Tabletop Projects - Custom Gaming Table

last updated February 1st, 2023 — created February 1st, 2023

As anyone deep in the hobby knows, most large gaming tables cost thousands of dollars. Being at the center of a Venn diagram between "Wants a big fancy gaming table" and "Doesn't want to spend thousands of dollars on it", we've been finding alternatives to this for almost a decade.

Firstly, we are not experts or even very experienced in furniture design or building, so take what you see in this post with a grain of salt and "at your own risk". That said, we have just finished building our 3rd game table and wanted to share how/why/etc with everyone! We get a lot of questions about the first 2 we built but didn't document their construction very well. This time around we have pics of each and every step!

How We Got Here and Design Goals

Our first two gaming tables were modded IKEA Bjursta tables. They were pretty good (we used the second one for nearly 7 years) and gave us some good experience and ideas for improvements for this latest version. This one is custom built from scratch, but as we said before we're not very experienced furniture designers (only having created modded stuff from other stuff prior to this), so a big requirement for this one was that it needed to be pretty easy to make despite being completely custom. We didn't want to have to do any fancy wood finishing, staining, etc. We actually didn't even have to trim our boards ourselves. More on that later.

Learning from our past tables, we knew we wanted this one to have thicker rails, a more durable fabric covering those rails, and to have a bigger playing surface. We also experimented with edge-lighting¹ and motorized height-adjustable legs², but these didn't really work out. After some lengthy research and discussion, we settled on a design pretty similar to the Bjurstas we'd modded before. Essentially, you have a big frame of rails that are supported by big legs that make up the structure of the table, then you attach your playing surface to the bottom and have the option of placing a hard surface over the top when you'd like it to function like a normal table. This design is super sturdy and can support a lot of weight. We also wanted to make sure the legs would be removable for easier moving, which was pretty easily accomplished with some hanger bolts.

Materials

On this and the second version of our table, we used 6mm neoprene covered in faux suede for the playing surface. After years of using our previous table, we're very happy with this material selection. The neoprene provides a great surface for cards and dice. The suede is soft to the touch, provides the perfect amount of friction, and has held up really well on the playing surface. This time around we opted to wrap our rails in pleather because the faux suede was starting to show wear after several years of use.

Enough background, let's get into it! We realize some of these materials and where/how we get them won't be available for everyone (namely internationally), so you may need to mod these materials/sizes/etc for your own use. Our table is 48" wide (because Home Depot's lumber sheets are 48" wide) and 80" long (because our neoprene is limited to 80"). If you want to build this exact table, here's what you'll need and what it'll cost you (all prices are what we paid in USD):

TOTAL: $469.97

How To Build It

First, spray your chipboard with a ton of spray adhesive then adhere it to your neoprene. Once this is stuck on really evenly and the adhesive has set, trim off the edges of the neoprene so your chipboard and neoprene are the same dimensions.

Next, spray your neoprene with a thick layer of spray adhesive and then stretch and place your faux suede on it. Flip the board and staple the suede to the underside, keeping it stretched fairly tight.

Now that you have your playing surface ready, it's time to build the frame. Take your 4 legs and wrap them using the contact paper.

The leg brackets have a rounded corner, so you need to take a bit off the corner where it is going to be mounted so it'll sit really flush. Then screw your brackets to your legs using the wood screws. Wrap those in contact paper so they blend in better, but they'll be pointed to the inside of the table so it doesn't have to be super neat.

Now you just need your rails and you can put everything together. Take your 4 rail beams and partially wrap them in the pleather. Think through this process carefully, you'll need to get the bottom and go around the inside. But next you need to screw together the rails (meaning you won't have access to the ends of the short beams because they'll be screwed together) and you still need to sink those screws through the long rails into them (meaning you need access to the outside of the long rails). Later, you'll need to wrap the pleather around the outside to the underside of the whole table top (rails and playing surface) so you can hide the chipboard and have a nice edge. So it's really important to only staple in what you need to, and leave the rest loose to be stretched/stapled later.

Once wrapped, use the lag screws to attach the rails together. Countersink the screws and then wood fill over the heads so your rail's outer edge is nice and smooth.

Finally you can put everything together! Flip your playing surface face down onto your rails, and use the cabinet screws to mount it to them. Then stretch your rails' pleather around and staple it to the bottom of the playing surface. Lastly add a center piece of pleather to cover the chipboard's rough surface, and your table is ready for legs!

Carefully mark and screw in your hanger bolts, and then use the lock washer and nuts to attach the legs. Flip it over and you're done! Woohoo deluxe gaming table for you! :D

That's it! Isn't that easy-adjacent?? Please let us know if you have any questions, advice for others, or snide remarks. If you make this table, please share pictures!

As always, game on friends!

- Kelsam

¹ Turns out that table edge-lighting is actually not very useful at all. We experimented with different brightnesses, angles, etc. No matter what we tried, if the lights were bright enough to illuminate anything, they created an awful glare for anything you were viewing at the opposite end of the table because, well, reflection physics. At this point we're convinced that this feature in high-cost gaming tables is entirely decorative. So we abandoned that idea.

² The motorized table legs we tried to use were Autonomous SmartDesk Pro legs. These are what Sam has on his desk and he loves them. They have a high weight rating compared to competitors, they can adjust to support a surface up to 70 or so inches long, move up and down without jostling things, etc. However, they (and anything similar we researched) only have a depth of just over 20 inches. That's great for a big desk that's usually only up to 30 or so inches but when you're trying to make a 4 foot by 8 foot table, you end up getting into the tipping zone. Especially when you consider that you'll have people leaning on the edges. So, in the end, it became apparent that we'd either have to abandon this idea too or invest a LOT of money in multiple sets of legs and Sam would have to make some sort of microcontroller go-between to keep them in sync with a single controller. Not really worth it.


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