*Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board built!

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*Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board built!

Post by Blackhawk » Sun Mar 11, 2012 3:54 pm

A friend and I are looking to build a gaming board (a table top that sits on top of an existing table.) It'll be for wargaming, board gaming, and RPGs. I'm thinking a pair of 4' x 4' square sections that could be used separately as a 4' x 4' table, or put together for a 4' x 8'. I've got a pair of beat up night stands (probably 18" x 14" that I'll be using as pedestal style legs. We've used them that way before, borrowing my kids' old Thomas the Tank Engine table board (which is about 4 1/2' x 3 1/2'), and it works beautifully.

Space is at a premium here. I have absolutely no room to add a permanent structure to my house, which is why I'm going with boards instead of an actual table. I need to store them in a corner of the house behind some totes when they're not in use.

No suggesting a Sultan, please. I'm trying to keep expense at a minimum. That means building it myself. I'm not a carpenter. I can measure and cut right angles, and I can hammer nails, but that's about it. I've been looking into the options, and am finding that I don't know enough about the materials. What I've considered or read about:

1) A 4x8 foot piece of thick plywood (3/4" or 1") cut into 4' x 4' sections and framed with 2x4s, with a way to lock them together into a single piece.

2) Same as above, but instead of nailing the top to the square frames, move the 2x4s out and add a 2x2 lip on the inside, allowing the table tops to be lifted out. It would be more complicated to build, but would add versatility (potentially four separate paint jobs on the boards, flipping them depending on the game being played.)

3) Same as either of the above, but with particle board or MDF for the top instead of plywood. Price, sturdiness, smoothness of the surface and weight would all be factors as to which we'd used.

4) A thin sheet of masonite glued (?) to a thinner frame in two 4' x 4' sections. I don't know a thing about masonite, including cost, durability, or how much of a frame would be necessary to add stability to a thin sheet of it, but the thing here is that it would be lighter and easier to handle and store than the 2x4s with heavy plywood.

I need to make this thing without fancy tools or carpentry experience, and a cheaply as possible, but I don't want to spend the time and money on something that is going to either break after a month, be so wobbly that it turns or tips every time someone walks through the room, or be so big and heavy that I can't get it out without hiring movers.

Has anyone ever attempted such a project, or have any experience with the materials? Are any of these a bad approach, and which would suit our purposes best?
Last edited by Blackhawk on Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by hentzau » Sun Mar 11, 2012 4:33 pm

I've only built one table, and that's a 4x8 monster that sits in my basement on an old cafeteria table. Big and heavy. So I've never made a segmented table like what you are talking about.

The main advice that I can give you (from my experience) is don't put a lip on the edge of the plywood. I attached 1x2" strips to the edges of my table to keep the dice from rolling off. While it did do that, it was basically a major annoyance when sitting down at the table to play a boardgame and you were going to rest your arms on the table.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Chaosraven » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:41 pm

hentzau wrote:The main advice that I can give you (from my experience) is don't put a lip on the edge of the plywood.
And tables with lip also keep you from sweeping the cards off the table (when you are having trouble picking them up)
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Anonymous Bosch » Sun Mar 11, 2012 5:53 pm

I have a friend who constructed a portable folding gaming table on the cheap by simply hinging two Home Depot interior wooden door slabs together. Since the door slabs are made from hollow plywood, it's actually pretty light and easy for him to fold away and carry, despite the fact that it folds out to ~4ft x 6ft. I believe he spent less than $50 on the entire project.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by The Meal » Sun Mar 11, 2012 6:57 pm

I frequent a poker forum that has many posts from amateur hobbyists who put together their own poker tables. They can run for as little as $200 (though the typical build is $400-$1000). Many of these tables also double for use in playing traditional board- and wargames.

There are many features which a dedicated gaming table would share with these tables (including removable/folding legs for storage). There is a ton of design experience shared in those threads. The standard design certainly violates one of the major precepts listed in this thread (no lip because of comfort and to ease in card removal) though the same design feature is considered a benefit in the case of those tables' intended design purpose. (The elevated rail on a poker table is padded with foam and covered with vinyl for maintenance-free comfort. The surface upon which the cards are removed has a slight padding to it as well to enable ease in lifting of cards — certainly not nearly so much padding that one wouldn't be able to stand up figurines or roll dice however.)

Poker tables are traditionally built as ovals since the standard case has a dedicated dealer at one position (along the flat edge), but tables built for home game use can also be done as circles (56" is the maximum diameter which it is agreed-upon that all parties involved can reach the center of the table, but 60" tables aren't unheard of for those wanting to squeeze 8+ players around).

I can link to design experiences if you think it'd be valuable. If this doesn't sound appealing, then I won't dig up the posts.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Blackhawk » Sun Mar 11, 2012 7:39 pm

Yeah, I'm not making a sand table, and I'm not using modular terrain, so a lip wouldn't be of much use. All I really need is a nice, smooth flat surface that won't tip over when someone bumps it or leans over to write on it. It doesn't even need to be pretty.

Meal, I don't plan on making that elaborate of a design (and as a former casino security guy, I'm pretty familiar with poker tables.) At most, the top will be plain wood with a layer of paint, and the 'legs' will be two end tables pulled out to the center of the floor for me to set the boards on.

I'm mostly looking for feedback on the basic materials and design. For instance: would a 1/4", four foot square masonite sheet with a 1x2 wood frame (something like this, but square) be sturdy and solid enough to stay flat and not get knocked around when someone bumps it.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Chaosraven » Sun Mar 11, 2012 7:52 pm

Blackhawk wrote:Yeah, I'm not making a sand table, and I'm not using modular terrain, so a lip wouldn't be of much use. All I really need is a nice, smooth flat surface that won't tip over when someone bumps it or leans over to write on it. It doesn't even need to be pretty.

Meal, I don't plan on making that elaborate of a design (and as a former casino security guy, I'm pretty familiar with poker tables.) At most, the top will be plain wood with a layer of paint, and the 'legs' will be two end tables pulled out to the center of the floor for me to set the boards on.

I'm mostly looking for feedback on the basic materials and design. For instance: would a 1/4", four foot square masonite sheet with a 1x2 wood frame (something like this, but square) be sturdy and solid enough to stay flat and not get knocked around when someone bumps it.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Tommy20 » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:42 pm

Just saw this tonight:

http://regelndeskrieges.blogspot.com/" target="_blank

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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by hentzau » Sun Mar 11, 2012 11:50 pm

Tommy20 wrote:Just saw this tonight:

http://regelndeskrieges.blogspot.com/" target="_blank
That's actually pretty cool...
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Blackhawk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 9:13 am

Nice table, lucky *#(!@.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by LawBeefaroni » Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:37 pm

My first instinct would be to get some slab doors and join them up with a set of detachable hinges. Or I bet there are locking mechanisms made specifically for joining table-top leaves or similar. You could mount these on the bottom side.

You can get unfinished slab doors in "wood" or masonite for under $30 each, depending on size. Examples. I don't know if they get up to 48" but maybe a 36"x80" cut in half? If you do cut them in half, you'd need to do it carefully and put some support in at the cut as most are hollow. But a 36"X80" interior door is very light and can probably be stowed along the wall pretty easily without cutting it.

Or maybe two 24"x80" doors with the hinges.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Anonymous Bosch » Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:13 pm

LawBeefaroni wrote:Or maybe two 24"x80" doors with the hinges.
That's exactly what my friend used. Works great, though I recall him saying that it took a bit of experimentation before he found the correct type of hinges, i.e. something that would allow the door slabs to fold out completely snug, without leaving any gap in the middle. I believe he found some piano hinges that did the trick.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Boudreaux » Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:00 pm

Blackhawk wrote:I'm mostly looking for feedback on the basic materials and design. For instance: would a 1/4", four foot square masonite sheet with a 1x2 wood frame (something like this, but square) be sturdy and solid enough to stay flat and not get knocked around when someone bumps it.
The example in this photo is a great approach. I'd build this simple 1x2 frame and screw or nail a 4x4 sheet of 1/8" MDF to it. That should be plenty sturdy enough when laid flat, and the frame will help add a little weight to it.

For a few dollars more, get a couple of sheets of heavy green or brown felt. Stretch them over the top surface, wrap around underneath and either hot glue or staple it to the frame. When I made a Halloween costume for my son, I think I bought a 3'x6' sheet of brown felt for something like $3.

If you build two, you could also attach a couple of draw latches to either side of the two frames, and then lay them on top of the tables and latch them together for added stablility.

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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Blackhawk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 4:27 pm

Boudreaux wrote: For a few dollars more, get a couple of sheets of heavy green or brown felt. Stretch them over the top surface, wrap around underneath and either hot glue or staple it to the frame. When I made a Halloween costume for my son, I think I bought a 3'x6' sheet of brown felt for something like $3.

If you build two, you could also attach a couple of draw latches to either side of the two frames, and then lay them on top of the tables and latch them together for added stablility.
I had thought about felt/cloth/toweling/flocking it, but I also want to be able to write on the surface if I'm playing a P&P RPG. That's why I'll either leave it natural (depending on its color) or paint it a deep, dark green and varnish it.

As to hooking them together, I'd considered setting the 1x2s on the connecting ends upright instead of laying them down and drilling some 1/4" holes between them. When we need both halves we just set them upright and stick three bolts in, slap on some large washers, turn some wing nuts and are good to go. A lot of the time we'll only need one - Warlord is our wargame of choice right now, and it uses a 4x4 field, plus most board games would be fine on 4x4.

The door option: I'll take a look at that. It sounds like a good idea, depending on the cost and making the hinges work.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Smoove_B » Mon Mar 12, 2012 5:51 pm

I've been using folding tables that seem to more or less work for what we do. Every now and again we do have to use plywood as a base for Heroscape boards, but that's usually the exception. Not related really, but I do applaud your efforts. I think we'd also benefit from a wider table and it had occurred to me that I could build "drop over" table extender thingy ( technical name) in the spirit of what you're trying to create.

I picked up a dice tray because I don't have the skill to make one and it's worked out great for us. I glued two dowels together as a divider if we have to share the space for team play. It cuts down on the noise and keeps the dice on the table, which is the goal.

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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Blackhawk » Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:42 pm

We've been using the coffee table, or the coffee table with the Thomas board on it for a while. It works for most board games, but it really isn't big enough for wargaming. Warlord specifies a 4x4 table, and most others I've played do in the range of 4x6.

Role playing games are worse - we have to drag every flat surface in the house out and cluster them together, which is very inconvenient. The idea of having the dice, characters, maps, and minis all on the same surface is very appealing.
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Bad Demographic » Tue Mar 13, 2012 7:31 pm

For what it's worth, if you want to be able to draw/write on the surface, Rustoleum makes a paint that acts like a dry-erase surface. I've never talked to anybody who has used it so I don't know how good it really is or how long it lasts.

http://www.rustoleum.com/CBGProduct.asp?pid=128
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Mar 13, 2012 9:44 pm

Bad Demographic wrote:For what it's worth, if you want to be able to draw/write on the surface, Rustoleum makes a paint that acts like a dry-erase surface. I've never talked to anybody who has used it so I don't know how good it really is or how long it lasts.

http://www.rustoleum.com/CBGProduct.asp?pid=128
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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by BrooKlYNGuY » Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:58 am

[quote="Tommy20"]Just saw this tonight:


I agree..it's one of the nicest 8-) pretty cool. Need to do something like this soon.

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Re: Anyone ever build a gaming table/board?

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:51 pm

Anonymous Bosch wrote:
LawBeefaroni wrote:Or maybe two 24"x80" doors with the hinges.
That's exactly what my friend used. Works great, though I recall him saying that it took a bit of experimentation before he found the correct type of hinges, i.e. something that would allow the door slabs to fold out completely snug, without leaving any gap in the middle. I believe he found some piano hinges that did the trick.
This is exactly what we ended up doing. Two 20x80 door sections with piano hinges. The doors themselves were only $20 each. Here are some photos. Click to embiggen:

Folded

Enlarge Image

Open, showing the hinges

Enlarge Image

Fully open

Enlarge Image

My new gaming group met the other day for the first time, and it worked beautifully. We just threw some non-slip cloth on the coffee table, laid it on top and played.

Now, though, I need one more piece of advice:

These things are raw wood, unsealed and unfinished. For someone with zero woodworking experience or tools, what would be the easiest and cheapest way to get these things sealed ready for regular use? This time we had to make everybody keep their drinks on the floor as any moisture would just get sucked into the wood. Should we paint the thing with latex wall paint? Stain it and and use some sort of varnish? Just varnish? We want it to make a nice, smooth writing surface (which it currently does), but not have to worry about chips and peeling.
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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by Smoove_B » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:04 pm

Painting it with a semi-gloss latex paint (the stuff you'd use for kitchens or bathrooms) is probably the cheapest, easiest and safest (in terms of dealing with fumes associated with wood stains). The semi-gloss would allow you to wipe it clean with a sponge if you spill Cheetos or mountain dew all over it.

That's pretty crafty though. Plus, if you're going to bug-in for a zombie attack, that could work as a first-line window barricade.

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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by LawBeefaroni » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:13 pm

Nice!

For finishing them, I'd check with the manufacturer. If they're like the slab doors I've seen, they're not exactly standard wood (lauan?).

If info isn't available, and if it were me, I'd start with a coat of sanding sealer. Then sand it and see how it is. If it needs more protection, paint it with some kind of enamel paint.

I'd also do a test application of the sealer and/or paint on a small part of the bottom before doing the whole gaming surface.
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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by Blackhawk » Tue Apr 10, 2012 6:55 pm

LawBeefaroni wrote:Nice!

For finishing them, I'd check with the manufacturer. If they're like the slab doors I've seen, they're not exactly standard wood (lauan?).

If info isn't available, and if it were me, I'd start with a coat of sanding sealer. Then sand it and see how it is. If it needs more protection, paint it with some kind of enamel paint.
I have no idea who made the doors. There was a sticker on them, but that went away days ago. As to the rest - A) does this sanding process require anything more than grabbing a handful of sandpaper and rubbing back and forth, or does it involve special equipment? and B) is the result sufficiently protected that should someone, say, spill a drink or set a wet glass on the thing for an hour that it wouldn't be harmed? Honestly, other than occasionally pounding a nail, I haven't done even the most rudimentary work with wood.
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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by Boudreaux » Wed Apr 11, 2012 10:28 am

As far as protection, are you worried about physical damage to the wood, or just cosmetic marks and stains?

For the easiest and cheapest I'm with Smoove, a semi-gloss latex paint is probably easiest. A gallon of paint in your favorite color plus a disposable foam roller or two will run you about $25. Two or three coats of paint and it'd be protected for years.

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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by LawBeefaroni » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:07 am

Blackhawk wrote:
I have no idea who made the doors. There was a sticker on them, but that went away days ago. As to the rest - A) does this sanding process require anything more than grabbing a handful of sandpaper and rubbing back and forth, or does it involve special equipment? and B) is the result sufficiently protected that should someone, say, spill a drink or set a wet glass on the thing for an hour that it wouldn't be harmed? Honestly, other than occasionally pounding a nail, I haven't done even the most rudimentary work with wood.
The sanding sealer seals up porous woods. The unfinished surface of a slab door is usually pretty porous.

A) All you need is sanding sealer (AKA seal coat, etc) and some sand paper and a good arm. There are brush on and spray on versions, I prefer the brush on. Apply the sealer and then sand per instructions on the sealer. Usually a 120 grit or so sandpaper will work. What you're doing is filling in the porous areas and then sanding to smooth it. After that you should be able to apply primer/paint without any problems.

B) Depends on what kind you get. Honestly I've always painted or stained afterwards so I'm not sure but I think it should protect it from glass sweat and the occasional spill. Still, I'd say varnish or paint over the sealer. Sanding sealer isn't technically a finish. Just make sure that the sealer you get is compatible with the finish you get.

Again, as always, test it on the back of the table/doors to see how you like it.
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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by Freezer-TPF- » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:26 pm

Low effort solution: Just get some decent coasters for your drinks. :)
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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by KiloOhm » Thu May 03, 2012 7:38 am

Polyeurethane that thing! Cheap, and if you apply several thin coats with some light sanding it will be very smooth and stain resistant (almost imprevious really) plus hard as hell. You can stain it first if you like.
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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by Blackhawk » Thu May 03, 2012 9:43 am

Sand it and then paint it, or paint it and then sand it?
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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by LawBeefaroni » Thu May 03, 2012 10:17 am

1. Sanding sealer (if you want it)
2. Sand
3. Clean (remove dust)
4. Paint

If you're doing polyeurethane:
1. Sand
2. Clean (remove dust)
3. Apply polyeurethane
4. Sand any blemishes if necessary
4b. Polish if sanded
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Re: *Updated!* Anyone ever build a gaming board? *Board bu

Post by silverjon » Thu May 03, 2012 11:12 am

Also sand lightly and remove dust (tack cloth) between coats if doing multiple coats. You need to scratch up the smooth finish to get multiple coats of sealant or paint to stick properly.
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