form the playing box here, but because I wanted to make 2 drawer tops at either end, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the inside long board all the way down to the edge of the outside rail.



Next I put an edge veneer on the plywood. I wanted this next because I wanted to be able to attach the up and down edge boards flush with this and minimize sanding. Possibly it would have been better if I did the boards tight against the inner rails so there was less of a gap there, but this way worked out ok.




Then I cut and dry fit all my outlying boards. The 2 boxes at each end are for drawers/cubbys. The box at the center of each long board is for another cubby or dice tray. The 2 open areas along each long board were meant to be fold down player spaces, but as you will see, that changed. The 4 corners were meant to not be movable and contain holes for cupholders. At the corners I made 45 degree cuts and sanded the edge down with plans to putty the connection.



Then I started to glue and clamp. I did one end at a time, clamping down the end board to the plywood and against the long rails attached with pipe clamps, as well as some spacer boards and the inset box separators. I used scrap boards under the clamps to not dent the softer pine wood.



Then I glued and clamped the side outside boards.



I cut holes for the cupholders using a drill and a 4" hole saw. This was my favorite efficiency part of the process. It was way easier this way than using a jigsaw or something manual.



Gluing and clamping those pieces down.




Damn, starting to look like a real table!




More to come....
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Brett Szudy
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Re: My gaming table - with as much detail as I can remember
Next up was doing some of the base




This is a simple box with 2 crossbeams and finished boards layed across (and one spacer board in the middle to make up the gap). This got built one board size inside the frame on the underside of the table shown here. The idea being the legs would be on the outside of the bottom base/shelf and the inside of the underside frame.



Onto the drawer and inserts. I glued some rails to the boards, lengthwise for the box tops, and on the short side for the open space pullouts.



So I had the idea of putting magnets into the pull downs, in the rails and then a matching set in the table to latch the board into place. At first used a larger diameter, small depth magnet which was a mistake. I changed to a small diameter high depth magnet with the same pull power but a lower footprint. The bigger magnet left too big a hole and looked unsightly, so I patched over with some spackle.





The smaller magnets didn't look as bad, and my friend suggested I leave them as is so I did.



So at this point I had to make my tough choice. My plan had been to cut small blocks to prop up the rail board on the open spaces, then cut those boards crosswise but at an angle, and attach those pieces with a hinge to form a fold down station. I started trying out some prototypes and was really having trouble getting it to form out right. It was hard to get the block at the proper height (because cutting the angle shaved some off the height). And then also hard to get that cut at exactly half the height of the block, and then chisel out the spots for the hinges.....so, in the end I just abandoned the idea.

So my new idea - attach a side piece to the front of the former drop down piece. Then the thing just becomes a detachable pull out to open an individual gaming space behind the wall. Here is a picture of it being glued into a 'L' shape, in place in the table to make sure I got the edges flush.



Time to make some touches. I used this bit



to route out a divot in the cupholder hole to make it flush.



I also used weather stripping around the topmost part of the lip of the holder. Then I could squeeze and twist it in place in the table and it would stay put without rattling in the opening.


On a side but related note, I took some time around this point to stain a natural bench I had.



As well as to build a lazy susan for some card gaming.



And my kids said "screw you dad, we never see you anymore"



Onto the last phase, sanding and finishing.
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Brett Szudy
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Re: My gaming table - with as much detail as I can remember
Staining the underside of the table.



And the top.



And the base.



And the pullouts.



I used Varathane Red Oak. It turned out real nice and was a good color. Early on I let some portions sit with the stain too long, so it looks darker than others. Probably one of those things that only I notice now.

Not pictured: lots of sanding. I hit the table top and horizontal boards on top pretty hard to make it smooth but used a 220 grit so as not to go through it too fast. I wish I had done the sides better & with more attention because after staining I got artifacts like this, that I couldn't see before that (only really noticable close up).





Also not pictured: lots of layers of polyurethane. I believe I used around 5 coats on everything visible on top, 2 coats on the underside and 4 coats on the base and legs. Somehow the base and legs ended up with the best finish, very smooth with little post coat sanding needed. I don't know if that's because the wood was different, or because I was doing that outside in the garage and it dried differently. The top still ended up nice but needed more elbow grease.

There were a few artifact smears on the play surface. These went away (mostly) after the last step I did, which was a 0000 steel wool and paste wax rub-out.




Now the fun part: putting it all together!



Kids for scale



Right side up with everything pulled out.



Right side up with parts in place.



Our first game on the table.



UPDATE

I finally got around to getting a neoprene layer and cutting it to fit the table. Other people have been using Foamorder; I went with Mood Fabrics, it was about $30 cheaper including shipping. I got a 2.5 mm thick sheet, dual sided "bourdeaux and breen":



I haven't played on it yet, but so far I'm jazzed about it. It looks really slick and I expect it will make it immensely easier to play card games. It became *very* tough to pull one card off the wooden playing surface because it was so smooth. I plan to roll it back for dice games because I like the original wood for that.

It was a little bit hard to cut; not difficulty wise but on the precision side. I used a utility knife to make the long cuts smooth. But then, once trying to get the opposite side done to fit the exact span of the table, I didn't want to cut it too short to leave any visible gap. But I also knew that to cut a very thin edge of it off (to shave it down in case I cut it too long) was very tricky. It tended to pull away instead of slice because it is so malleable.

I used the non-precise method of sticking my finger down at the edge to mark where I wanted the cut, then measured to verify. I did make a couple mistakes on the side of too much, which made it bunch up at the edges. To fix I actually put the sheet in a clamp between a board and a straight edge. Then I ran a knife down that but it still didn't work great. I had to tidy up with a carefully use of sewing scissors.


Final thoughts


I really like having the underside with the shelf for both stability and storage space. The table hardly moves once locked in place. I was considering doing some sort of X cross beam from opposite legs that the shelf would sit on, but this was much easier.

I haven't made mention of it yet, but the rails that formed the edges of the vault playing surface were 1.5" thick. This was so that the top boards would be offset and leave a .5" ledge around the entire surface. Then I will have leaves going across to sit on the ledge to make a continuous top with playing surface hidden underneath. I plan to have these done at a later time.

Inside the small side boxes, I glued rails about 1" down. This I did in order to later put a small board on top, and this will be a place for dice storage and rolling (high enough to be seen by the other players, and not interfering with the play below). This too is to be finished later.

One last thing for the future is an insert of a thin wood wrapped by a felt, or a neoprene layer over the playing surface. Right now, it is a little bit hard to pick up cards off the surface.

I had some real but not crippling regrets. One was, as mentioned above, not using oak for the wood. I should have splurged at the start, but I was afraid with my non-expertise that I would be wasting it. The other is not finding a way to make the drop downs with hinges work plausibly. I could have done so but the time outlay was already wearing on me. (I'm not against taking time later to work this idea out for real to alter the existing table, when and if I get the chance). The funniest/saddest part was one weekend when I thought I would basically be done -- and then wasn't fully done until 3 full weekends later due to underestimating the finishing time required.

Much thanks to my friends Tony and Adam for tools, time and expertise.
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Mike Cooper
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Mike Cooper
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Brett Szudy
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Ha! I will probably post my own, "why didn't you do X?" post.
 
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truth 999
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This is very cool and could be one of the biggest influences on the table I'm currently designing.

How do you find this for leg room? By eye, it looks like that might be an issue. My wife is pushing for under-table storage on a prospective table, and this looks like a solid design in that regard.
 
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Tony Maravola
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As the Tony who helped him build it, the legroom is good. We modeled the underside after my table's design which was modeled after Bum Kim's $150 Game Table. At first, I didn't know if the 9 inch offset from the edge would be enough. But because the legs sit 9 inches in and the shelf is another 4 in from that, it works very well. We do occasionally kick games that are stored underneath, but not enough that its a problem.

The only minor issue is that it sits a bit too tall because we didn't factor in the vault height into the design. My table doesn't have a vault, so the surface is at a perfect height, so we went with that measurement when we built his. I think we're going to end up taking 2-3 inches off of the legs, but it shouldn't affect the comfort under the table.
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Looks pretty sweet! Why not get one of those play mats to fit inside?

I wish i had the skills to make something like this. On a side note, im not sure why everyone who builds a table includes cup holders... Thats just allowing people to drink around your games and potentially ruin them. I prefer to tell friends "no drinks or food arou d my games!"

No seriously... Im fortunate that the people in my regular gaming group are pretty considerate. Its when i tale games to public meetups that we sometimes game with those who dont seem to care much.
 
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Tony Maravola
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shooshoo wrote:
I wish i had the skills to make something like this.


That didn't stop us! Seriously, my table was my first woodworking project ever. This one was my second. Now I've caught the bug. I have since built my own dice tower (that is pretty sweet, if I do say so myself). Now, I have a host of projects lined up, because I discovered that it's not hard to learn!
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Brett Szudy
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shooshoo wrote:
Looks pretty sweet! Why not get one of those play mats to fit inside?



You mean.....like......THIS?!?



shooshoo wrote:
I wish i had the skills to make something like this. On a side note, im not sure why everyone who builds a table includes cup holders... Thats just allowing people to drink around your games and potentially ruin them. I prefer to tell friends "no drinks or food arou d my games!"


I'm a realist. Playing games for 4+ hours means people need to be drinking. I'd rather put some holders in (and keep them away from the surface) than have nowhere to put them and make people think about putting them on the table. Plus I didn't think I was good enough/it was worthwhile to try to install slide out holders under the vault.

Incidentally, I also put weather stripping around the lip of the cupholders I bought, so with a twist, those things fit snug into place without rattling around at all.
 
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Brett Szudy
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I've updated posts with some more detail in some cases and a new addition in others.
 
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Brett Szudy
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Update --Some other things I have added since the neoprene layer.

I put in boards on rails underneath the middle covers for dice trays and rolling spaces.


I built a wing shelf that fits on either end of the table. I got the idea from another table I kickstarted. I liked the idea because I really didn't need a full set of leaves to cover the vault, since it's not used for dining or anything else. But I do work at it occasionally with my laptop, and there was nowhere to rest it before. It is also useful for a place to put boxes or instructions out of the play area.



I also reworked the legs. This was originally to make the height at a better level for resting arms. I had to work longer than I wanted or expected on the stability. I originally put the legs not flush to the table rim on the underside. This made it more wobbly than the previous legs. Moving them back and making the shelf more level fixed that.


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Tabletop Obsession
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In many gaming circles, it's "No drinking, then count me out." Gaming is a social activity, as is drinking. Doesn't mean everyone has to drink alcohol, just those who want to. Sometimes boozing it up can ruin a strategy game, but in most cases, especially with party games, everyone has fun if they don't take it too seriously.

If people can drink and play poker for 5 hours straight, risking their own money, I think they can handle other games that involve some strategy and figuring out odds.
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Brandon Gilmore
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Quick question in regards to the insert? How do you remove it to get to the wood surface? Looking at making at table myself and curious about that part as the wood looks awesome but also want the felt/speed cloth surface for cards. Loop around an edge or hole underneath the surface or suction cup or just pinch or pry it up with something and go?
 
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Brett Szudy
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BigRedGamer wrote:
Quick question in regards to the insert? How do you remove it to get to the wood surface? Looking at making at table myself and curious about that part as the wood looks awesome but also want the felt/speed cloth surface for cards. Loop around an edge or hole underneath the surface or suction cup or just pinch or pry it up with something and go?


The red neoprene is simple easy to pick up -- I just roll it up from one end to the other into a tube. It's not attached in any way and it's not super heavy, so I can just grab a corner.
 
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William Springer
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How much did it end up costing for all the materials? Hoping to do something like this when I have a place to put it.
 
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