Gaming Table

Posted by Anthony H -

 

I’ve been painting miniatures for a few months now.  gts00Sadly, I suck at taking pictures of them or I’d show you more.  Nevertheless, game day has been pretty fun and using miniatures has been a big part of it.  I wanted to improve our tabletop experience.  We’d been playing on two craft tables pushed together for a long time.  Thing was, I knew if I was going to upgrade, I wanted to do it right.

I wanted to build a projection table, not from the top (which would paint the miniatures in unhealthy colors and cast ugly arm-shadows every time we moved them) but from below.  I did a fair amount of web research and read several step by step guides that inspired me.

Problem was, projectors are super expensive and I didn’t want to start until I had that squared away.  I hemmed and hawed for a long time and finally I sold piece of Dishonored memorabilia, which allowed me to invest in an Optoma GT1080, a projector with pretty good marks.

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After the projector arrived I started putting together some plans for the table.  Rather than go through my thought process, I’ll just show you what I got:

Click legs were my choice based on the fact that they anchored with 8 screws, were foldable and seemed sturdy enough.  The tabletop was only going to be 3/4″ so those 8 screws per leg seemed important.  gts02In retrospect, I think the click legs are not so awesome.  They are quirky and sometimes require a good bash with a screwdriver in order to jimmy the clip that lets you fold or unfold them.  That said, they look nice, are adjustable in length (which is very cool) and I don’t know what alternatives I’d have had. I did look at more standard folding legs, but they were ugly and didn’t allow for people to sit comfortably on the ends of the table.

A close up of one of the legs reveals how it folds up.  You can see the foot, which unscrews to lengthen the leg.  The finish is really the nicest part, being a matte but slightly satiny black: gts03

 

With the legs and the projector accounted for, I started looking at a suitable piece of plywood. I looked at a LOT of plywood. This made me sad because I didn’t want to be looking at plywood. Lowe’s was my first choice, but their selection was pretty crap. I was too lazy to go to a proper lumber yard and have them cut me something, so I settled on the Home Depot, which had primed basswood available.

gts05I looked at the pallet and the quality of these sheet DID vary so you have to be careful, but the one I picked was a good one.  It held up to several cuts, including a violent encounter with a jigsaw that more or less gutted it completely.  I’m happy to say that the plywood had no voids and didn’t uncompress on me. Additionally the primed surface was very smooth and a pleasure to work with.

Next step was to buy some plexiglas.  I opted for 1/4″ thick sheet, which I picked up from Austin Plastic Supply. There were plenty of options for ordering this online but most charged more for shipping than for the sheet itself. Additionally, since this was going to be the surface of the table and the projection surface as well, I wanted to see it and understand it before I bought it. The people at Austin Plastic Supply were great and they let me take a sample home to test my plan.

More about my plan later.

Long story short, I bought a sheet of 4’x5′ plexiglas and carted it home. This nearly resulted in heart failure as I looked back into the pickup bed of my friend’s small truck and saw the sheet levitating, preparing to take full flight on the highway and no doubt kill the people directly behind us. I had been concerned that this would happen but my friend assured me it would be fine without ties. Lesson learned. We pulled over and strapped it down in 32 degree weather (yes it sucks when it gets that cold in Texas) while a roadside assistance truck with revolving cherries offered moral support.

I also ordered these. gts08These are called sex bolts. They might also be called a host of other things, like Chicago screws, mating screws, binding posts, etc. But sex bolts is just so darn fun to say. And it’s even more fun to tell you co-workers that you are shopping for them. I got them from Modern Tool Supply. You can get them chromed, but it will cost you $12 each. Mine are brass, non-chromed, and I got them for something like $2.50 a piece. They look great and I was happy to save nearly $40.

My plan now in full swing, I summoned my most powerful friend, the one who owns power tools and was willing to wield them in my righteous cause. In preparation for his arrival I started drafting on the basswood. gts07You’ll have to click the picture to see the markup, but there was a lot of pencil work to ensure that when my friend arrived, we weren’t putzing around wondering how to proceed.

The idea was to have the click legs fold into an X that would help protect the projection surface when the table was stowed. I opted for red oak 1″x2″s to frame the table, but I think this was a mistake. They are a little flimsy and I’d have prefered 2″x4″s instead, I think, despite the extra weight.

I bought 4 of these 1″x2″s and used three of them. The fourth was in case we screwed up on the miter saw or engaged in other acts of stupidity, which I’m happy to report we did not.

Summon Friend worked. gts09

We used a jigsaw to out the middle and you can see the mitered red oak boards as well. These were cut to 54.5″ for the sides and 42″ for the ends. The table is exactly 4’x6′ so the framing will sit three inches from the edge and girdle around the legs.

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Here you can see the click legs are now in place, the framing is done (could have been sturdier) AND if you look closely the 3/8″ holes have been drilled in the corners for those illustrious sex bolts.  More about that later!

The oak framing was drilled and the screws countersunk. Wood glue was also used. Tools that touched the project were: drills, miter saw, circular saw (to trim the plywood which was cut to the wrong size by Home Depot), and a jigsaw.

 

 

 

Here is a picture of the table finally standing on its own:

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You can see a fifth hole mysteriously drilled toward the center of the table. This is also 3/8″ and is for a USB power supply hub that will sit on top once it’s done.

Next step, of course, is to spray paint the table black. I am suddenly reminded of the bad rap role playing games got back in the 80’s and remain grateful to my mother for keeping a level head. gts13“He’s not out drinking and doing drugs. He’s here, at home, playing games where I know he’s safe,” she used to say.

The black paint job is done with primer spray and does not have to be fantastic. It’s just the foundation for awesome. Also, the primed side of the basswood really was nice to work with in this regard.

Rather than hack up my beauties, I went in search of surrogates on the internet. When I found enough images of really good quality, I printed them out with a quality printer. The results were so good that it looked like I’d cut my treasures to pieces.

BEHOLD !

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I used some spray adhesive to get the pictures affixed, then used a brand new X-acto to trim them to fit the table. I will stress that using a new blade is nearly essential.

Plexiglas!

gts16 You’ll see that here I trimmed a 1 cm border off the paper backing and a 3/4″ frame around the middle. I made sure this inner frame was slightly LARGER than the hole I’d cut in the plywood. This ensures a clean edge and will prevent light bleeding around the edges. gts17

Now I remove the island of paper from the center of the plexiglas sheet. Here’s where that piece of scrap that Austin Plastics gave me came in. I had tested white primer on it and found it to catch the projector image just fine. It was a cheap solution in comparison to expensive projector films and I’m happy with the result.

gts18 Here you can see I just slather on the white paint, trying to keep it even but heedless of lines. The black is already down so no need to worry about messing up.

It’s important to note that the side I’m painting here will be the UNDERSIDE. The top of the table will have no paint on it. Ready for the big strip tease?

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Brown chicken, brown  cow! Above you can see that the back side of the plexiglas still has its protective paper on it. That side will be the UNDERSIDE of the table. What you are looking at above is the TOP side of the table. Time to peel the rest of the paper off!

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Ok, now that all the paper is off, you can see what parts are transparent and what bits have paint. This is showing the UNDERSIDE of the table top.  Let’s flip it over and mount it on the actual table!

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It’s sexy bolt time! The plexiglas was drilled with the same five holes as the plywood. That means the sex bolts go in the four corners and like hands gripping a sandwich, hold our plywood and plexiglas together. The fifth hole is, again, for the USB power hub. Admit it.  It looks pretty damn awesome. Check out some closer images of the artwork (which was Mod Podged before I put the plexiglas on).

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Next, was solving the projector issue. I learned pretty quickly that projectors are very versatile and that you don’t have to worry much about the size of the table or the size of the hole you cut. You can find a way to make it work. My current solution is temporary but it reveals the basic principle.  I suspend the projector and point it at the floor where a mirror bounces it back at the white rectangle in the table.

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The results are pretty darn good:

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I did suffer an injury during the making of the table. Sprained my wrist. Sucks to get old and be betrayed by your body. Nevertheless, after a lot of Ice, Ibuprofen, and a wrist support, I’m feeling good enough tonight to type up this blog post. Hopefully you find it inspiring and helpful in the creation of your own projector table for D&D, Pathfinder or whatever you prefer. It was really fun to build and we’ll certainly have fun playing on it!

Good night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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