Chris G.
Germany
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Hey there!

Even though I do like to play board games, I actually rarely got to play them until last year. One of the reasons for this was the lack of a useable play area. The dining table was fine for playing, but it was in use for other stuff most times of the day, so it had been impossible to play anything that took longer than an hour or two. While we had a guest room that was virtually vacant all of the time, it only contained a tiny table which was way too small to play on. So we usually played bigger board games on the floor, which obviously wasn't a top notch solution.

So in January 2016 I finally decided I needed a bigger table for that room and began checking out the local furniture stores. The stuff I found there wasn't actually too exciting though, because it was either too big, too small, too pricey or the color just didn't fit the room. The only decent table I found was around 400€, but even that one was pretty large and would barely fit the room, while also being very dark. So in the end I decided against buying it and instead began planning to build a table on my own.

Three to four months later, the project had already come a long way as the table was basically finished. Only a few minor details still had to be worked on, but I finally had a nice surface to play my games on.
Since I enjoyed checking out the other tables that fellow geeks have built to get some ideas to use for my own design, I felt I should also write about how I built my table and share some knowledge I gained while going through the process of building it. Please note that I'm not an experienced woodworker though and this actually was my first woodworking project ever, so most of this might possibly seem obvious to people. Also feel free to skip over all my lengthy writing and just check out the photos or whatever piques your interest.

So first of all these are the measurements of the table: (I'm using the metric system, because that's what I'm used to)

Length: 160cm (vault) - 180cm (overall) - 200cm (fold-out shelves out)
Width: 90cm (vault) - 110cm (overall) - 130cm (fold-out shelves out)
Height: 79,8cm (total) - 60cm (leg clearance)

This was about the maximum size of a table I was happy with. I'd have loved to add another 10cm of width, but then it wouldn't really fit the room anymore. (it would fit of course, but there would be too little clearance to comfortably walk past the table with people sitting around it.)

As for materials this was what I bought and used:

2 sheets of 18mm birch plywood (those sheets were around 2500mm x 1250mm x 18mm in size each)
1/4 sheet of 21mm plywood (I luckily didn't have to buy the whole sheet)
12 brass hinges (for the fold-out shelves)
6 stainless steel poker cup holders
1 microfiber cloth (1450mm x 2000mm, later cut to size)
1 carpet stop fleece (1200mm x 1800mm, later cut to size)
1 can of spray adhesive (this stuff was expensive and turned out to be a total failure)
1 can of wood glue
a large amount of screws
even more wooden dowels
quite a few sheets of sanding paper of varying grits (mostly 60, 120, 180 and 240. Though I also used some higher grit paper)
1,5 liters of hard-oil (furniture oil)

Tools I used:

dowel centering tips (for relatively accurate dowel connections)
drill (I pre drilled every single hole just in case) with a depth-stop (for dowel holes)
cordless screwdriver (for fastening screws)
hammer (I used a nail to mark where I needed to drill holes)
rubber hammer (to get the dowels into the wood)
sanding block (though I do own several sanders, I decided to do things manually)
saw (mainly to get the dowels to the right size)
staple gun (to mount the microfiber cloth to the table)

Thing I had done for me:

I don't own a table saw and I didn't feel like buying one and having it take up space while just collecting dust later on, so I went to a local carpenter and asked them to cut the wood for me.
They also routed the holes for the cup holders while we were at it. Finally I got some help with cutting out the parts where the hinges would go later, since this turned out to be harder than I expected it to be.

Then I could finally start building the table, which turned out to be a lot more work than it seemed to be at first. At almost every single step some kind of problem arose, so I thought I should write those down, so hopefully people who read this don't run into the same problems I did.

Problems that came up during construction:

Pencil marks:

While cutting the wood, the carpenter marked all the cut pieces with a pencil according to the design I had given them. Unfortunately l had lots of trouble getting rid of these pencil marks later on. At first I tried using a regular soft eraser, which somewhat worked, but still left a visible mark on the wood. So I browsed the web and looked for alternatives. I then bought a bottle of denatured alcohol and tried cleaning the wood with that. This also somewhat worked, but it would still leave behind a visible mark, while also somewhat bleaching the wood in the area it was used on.
So I went and bought a can of acetone, which ultimately didn't work any better than the denatured alcohol while being more expensive. Sanding the wood was not really an option to me, since I would have had to sand of quite a bit of wood to actually get rid of the marks, so in the end I used a combination of denatured alcohol and a soft eraser to clean the wood to the best of my ability. The pencil marks I added myself to mark where to cut the wood for the hinges were actually a lot easier to erase. Probably because I didn't use a lot of pressure when applying them.
So the only advise I can give here is to be careful when marking the wood with a pencil. Do it lightly and preferably only mark areas that will not be visible later on. Unfortunately the carpenter messed up on that part quite a few times, so I had to go through a lot of work to get rid of the marks the best I could.

Oiling the wood:

For the first two coats I didn't use any kind of gloves and got the oil all over my hands. This turned out to be a problem, because it was not easy to get rid of later and I actually left stains on door handles and other stuff I touched, which I had to carefully clean later. (again, lots of extra work).
For the third coat I used gloves, but the problem with that was, that I didn't quite notice when excess oil got onto the glove on my left hand (I'm right handed) and in the end had quite a few oil stains on the parts of the wood that I was holding with my left hand.
In the end I switched to a glove on the right hand and no glove on the left hand which worked out best for me.
Once I was done with the oiling and actually wanted to start with the screwing and gluing part another problem came up. When I went to the hardware store to buy some screws, a friendly employee informed me that the wood should be glued before being oiled, because wood glue will not work well on an oiled surface. I wish the guy had told me that before, when he recommended to use hard oil instead of varnish to finish the wood.

Wrong measurements:

Double check all of your measurements to make sure everything is the correct size. Also never blindly trust manufacturer details. This might seem really obvious, but I actually got into lots of trouble because of this. In my case I measured every piece of wood quite a few times and went over calculations at least ten times just to be sure everything fitted perfectly. What I didn't pay close enough attention to though, were the metal parts I had ordered. I just assumed that a 20mm metal hinge would be 20mm wide and that a 90 degree bracket would actually be rectangular. Well unfortunately that was not the case at all. While the metal plate part of the hinges was pretty close to 20mm in width for most of the hinges, the overall width was almost always around 22 to 24mm. This was quite a problem, because the wood that I wanted to mount them on was just 21mm wide. So in the end I had to sand the pieces that would go next to the hinges, so that everything would still fit.
The problem with the metal brackets that were supposed to give the table connections some additional support was even worse. I looked at the brackets and they did seem rectangular, but once I had screwed them to the wood, I just could not get things flush. After taking a closer look, it became apparent, that the angle of the brackets was less than 90 degrees, so if I screwed them tightly to the wood, things could not work out. In the end I did not use the brackets, but instead just relied on the wood glue to do the work without additional support.
Also later on when I started to assemble the corners of the table, I realized that some parts didn't quite fit as they were supposed to and had to be sanded down further. This was not too much of a problem, but sure took a lot of time to do.
the hinge is too wide in the center...

...so the neighboring pieces needed to be sanded accordingly.

Getting the dowel connections right:

Well first of all, if you don't mind visible screws on your table of like the look of visible dowel connections, by all means go down that route, because it's so much easier to get these connections aligned perfectly. Also if you want to stain your table, using wood putty to hide any screws would probably be a viable option. Unfortunately for the light color of my birch wood, I couldn't get a result that I liked by using wood putty, so I decided against just screwing things together and instead went for invisible dowel connections.
Drilling straight holes on one side of the wood wasn't too hard, but accurately marking the spot where I had to drill on the other piece of wood was not quite that easy. There were many solutions for this on the web though. I decided to get a bunch of dowel centering tips.. These worked out pretty well, though in the end I still had some trouble with a few holes that didn't align perfectly.
This was especially problematic for the hinge parts, because somehow almost all of them aligned pretty poorly, which lead to the problem that now the fold out shelves were about 2mm wider than expected and all neighboring parts had to be sanded down accordingly. This also lead to a few gaps on the top of the table's frame, because otherwise the fold out shelves wouldn't have worked properly, but I'm fine with those.

Another problem with the dowel connections was that some of the small hinge parts of the fold out shelves actually cracked when hammering the dowels in. I guess it might have been because of the screws that were already screwed into these to apply the hinges. So possibly doweling first and screwing later might have been a solution to this, but in the end this did not matter too much, because the wood glue instantly filled the cracks, so they're barely visible anymore.

Also I would strongly advise you to use clamps to hold the wood together after gluing it. I didn't do this on all pieces and ultimately one of the corner parts became quite slanted and now probably won't fit too well.

Finally, I would advise you to get some sort of depth-stop to make sure your dowel holes are the right depth. You could theoretically just wrap some tape around your drill, to mark how deep you want to drill the holes, but mechanical depth-stops are cheap. There are differences in quality though and not all of them work the same way. The first one I bought actually broke after using it a grand total of three times (!). It even was a brand name product. After that I bought a different one, which is fastened by screwing the ring together instead of screwing straight onto the drill. I'm a lot happier with that and it worked great so far, while also being less fiddly.

the different dowel centering tips I used, sure were a tremendous help...

...though some adventurous constructions were neccessary to get the dowel drills aligned for some parts of the table.

In the end it still didn't quite fit...

...and here is why. The dowel drills didn't align perfectly after all, so more sanding was needed(the picture shows the edge of the previous piece from a top view).

Finally, here are two pictures of the almost finished table:

Finally I can play some games!

The table with unfolded fold-out shelves and slidden out drink holders.
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Chris G.
Germany
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reserved for future posts just in case.
 
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Graham Poole
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Very nice! Looks a lot like my current design (hoping to build this summer).

Do you happen to have plans?
 
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Chris G.
Germany
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The only plans I ever had were some hand drawn sketches. I think the ones I just found are pretty close to how the final design turned out in the end. I'm not sure if they're of any use to you, but here you go:



There's a few things to note though.

1. There are a few crossed out numbers on this sketch. They needed to be adjusted, because I changed some parts of the design several times.

2. A few parts are actually smaller or bigger than they appear on that sketch, because the measurements changed and also because they were never meant to be perfectly scaled as it was just a sketch.

3. The length of a piece is always measured by the longest side. So for example for part "E" the measurements state: "1.8cm x 14cm x 84cm" 84cm means that the "outer" side is actually 84cm long, while the "inner" side is shorter due to the 45 degree angle.

4. Important: Parts "H" and "J" are totally unneeded in this design. Instead just keep parts "I" and "E" larger and save yourself some extra work (Their measurements stay the same, you just have to skip the 45 degree cut). These pieces had some meaning before I changed their measurements, but I failed to realize they didn't need to be cut anymore in time. Also "H" and "J", as well as "I" and "E" actually have the exact same measurements now, so they could go by the same character.

5. I decided to change the position of the cupholders so that they're always on the right side of the person. I did this so that people are not deliberately seated too far from one another. This helps while playing games with fewer people, because everyone is actually closer to the board.

6. There is a problem with the cupholders in this design. If you use those exact measurements, you will not be able to completely slide them in, while the cups are in place, because the cups will hit parts "B" and "C", which are there for table stability. I don't really mind this, as I can just remove the cups if I want to slide the holders in completely, but it definitely is a design flaw which I didn't notice while making changes to the design.

I hope this is helpful to you in some way or another, but if you have any further questions just ask.
 
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