Monday, September 24, 2012

Gaming Table

My wife and I have really gotten into playing boardgames as of late (mostly thanks to Geek & Sundry's Tabletop ), so I wanted a nice gaming table to play on that wouldn't just be a whole separate table taking up room in the house. In addition, I wanted it to have seating for more people (our table at the time only sat four) and for it to be able to be closed off so that I could leave an in progress game safe from the destruction of our toddler. I ended up finding inspiration from Geek Chic's Emissary table ( ).

The Emissary is a duel purpose table (dining room and gaming), sits six to eight people, and can be closed off, halting an in progress game. However, the Emissary's average price is $3000-$4000, which was vastly out of my price range. So instead of taking out a loan just to buy a table, and not wanting to settle for going without, I set out to build my own gaming table. To do so I pulled knowledge gained from my high school construction and drafting classes, the internet, and my limited woodworking experience gained from helping my dad out in his wood shop, and ended up making what I consider to be a pretty good gaming table.

Overall it took me about three weeks to build from start to finish. I did all the work in my garage/driveway and only put in about a half hour to an hour a day during the work week and three hours a day during the weekend. I would still like to add are slide out boards (like a slide out keyboard desk) to allow for a solid writing area for paper games as well as it providing a safe area for food and drink to be put, which should just take one afternoon once I buy the parts.

So, for anyone out there looking to build a simple gaming table for as little money as possible (that is still of decent quality), has a limited number of tools available to them (I borrowed ALL the power tools that I used from a friend), and has little to no woodworking knowledge, I have provided a comprehensive list of materials and step-by-step instructions on how to build your very own gaming table.

Building Materials: 
All wood is Red Oak unless otherwise mentioned. All materials were bought through Home Depot except for the bar clamp kits (these I got from
*Note: Even though wood is sold as certain dimensions, it isn't actually cut to that. So most of the time a 1in thick piece of wood is really 3/4in, and a 4 inch wide piece is really 3.5in. Bring a measuring tape with you when purchasing your wood.

Add the wood I used except the sub-table's plywood.

Table Top: (All planks are 1in thick, planed to exactly the same thickness if possible)
  • Two 6in x 6ft
  • Two 8in x 6ft
  • One 12in x 6ft
  • *Note: I would now recommend using seven 6in x 6ft boards for reasons mentioned later.
  • Three 1in x 4in x 6ft
  • Four 3in x 3in x 3ft posts (you can make these yourself by gluing together 3in boards, it is just more work)
Game Table:
  • One sheet of cabinet grade plywood, 3/4in thick
Baseboard Molding:
  • 36 ft quarter rounded (four 6ft lengths and four 3ft lengths)
  • Additional lengths of molding or other thin wooden/metal medium (anywhere from 56in to 122in more at a minimum).
Velvet/Velveteen: Enough to cover game table

12 bolt sets (3in bolt, washer, lock washer, nut. I used 5/16in bolts)

Finishing Nails, 5/8in

Wood Glue (Titebond III)

Red Oak wood stain


Black paint

Five 3ft steel rods (square, 1/2in)
*Note: Not needed if using the seven 6in wide boards to make the table top. Instead buy extra footage of baseboard molding.

Container of 5/8in wood screws
*Note: Not needed if gluing the baseboard molding, which I would now recommend.

Work Materials:
Many of these materials aren't needed depending on how you build the table and the finishing touches that you choose.

Measuring Tape


Xacto Knife (razor blade)

Engineer/Steel Square

12 Foam Brushes

Sand Paper, grits 80 to 400

Two rolls shop towels

Two or Three plastic tarps

Large pack of disposable gloves

Eye protection

Hearing Protection

Dust Mask

Work bench

Hot glue sticks

Spray fabric adhesive

Blue painters tape

0000 Steel Wood

Wood filler

Rotary cutter

Router bit (optional, I didn't use, needs to be same cutting size as plywood's width)

Cheap 8 ft pieces of wood that are as straight and flat as possible.
*Note: These are used as sacrificial pieces of wood during claping to prevent the clamps from damaging your good hardwood; they also help to distribute the force of the clamps along the clamping edges. Also, these boards can be used in conjunction with c-clamps to form a straight l ine jig for the circular/jig saw to follow to perform straight cuts if you don't have access to a table saw.

Much of this work can be done without a lot of the power tools. If you have a hand saw, clamps, and a drill you are pretty much set, but power tools make things a lot faster and easier.

Orbital Sander

Circular Saw (Recommend a table saw if you have access to one)

Jig Saw

Electric hand sander

Router (optional, I didn't use, but it would cut your baseboard requirement in half)

Drill with various drill bit sizes

Paddle Drill Bit

Mechanical Nail/Staple Gun
*Note: Not needed if gluing the baseboard molding, which I would now recommend.


Chisel (about 1/4in wide)

Miter Box (Recommend an electrical Miter Saw if available since a miter box's 45 degree angle cuts aren't that true)

Hand Miter Saw

9 pipe clamps, various lengths
*Note: Bar clamps work just as well but are more expensive. So if you don't already own some clamps or know someone who does, just make some bar clamps. Pipe is found fairly cheap at Home Depot in 10ft lengths, which I suggest buying five of and having them cut into five 6.5ft/3.5ft sections while at the store.

3 small C-Clamps

2x woodworking Hot glue guns



Overall dimensions.
Exploded diagram.
General leg and skirting plans. Alternate table top spacing idea.
Table top spacing that I used.

Table Top:

There are several ways in which you can make a table top, this is just one method. I chose the way I did because I didn't want any gaps in the top that could possibly allow liquids to leak onto the sub-table in the event of a spill. If you're not too concerned with this you could use smaller top sections that are placed together to make one large one, or you could even buy prefabricated wood flooring that latches together and you just unlatch it. If I had settled on a my sub-table being covered in whiteboard I probably would have chosen one of these methods, but since I chose the velvet I wanted to protect it from any accidental damage.

Clamps, alternating top and bottom.
  • *Note: I glued all my boards together at once and had a lot less control of the gluing process which resulted in a lot of lips that I had to sand down heavily. Additionally, I used wide boards (8in and 12in) which ended up bowing excessively (possibly due to the humidity here in the south) resulting in me needing to un-bow my top using steel rods. Much of what I have researched online after my glue up has recommended using smaller width boards to minimize individual board bowing, as well as recommending the alternating growth ring method.
  • Place a good amount of glue to one edge of a a board where the two bards meet.
  • Clamp boards together using enough pressure to ensure the boards are tight against each other, but not so much as to starve the glued join of glue. Some glue coming out of the seam is a good sign, just make sure to wipe away as much as you can before it dries since it is a pain to scrape/sand off.
  • Place the remaining pipe clamps on top of the table and in between the clamps on the bottom.
  • Continue the gluing and clamping process until all boards are used.
  • Sand any lips/ridges down using the orbital or hand sander.
    *Note: Make sure to get all excess glue off the word during all steps of this project. Excess glue (even glue that looks gone but is the stuff that has seeped into the shallow top layer of wood) will cause stain to not be absorbed during the staining process.
  • Square off the ends of the table using a table, circular, or jig saw.
  • Sand the sharp edges of the table down (if desired) and smooth both sides of the table by sanding.
  • ***Do this step AFTER you are doing gluing together the skirting to the sub-table*** Since the table top is not going to be screwed onto the skirting like a normal table, you need some method to prevent the top from just being able to be hit and slide off the edge of the table. To do this you can take baseboard molding and cut a minimum of two strips (either along the length or width of the table) and use them as guides to act as a kind of bumper within the skirting. In my case I did five 32in strips of molding (cut about 1/16in short on both ends to allow for a small margin of error), one at each end of the table, at 2.5in in from the long edges and 4.5in in from the ends of the table top, with the remaining three pieces spaced evenly between the ends (overall this allows the molding the be against the legs to prevent moving along the length of the table and gives several points of contact to prevent side-to-side movement, as well as gave more surface area for weight support when the table is laying down). Attaching the molding to the long ends would work just as well for spacing purposes. but for setting the table top down I always like more surface area for support. You can either glue (if using wood) the spacers on or you can use short screws (for metal or wood). Just make sure that if you use screws that they are just long enough to go about 1/4in into the table after being all the way through the spacing medium, since you don't want any dimples showing up on the top of the table due to using too long of a screw.
    *Note: You do not have to use molding for this step, it is just convenient since you are already buying some. In fact it may not be the best choice since it has a small contact area with the ground when the table top is laying flat on the ground, bottom side down. You can really use any thin wooden or metal medium to complete this step. Or you can do a different latching mechanism if so desired.
    **Note: If your table top has excessive bowing, like mine did, then you will probably have to use steel bars and wood screws to flatten it out. This shouldn't happen if you use smaller width boards, alternate the wood grains, and keep the wood in a low humidity environment.
Sanded and cut square.
The metal rods used as spacers and support.

Gaming Sub-Table:
  • Cut the plywood to width and length (using a table saw or circular/jig saw jig) based on whatever width/length your table top came out to be. I would recommend Leaving a 1.5 to 2in overhang on each side of the skirt. Additionally, you have to account for the thickness of the wood on the skirt. In my case I cut my sub-table to 32in wide and 65in long. Since my table top was 37in/70in, and each skirt 3/4in thick, this left me with a 1.75in overhang on each side.
  • Cut 2in squares off of each corner of the plywood. This value will change depending on how you decide to attach your legs and your leg's widths.

    *Note: If you want to have an easier time, and don't want to mess around with having to correct imperfections due to a miter box not cutting true 45s, you can always use a Butt Joint instead of 45s. This is easier and still provides as much stability. Additionally, if you don't feel confident that your 45s are going to turn out the Butt Joint will look better in the end. After I had cut my skirting with the 45s and saw how poorly they had fit together I ended up wishing I had just went with the Butt Joint in the first place. Here is a YouTube video of what one is ( ). You can always just rely on the glue to hold the joint together in the case of this table since the skirting is already having support all around it from the glue on the subtable (also, like it says on the TiteBond III bottle, it bonds more solid than wood... I tried to break on of my joints on the scrap end piece of the table top and ended up only being able to snap the wood part, not the joint, in half).
  • If you're using a router this step is going to be somewhat different for you with different lengths needing to be cut, but since you have a router to use you probably already know the changes that need to be made. If not you can always ask.
  • Using the length that you cut your sub-table to (65in), and leaving extra room to cut 45's at each end, mark your 4in x 6ft boards and cut 45's at each end using an electric Miter Saw or Miter Box/Saw. Make sure your cut is going outward as to leaving the other side of the board longer (66.5in) than that which is going to be glued to the sub-table (think of a picture frame).
  • Cut the third 4in x 6ft board in half and perform the same sequence except using the sub-table's width (inside was 32in, outside 33.5in).
  • *Note: Because I knew I wasn't getting perfect 45 degree cuts using the miter box I added about 1/16 inch to each end of each skirt piece, allowing me some wiggle room to sand the ends down until I was able to get a somewhat flush fit. However, I did end up having to use some wood filler on a corner that I could not seem to get to fit correctly.
  • Now it is time to use some of the baseboard molding to build a support for the sub-table. Cut four 6ft lengths down to the length left on the sides of the sub-table after the corners have been cut out, min my case 61in. Do the same for the width of the table, thus for me I did four 28in pieces. Here I cut the molding about 1/8in short to give me some wiggle room of 1/16in on each side just in case my shirting didn't come out perfectly square when glued on (which it didn't due to miter boxes not cutting perfect 45s).
    *Note: While you are only using two of each length in this step, you will be using the other pieces of the same length to finish off the top of your gaming table and it is just convenient to cut the molding now, especially since you will be staining it and putting a coat of polyurethane on it as well.
  • Take these molding strips on glue and/or staple them to be centered and and flush to the bottom of the skirt planks, ensuring that the extra flat side is facing up so that it can support the sub-table upon glue-up.

    Testing the 45 degree fit.
Didn't take a picture right after putting on the molding, but you can see here it is here.
Gluing the Sub-Table to the Skirting
  • Take the two long skirts and place them versicle on the pipe clamps and then lower the sub- table to sit centered on the molding for support. I found that if I only clamped at the bottom during this step that the top of the skirt would flare outward due to having no pressure being applied there. To solve this I cut three scrap pieces of wood to the same width as the sub-table (32in) and placed that at the ends and middle of the table and then applied a clamp right along with them at the top of the skirt board, thus clamping in the top so that when I clamped the bottom it would end up being completely vertical. To prevent these boards from being glued onto the table as the glue is drying I stapled some wax paper onto the corners of the scrap wood. This is all slightly tricky to do since once you apply the glue to both long ends of the sub-table (and the flat part of the molding for a better hold) you need to put the other boards in place, clamp those first, then clamp the bottom. Just do a few practice clamping before doing the glue and you should be fine. Also, having an extra pair of hands helps a lot.
  • Repeat this step for the two shorter ends. However, there is no need for the spacer boards since the top isn't deselected outward due to the bottom being kept in place by the pressure against the longer skirt sides. Also, don't forget to add glue to the corners where the skirting meets.
  • Go back to the Table Top section and follow the instructions to attack the baseboard guides.

Board spacers and gluing on the long skirting pieces.
Clamping on the short skirts. Used a corner clamp on one side that was slightly bowed out.

  • Take the 3in x 3in x 3ft posts and position them at each corner of the table how you would like the wood grain to be seen (I wanted the nice ends to be parallel to the long part of the table and the glued ends with the narrow part).
  • Then measure corresponding 2in squares on the top of the legs, with the square flush in one corner of the leg. The two sides of the leg that have pencil markings are what is going to be cut away.
    *Note: I cut my square just shy of 2in, since I wanted some clearance tolerances for fitting the table together once I had put polyurethane on it, which does add some small amount of thickness to the wood.
  • Now measure the width of the skirting (3.5in) down on the legs and make a line on each post face.
  • Now drop the marks from the top of the legs down to these marks, indicating what portion of wood is going to be cut away.
    *Note: I found it helpful to measure in and draw a line on all sides of the leg for the pieces that I was cutting off (about 1/2in) so that I could better guide my saw.
  • If you have access to a band saw I would highly recommend using one for this part, even a table saw would work well enough. Cutting perfectly straight lines with a hand saw is ridiculously hard to do and you'll probably end up doing some chiseling or sanding to get everything flat/flush.
  • Cut the legs to length for the table height you want. I chose 31.5in so that the table wouldn't be too high (our old one was 30in) and still had enough room underneath for our legs to have room (our old table had a 2.5 inch skirt while this one has a 3.5in, thus I added a net 0.5 in leg room to the skirt).
Didn't take a picture of the legs when I finished them, but you can see two here.

Test Your FIt
  • Now its time to make sure everything fits together.
  • Have someone help you, or support one side of the table on something, and put the legs into the square holes of the sub-table. If they don't fit you'll either need to sand down the legs some or the square holes where they go in.
  • Once you have it together, and you sand anything that isn't flush (like the top of the legs and top of the skirt) you can drill your carriage bolt recesses and hole.
  • To set up a leg to be drilled press the leg as flush into the skirt corner as possible and then clamp the leg and skirt together with a short bar clamp or c-clamp. Make sure it is tight enough not to move.
  • Now, the width of the top of your carriage bolt will determine the spacing you will need to drill with your paddle bit. My bolt had approximately a one inch width, so I dropped the center of my first recess down 1.25in and centered on the leg (so 1.75in from the edge of the skirt). And my second hole just over an inch down from the first.
  • Once you drill down enough for the top of the bolt to be flush with the skirt (you can do this by placing just the top of the bolt in your recess and see if the bottom is flat with the wood) you need to drill a hole in the center of you carriage recess all they way through the leg using an appropriate sized drill bit for the size bolt you are using. I would suggest doing a test hole on a spare piece of wood to make sure you have a good fit.
  • Now use the 1/4in chisel and carve out a square just around the drill whole within the recess so that the carriage bolt (which has a square neck just under the top) can fit in.
  • Now bolt the leg down and then take the clamp off and repeat this process for the other side of the leg, just this time dropping your bolt hold exactly between the two that you just drilled. (ex. If you drilled at 1.25in and 2.25in you'll want a hole at 1.75in).
  • Repeat for all four legs.
I had to sand down on leg to get it to fit through the sub-table's squares.
How the bolts fit from the inside.
Bolts from the outside.

Staining and Polyurethane
  • Now it is time to stain. There are other methods of finishing the wood that do not involve using polyurethane or a finishing stain, so if you feel like that would work better for you then just skip this step.
    *Note: This step can be completed at any point for each component that you finish. However, if you want to conserve sponge brushes then you can just wait to do all of it at the end.
  • I recommend using some scrap wood pieces to prop up your table pieces so that if the stain or polyurethane pool at all on the tarp they are not touching the wood as well.
  • Follow the instructions on the stain and polyurethane. This step alone took me about a week today just because of the wait times. However, they were fairly easy days since I only had to do about 15-30 minutes of work at a time.
  • I stained and put polyurethane on all areas of the table except for the top of the sub-table. Don't forget to stain and polyurethane the rounded faces of the remaining baseboard molding that you will be putting on at the very end.
  • You do not need to stain the top part of the sub-table since it is going to have velvet/velveteen glued onto it, but if you do make sure you do NOT polyurethane it, since most adhesives will not stick to it.
  • Once everything is done drying put it all together to make sure it still fits, since the polyurethane could have messed up some tight clearances. Don't forget to ensure your bolts still bit in their holes.
  • To get a nice finish on your bolts paint the top of them black using black spray paint (I used acrylic paint) and after it fully dries coat the top with a layer of polyurethane.
Stain and Polyurethane.
You can see the molding here also being stained.
Bolt jig for painting.

Gluing on the Velvet
    *Note: I have seen some gaming table have whiteboard covered sub-tables that just have a play mat placed on top of them. So if you want to do something like that you will just need to modify this step.
  • Now that all of the staining and polyurethane is done it is time to glue on the velvet
  • Take your piece of velvet and cut out a rectangle the same dimensions as your sub-table (32in x 65in). I borrowed my wife's rotary cutter from her sewing equipment. You do not need to cut out the corners where the legs are going to be going through, since it is easier and more exact to do so later on.
  • Place this on top of the sub-table to ensure proper fit. Trim what doesn't fit using an xacto knife or rotary cutter. Don't worry about being perfectly precise, since the molding you will be putting around the edges of the velvet will cover any edge imperfections up to about 1/4in wide on either side.
  • Line the inside edge of the skirt with the blue painters tape, since the spray adhesive's fume cloud leaves glue residue everywhere near the glue site.
  • Follow the instructions on the spray adhesive and apply it to the sub-table.
  • Carefully lay your velvet down on the sub-table. Again I would recommend the use of two people to complete this step.
  • You can use the edge of a wide hardback book (I used one of my toddler's picture books) to smooth out any wrinkles or air bubbles. Then apply pressure to the entire surface (I used a rolling pin and the face of the picture book). Wait the required time for everything to dry.
  • Now, if you didn't cut out the fabric corners where the legs go (which I would recommend against doing prior to this step) take your xacto knife and carefully cut way the corners flush with the plywood.
Velvet glued on, squares not cut yet.
Corner squares cut out.

Putting it all together
  • Time to bring the table inside and set it up.
  • Now time to put the last four pieces of baseboard molding on. Ensure they fit before using any glue and if you have space at either end of it make sure you note where it sits centered.
  • Warm up the hot glue guns.
    *Note: Most adhesives will not stick to polyurethane, and the ones that do are often messy or sprays and could easily mess up the velvet at this point, so using hot glue is a good medium. It is actually really strong, holds the molding securely in place, and if you're careful it isn't messy at all.
  • I STRONGLY recommend using two people to do the following steps (mostly just for the long side of the table, since each person can do half the length). Hot glue sets up very quickly, so you have to apply all that you need in less than 30 seconds and then firmly apply the molding as fast and accurate as you can. Additionally, I would highly recommend doing a practice glue-up using scrap pieces of wood so that you can determine a decent bead size that won't poor out from under the molding once you apply pressure.
  • Have the molding close at hand. Apply a small bead into the corner where the sub-table and skirt meet. Make sure to apply this bead quickly, using the natural corner as a guide. You have time to not be sloppy, so just take the extra few seconds to ensure you aren't getting glue places you don't want it to be.
    *Note: Avoid making large portions of the bead. It is better that some spots have little to no glue than too much, since they will leak out onto the velvet.
  • Once the bead is down quickly apply the molding with lots of pressure to ensure good adhesion.
    *Note: If a small amount of glue is pressed out from the molding and gets on the velvet do NOT attempt to wipe it up. What has touched the velvet has already adhered to it so you are just going to spread it around and cover more. Let it dry and try to cut away as much as you can using tweezers (hopefully it is just such a small amount that you can leave it there). Do NOT try to peel the glue off, since it will rip up the velvet with it and leave a hole/barren spot. However, I suppose you could do this if you prefer that look as appose to glue, or have some super awesome method of fixing stripped velvet.
    **Note: Depending on how you did your bolts you may have room to put molding around the legs as well. This is more tricky since you'll be dealing with 45s on the molding and gluing just the small side of the molding to the velvet (or plywood if you cut some of the velvet away). In my case the bolts/nuts did not afford me room to do this.
  • Congratulations! You have now successfully completed your very own gaming table.

    Playing Smallworld: Realms