Gaming Articles

Making a Game Table: Level 1

Tips and tricks on how to create a basic gaming table!

Hey, folks!

If you’re like me, you’ve always wanted to do something hands on like build furniture or do household projects, but life or space has gotten in the way. When I most often get the pangs to create are often when I’m living in a small space like an apartment with no common areas. I’m going to write down the steps that I did to complete my first gaming table. My hope is that you can learn from my missteps and keep on creating!

Step 1: Planning

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This is probably the biggest and most important step because it will affect future steps, your timeline, and your budget. The bigger the project, the more time you will need unless you recruit more help. This helped me create a parts list and a list of cuts I would need to make in the wood I used. Having this information helped me make a timeline on completion.

I first started by figuring out how far I wanted to take this project. I had an old table that I was doing nothing with, and a strong desire to make the gaming tables that I had been seeing on the Internet. I do a lot of role-playing games so having something that I could easily show maps and create them would help me out.

With the knowledge that I just wanted to mount in a TV, I started doing research. This research involved looking at YouTube videos, finding other plans, scouring Pinterest for gaming table ideas, and looking up basic woodworking skills. Putting this information together, I discovered a parts list that someone else had used and pared it down to my needs.

Parts list screenshot
A snapshot of my initial parts list. See something missing?

With my parts in mind, I created sketches for how I would implement it. After measuring every table ledge and depth, I finalized the plans and redrew them in earnest. I didn’t do this part solo. Instead I enlisted the wonderful support of handier friends to proof plans that I had made up and once it received their blessing, I began sourcing parts.

Step 2: Getting parts

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So I had a free table, all I needed was a free TV. A lot of people were giving away TVs on Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji, or Craigslist. I leveraged every opportunity I could to find a used LCD TV that still worked until I randomly joked at my D&D group that if anyone had a TV they wanted to get rid of. To my surprise, one of my fellow adventurers said they would give it to me in exchange for some hard labour helping them move.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes you find it in unlikely places.

With the TV and the table in tow, now I needed a place to work. On a roll for asking for help, I asked some friends who happened to have a garage if I could take over a portion while I worked on the table. Thankfully they agreed with no conditions, and I was able to start finding parts in earnest!

I did some price shopping and found that there wasn’t much price difference between the major hardware stores in my area. So I went to one I trusted and bought the 2 x 4 x 8s, screws, and glue. I decided to avoid the cable route and bought a Chromecast as is solved the issue that the TV’s power button would be obscured. The Chromecast works with Google Home to turn on and off TVs and definitely increased the cool factor!

With all the parts picked up, I needed to get some hand tools. I managed to score a drill, a handsaw, a mitre box, and rotary tool at a Habitat for Humanity store on sale. I aimed to do this job these tools to keep costs simple. Woodworking tools are expensive to come by.

Tip: Woodworking tools can be expensive. Try to borrow what you can!

With parts and tools in hand, I brought everything over to await it’s construction.

Step 3: Construction

Day 1

Construction was a bit of a hay day! I started by measuring out and figuring out where I wanted the TV to sit. From there, I cut out the hole. The cutting was long and arduous with a handsaw. The job truly needed a circular saw or a jigsaw. I wasn’t going to let it stop me. When I finished up on the first day, I had gotten through the table. It was heavily crooked though.

Tip: Use the right tools or you may end up making more headaches for yourself.

Day 2

On day 2, I came back with a borrowed circular saw to correct my mistakes. Unfortunately, the kick was a bit strong for me and I ended up causing some gashes in the table that I hadn’t intended on creating. But at least the TV fit in the table!

With the table corrected, I began putting together the frame with the wood screws. It was difficult to try and drill on an angle. Some times the wood wanted to lift up and not sit flush with the board I was drilling from. I would highly recommend a Kreg jig to create pocket holes if I was to attempt something similar.

Once the frame was glued and installed to the frame, I began work on creating a crossbeam that I could attach to the frame and support the TV from falling or relying on the plastic to keep it up. Due to the shape of the attaching bolts, I chiselled out pockets for them in the 2 x 4 I cut to size. I made the mistake of not double checking my measurements and created the pocket in the wrong spot.

Tip: Make sure you measure twice before you cut or drill anything!

Almost at the end of my day, I tried cutting moulding to cover the aforementioned gashes. Unfortunately, I did not learn from my mistakes and cut without measuring. As a result, all my pieces were 2-1/4″ too short on account that I didn’t take into account that it needed to be longer on both sides. It’s not new wisdom, but I put too much trust in my calculations. Even after you calculate, measure!

Day 3

I was a man on a mission. It was Labour Day, I had things to do, and some things to get off my mind. This was one of them. I brought a new set of moulding and proper drill bits. This was going to happen today as if my life depended on it.

The first step was to measure and cut the moulding. Remember when I didn’t measure after my calculations? I did it it again on my fresh moulding. I was so focused on the 45-degree angles, I didn’t double check. Truly if there’s one thing you pick up from this: measure before you cut, measure after calculations, measure before you cut again, and then cut. Your budget will thank you!

With my moulding a little bit shorter, I decided to try a different framing set up. It’s not the prettiest, but I did it. The pieces were placed and dry fit together. A few pieces were a little short, so I added some on. Again, not pretty, but it works.

Getting my drill out of it’s case, I drilled pilot holes for my finishing nails to attach the boards down to the table. I found that drilling through the moulding and then removing the moulding to continue drilling into the table really helped to get the nails in easier.

With the moulding on, I finished the crossbeam’s chiselling and then attached with two wood screws to the frame from Day 2. It fit perfectly. I then removed the TV and attached a power bar so that I could plug in the TV and Chromecast.

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Tada! A finished table!

With a wipe of my brow, I knew that I had completed my first woodworking project.

Acknowledgements

  • A big thank you goes to my co-worker, Matthew Hocken, for the use of his circular saw
  • To my best friends, J & J Warkentin: Thank you for your garage. It was the perfect habitat for an incubating gaming table.
  • My dear wife, Courtney, who kept me motivated
  • To Jordan and Thomas who proofed my plans (even if I strayed far from them)

I’d like to dedicate this project to the loving memory of Martin A. Dambeau – a brilliant woodworker, a loving father and grandfather, and devoted husband. I admired his love of cars and his ability to work with his hands. My hope is that this project will be a way to honour his memory. RIP 2018

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