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[Gaming Table] The Build Process

cpc197ccpc197c Registered User regular
edited June 2012 in Critical Failures
Hello There PA Community!

This is my first post in hopefully a series of posts on the process, challenges, and results of a tabletop / board gaming table I just finished making. Any constructive comments or suggestions are welcome at any point! I'll be writing a good amount of this (at least the first part) in a narrative fashion.

The story starts back at the end of last year. I just came back from my first Blizzcon over to my home of Boston. Living and working in the Boston area, I have the great privilege of being able to easily attend PAX East without spending a copious amount of money on travel and lodging. Knowing that, I proceeded to buy my 3 day pass and get ready for the festivities. April finally comes, and my pass in the mail. BCEC here I come!

The Pass: AgYqls.jpg The Expo: eJpqss.jpg Some Munchkin to pass the time: yf2NUs.jpg

This PAX was also the first time I came across the company Geek Chic (you can check them out, and their great work, at After seeing these awesome tables and the utility that they can offer, I instantly decided that I needed one of these tables of my own to bring the weekly game night over to my house. There were two problems though. 1) The cost of the table + shipping. The table that I would want would be over $2,000 easily, and Geek Chic does custom shipping of each table, adding >$800 to the cost of the table to ship to Boston. 2) The time to get the table would be over a year and a half, as the waitlist for these tables is extremely long. With that, I decided that I would design and build my own table.

The process started with designing the table. Looking at many table designs online, I decided that I wanted to make the construction simple enough to put together in a reasonable amount of time, though strong enough to basically last longer than I do. On top of this, I am not a seasoned woodworker, with my last project being 6 years ago (an arcade style DDR Dance Pad), so I wanted to keep from anything being too difficult to construct.

I spent about 2 weeks doing CAD work non-stop, building and adding features to the table design. The design ended up being a cross between the hoplite and emmisary tables from Geek Chic, along with many custom elements. Some renderings:

v1 Open: FIBDXs.jpg Open: pruW4s.jpg 1/2: VHVLws.jpg Open: mPQizs.jpg
Closed: TPVtTs.jpg Bottom: QXiwAs.jpg MUXeas.jpg

Some features you may or may not be able to see:
* Drawers for both the player and the DM
* Shelves for the remaining players on the sides
* Power access for all players
* Rail system for expansions in the future
* Dropped - Rabbited surface
* Acrylic Surface for Whiteboard / maps underneath

Now with the basic design in hand, I started to figure out what I wanted to make this table out of. I knew that I wanted to make it sturdy and last for a long time, so any soft woods were out of the question. Money also came into the picture too, as I couldn't spend too much on the raw materials. With those factors in mind, I decided to make the main table structure out of Maple, with the top of the table left open until later in the construction process.

This is where I came into the first problem: Availability of materials. Simply put: good hardwoods are either difficult or impossible to find in certian sizes. For instance, the main frame of the table was designed to be built using 2x6 boards. Only 1x* boards are readily avaiable for Maple, so the next night I spent many hours redesigning the base frame to work with 1x4 boards as the main building components. Visually, the look of the table did not change much though the construction was simplified. Unfortunately I do not have many renders of this stage, but I do have some remaining CAD work to render later.

Anyways, after that was done I bought enough raw materials, a dovetail jig / router bit, and a drill as mine sucked, and began the first steps to construction:
Materials: mKUPYs.jpg Router Bit: cjNIxs.jpg

Some of the first steps were making a simple cutting jig, which I promptly discarded as it was a pain in the butt to use and bought a cheap mitre saw instead. I also bought a cheap routing table to help with some of the other cuts:
Making Straight Cuts with the Router: JXSGms.jpg Rail Test - 5j0OPs.jpg Crap Cutting Jig: e5OYbs.jpg
Box Cut Test: puNeUs.jpg Mitre Saw: 62OLbs.jpg

And now I started to build the frame:
Frame V1: 27sGGs.jpg Frame 3 pieces: ky2Pds.jpg Frame Pieces: L6ZwHs.jpg Frame Outer Done: GqZ0Ws.jpg
Close Individual: 0s3f4s.jpg Tenion Joint Close: EFFDzs.jpg

Now, once I started constructing the frame together, the Tenion joints in the inner frame ended up being cut off and screws were used to simplify construction. The inner cuts into the outer frame pieces were just so complicated that it wasn't really worth it (and I still got a great amount of strength out of the design). Still, there were no visible screws on the final construction.

I then began to buy and construct the pieces for the table top. It was at this point I decided on Red Oak for the top surface. I was originally thinking of making it out of Cherry, but Red Oak is visually very simular to Cherry, just as hard, and much cheaper. Going the route of designing around reducing expansion / contraction stresses of the wood, I decided to buy panels of Grade A Red Oak Vaneered Plywood. Some initial cuts of this stuff:
Dremel: GlR6vs.jpg Red Oak: ddfFvs.jpg First Plank: YURjis.jpg
Surface Before Top - ZNkQls.jpg

It was about this time that I finished the main table surface. During this time, my housemate decided that the construction noise was too much (it only took him 2 weeks to say anything, meanwhile I was oblivious to the problem). Abandoning my workspace in the basement, I moved to the garage that is by my apartment. Little did I know at the time though: the garage had a leak. Luckly the table was on risers at the time and there was no damage to the wood:
Surface With Oak: 6DZs7s.jpg Surface With Oak 2: 133yms.jpg
Garage Space: NMaPms.jpg Garage Flood: erbYgs.jpg

I began a search at this point for a new space to work. I initally looked at renting some warehouse space or something, but everything was far too expensive for me (basically another rent check per month). Eventually I found a space within walking distance of my apartment called Artisan's Aslyum. While there was no workspace avaiable for rent, I was able to get a good chunk of storage space that I was able to make my own workspace using about $60 of raw construction grade materials. I then began working again, first constructing the drawers using Maple and some of the Red Oak Plywood:
Workspace: r6nEls.jpg
Drawers unfinished: oJjh4s.jpg Drawers Sanded: ilBDUs.jpg

Artisan's Aslyum is a great place. As part of the area, it also has shared tools including a compound sliding mitre saw, stopsaw tablesaw, handtools, bandsaw, routing table, and more (on top of a metal and welding shop, with full-size CNC machines). I installed the drawers in the currently completed table and began working on the legs, having to search a bit to find good blocks of maple wood. Making the tapers on the bandsaw took a bit of time, but wasn't that bad.
Drawers in Table: vfnzxs.jpg Legs First: 5Oecqs.jpg Legs On Jack: RIu4Ys.jpg

And after one full day of sanding and hole filling (I'm talking 12 hours straight), also I put bolts through the top pieces at 45 degree angles to keep the frame square. I also added trim pieces around the frame on the bottom that are rounded to finish the look:
Drawers 2: M8Vpls.jpg Drawers 3: ueoWGs.jpg Drawers 4: q09tgs.jpg
Sanded Closed: vnUBjs.jpg poWObs.jpg nkJEcs.jpg

I also needed to get the table top ready. This was a challenge, as the top needed to be separate pieces for easy removal yet still needed to be almost perfectly flat. Instead of going with the plywood for this, I ended up buying 5 1x10 red oak planks for the task. The plywood, while strong, bowed at the length of the table. I needed a flat surface that only the pure hardwood would provide. Now I have extra plywood I can use for another project. To avoid the problems of wood contraction / expansion, I made the sizes of the top planks fit inbetween felt risers and spacers. This should protect the rabbit surface, the plank surface, and at the same time allow for some wood movement.

After that, there was testing of colors and applying on the table:
Test Colors: hAZ0Us.jpg Rail Final: 3mB08s.jpg
Final Close 1: srTsAs.jpg Final Close 2: QGq3as.jpg Final Close 3 - NZbmOs.jpg
Final Open: mYg9Ds.jpg upLaRs.jpg 9YI5ts.jpg JQS5gs.jpg
Final In-House Arkham - L3YW4s.jpg

I'm going to add onto this later with the following:
* CAD Files (Autodesk Inventor) for people to actually have CAD to follow
* More Renderings
* Thoughts of what I could have done better / faster / different
* What is / can be next for me and this project / woodworking in general
* Parts list and cost estimates.

Any comments or suggestions are welcome :)

cpc197c on


  • InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    Just gonna say wicked. :^:

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  • Erin The RedErin The Red The Name's Erin! Woman, Podcaster, Dungeon Master, IT nerd, Parent, Trans. AMA Baton Rouge, LARegistered User regular
    I'm throwing money at the screen and nothing is happening :'(
    This is fantastic, and I am envious of your abilities. Kudos, sir.

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  • CadmusCadmus Registered User regular
    Awesome! I've been wanted to do something similar for a while but a combination of work space, time, money and motivation has kept me from getting started.

  • cpc197ccpc197c Registered User regular
    Here are the rough CAD Files for anyone that would like to view them. I need to refine them more and work on the constraints some more (I had a more complete version of the first version, but those files no longer work as I modified them to make the second version without making a copy :( )

  • KainyKainy Registered User regular
    After seeing this, I'm not sure I can express in human words how sad I am that I can't just outright buy something this awesome :P

    IcyLiquid wrote: »
    There's anti-fuckery code in there now :) Sorry :)
  • cpc197ccpc197c Registered User regular
    Here is an excel document going over the costs of the table and tools. Of course, the tool costs are one time.

  • cpc197ccpc197c Registered User regular
    Now, what could be done for next time?

    * Making the inside of the base frame out of a cheaper hardwood, saving about $50 with no loss in quality
    * Making parts using the CNC for better fitting pieces
    * Making parts of the drawers out of cheaper hardwoods to save money without quality loss
    * Leaving out the power sub-system saves about $70
    * Learning to use some tools more effectively, such as the jointer, to save time

    If I were to go full time at this, I could see myself capable of making two of these every two weeks. This is also an option to give Geek Chic an east-coast competitor.

    So what is next for the table project?
    * Making new snap-in pieces for the rail system. Fist will be the cup holders, then deck boxes
    * Possibly thinking about how to produce these if there is enough interest
    * Getting a full patent on the table / drawer design if possible (It is derivitive of other works, but custom built and designed with new ideas)

    Thanks everyone who has responded so far!

  • rkaldridgerkaldridge Registered User new member
    This table is awesome! I was wondering if you have a CAD with better renderings for dimensions? Or even just the plans themselves? Thanks, Ryan.

  • rkaldridgerkaldridge Registered User new member
    Also, how do you get the table top off? do you just take each plank individually? are the glued together to just be one large top that pops off? The top looks pretty flush, is there some trick or a side that pops off so you can remove it? Thanks, Ryan.

  • cpc197ccpc197c Registered User regular
    Hey, I know this is late but I haven't checked in a while:

    I can see if I can find the plans (I finished the cad later on). As for the top, they are all individual planks. There are 5 of them, with the center one slightly smaller. I get them off by using a button located on one of the sides. You simply push it up, and it lifts the edge of that plank. Once you take that plank off, you can then remove the others easily.

  • cosecantcosecant Registered User new member
    very nice. you are the most popular game table manufacturer complete with explanations. type in building game tables in google and you pop up.

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