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Saturday, October 27, 2012
Building a Game Table
Since moving into my new studio, I've wanted to make a table that could function as a work table for terrain projects as well as a game table in my off time.
Having a sufficient table to play on is a problem many gamers face. Space, and cost are two of the greatest factors. I was able to build this table for around $50. That's a large chunk of change, but considering it's close to the cost of your average model kit, it's really not that far out in the grand scheme a hobbyist's budget. Put off that purchase of Terminators or Man-O-War for a month and you've got yourself a table that will serve you for years to come. In addition, I've designed it to easily break down for storage or transport.
3 2x4 1/2-inch thick MDF panels
9 2x3 8' Studs
Box of 3" Screws
Box of 2" Screws
(Optional) 2x6 Lauan panel for bottom shelf
Jigsaw (I use a B&D 4.5 amp handheld jig saw.)
Cordless Drill with a 1/8" drill bit and phillips head attachments
Handheld Sander (I use a B&D Mouse detail sander)
When working with power tools (or any tools, for that matter) always read the instructions, follow all safety precautions, and wear the recommended safety equipment like a dust mask and protective eyewear.
First off, shop around for the lumber. Depending on what DIY stores you have in your area, you can probably find something on sale. Lowes and Home Depot had some vastly differing prices in my area. At the Depot, I was able to find the studs for 1.89 per piece. Check the wood for warping, splits, and odd knots that will interfere with the construction. Also, for those of you who may not be carpentry-savvy– 2x3 studs are not actually 2-inches by 3-inches. They're 1.5 x 2.5, so don't forget to factor that into your measurements. The MDF boards are a little long: They're 4'1'' long, and 2' wide.
Step 1) Begin by cutting the top table frame. The jig saw works best for this. Cut two long sides to 6' and six center pieces to 3'10" (only 4 center pieces are shown in the picture; the other two will be for the lower leg supports). The total table width will be 4'1." I made the adjustments so the MDF panels would be flush with the edge of the table frame, rather than overhanging the edge.
Step 2) Cut 4 table legs. The length of the legs doesn't affect the rest of the assembly so you can taylor them to your personal preference (and chair limitations). The average household table is around 2'6" high which can be a little low for a game table (especially if you're tall). I made my table legs 3 feet long, which will be a little higher. I've also got a drafting chair and some 2-foot high stools that will allow me to sit comfortably when working or gaming.
Here you can see the legs laid out with the top end and the bottom leg support in place.
Step 3) Sand the pieces before assembly. This is where I used the Mouse sander, just to remove any rough spots or splinters on the cut ends. I also sanded off the factory markings so the boards will have a clean appearance.
Here's where the rafter square comes in handy to make sure your corners are square. The MDF boards corners and edges can also be used as a squaring guide.
Step 4) Attach the legs and end supports. Measure 12" up from the bottom to attach the lower support. Drill guide holes with the 1/8" bit, and use two 3-inch screws at each join. Make sure the screws at the top are fairly centered because next you will be drilling in from the sides above and below and you don't want to hit this set of screws.
Step 5) Drill four holes into the ends of the 6-foot sides of the table frame. Space the holes so they will line up with the two beams that make up the leg ends. (Those small blocks represent the leg assembly, with the red lines indicating the spacing.) Make sure the four holes are evenly spaced, and separated enough to go above and below the screws in the leg end.
Step 6) Place the legs upside down and align the side beams. Drill through the guide hole into the leg, and then insert two screws. (Leave the bottom row alone for now.)
Step 7) Once all four corners are attached, flip the table upright and attach the final screws. In this image, you can see how the side screws fit around the end screws.
Step 8) Measure 11" in from the ends for the support beams (and optional shelf) underneath.
The support beams are important for extra stability, and by adding a piece of lightweight lauan, they can be turned into a shelf for storing terrain, supplies, and such. Lauan comes in 4x8 sheets, so you'll need to get it cut down to 2x6. They also sell 2x4 sheets of lauan which are a little cheaper, but will leave you with 1-foot gaps at the ends. The shelf will add $8-10 to the cost, and I've held off for now, but built the table with the intention of adding the shelf later.
Why lauan? It's cheap, thin, and lightweight. I used 1/2" MDF for the top so the table will be sturdy, but the bottom shelf doesn't need to support that much weight. However, you could certainly use a thicker wood if you like.
Step 9) Trim the shelf supports to 5'9" (69") and attach them as shown. They should be spaced so their outer edges are 2 feet apart. You could make the shelf wider if you wish, but wanted it recessed in so I could comfortably sit with my legs under the table while I work.
With the table frame finished, its time to attach the top. I found that I had a slight overhang on the ends, about 3/16 on each end, so I shifted the MDF panels a little so it would be equal on each end.
Step 10) Align the pieces of MDF on top, drill guide holes and attach them with the 2" screws. To avoid all the screws on the corner, set the screw 5" in from the side, and 1" from the edge.
Attach one end first, with two screws on the table end, and then add a screw on the inner edge, 2" from where the panel seams will be, and 3/4" from the side edge of the table.
As you're attaching the top panels, it may be necessary to tork the table frame into shape. I found that as I worked, the frame wasn't quite square, off by about 1/2-inch. This just meant that I needed to press the side beam in a little as I drilled for the screw. Once the top panels were secure, they held the table nice and square.
The MDF provides a nice solid surface, but it needs support to keep the seams from separating and sagging.
Step 11) Turn the table on its side and lay in the remaining center pieces you cut in the first step. Attaching them now avoids having to precisely measure where they need to sit so the MDF seams lie directly over them.
Lay them flat, centered over the MDF seam and drill into the ends. Attach them with the 3" screws. Flip the table and repeat this for the opposite side.
Step 12) With the center supports in place, drill and add the final 2" screws along the seams. Each screw should be 18" from the table side, and 3/4" away from the seam. I've kept the screws to a minimum to make for easy table disassembly. If your table will be in a permanent location, you can obviously add more.
With the exception of the lauan for the lower shelf, the table is finished!
If you take the table apart, be sure to label the parts and attachment points so all the screw holes will line up properly.
Here's the table broken down into 11 pieces. The end leg assemblies can stay together, and if the shelf was in place, I'd leave the lauan sheet attached to the 69" support beams, making only 10 pieces in total. All this fits into my Honda's trunk with the seats folded down!