September 12, 2011

Game Table

This post comes from my HackMaster blog, but since it was a project I spent a good amount of time on last week, I thought I'd share it here.

We've moved our game from Boise State University to our home and recently picked up another player.  Last time we gamed at out house I had a large hinged sacrificial table top made of MDF.  That thing weighed a ton, but i was able to fold it up and set it aside in the garage between games.  Unfortunately the MDF got wet and the table warped badly.  I should have sealed it and painted it.  Even if the thing had been sealed and painted, they way it sat on the table led it to be pushed around and if not laid down right the thing would bow in the middle.

We needed more playing room and I thought another tabletop would do.  Since I already had one failed design down, I figured that I could have another go at it and do a much better job.

First attempt at 42x80 tabletop
We have more room in the living room, so the new tabletop can be bigger than the old one was.  My wife and I ventured down to Home Depot with measurements in hand.  I figured that we could fit an eighty inch by forty-two inch in the living room.  Unfortunately I couldn't fit that big of a slab into my FJ40, so we had the particle board cut into roughly forty inch square sections.

Laying out lines for added support
When we got it back home I was able to measure out the dimensions of the kitchen table onto the two pieces.  After pre-drilling some holes I screwed in some two by two supports that keep the sections from sliding around the table.  There is less than a half inch of movement while nestled on the kitchen table, but it isn't as sturdy as I'd like.  The sides only have six inches clearance which is just fine, but the ends are eighteen inches and bend/flex a bit too much.

Added end supports
Sealed and painted
After the game I got some help bringing the unified table out to the driveway where I had set up some sawhorses.  Using the leftover two by twos, I fastened some extra supports for the ends of the table.  I put a good coat of Kilz primer sealer on, followed up by a coat of white semi-gloss I happened to have lying around.

Holes patched with caulk
Top sealed and painted
We flipped the table over and before I painted this side I figured that I would fill the screw holes.  The screws were countersunk and then plastered over with some caulk I had lying around.  I thought I had some wood filler around, but the caulk was going bad and if the table flexed any I didn't want the filler cracking or popping out.  The caulk should hold up.

Now that was done, I was able to seal then paint the tabletop.  Easy enough.

Starting the grid design
Halfway done on the grid
To be a real game table though, it needs to have a grid laid on top.  I was planning on using low-tack painter's tape to mark off some of the table to paint with a contrasting color.  Then I'd alternate the tape lines to paint even more of the top such that I'd get a nice checkerboard of 1" squares.  That wasn't going to work.  The tape was too fiddly so I needed another method.  A straight-edge and some Sharpies would do the trick.  I laid out some reference tape, marked it off every inch, and then did the hard work of making the lines.

Completed grid
It was almost painful, but I took my time and got the marks down.  The grid was a little off at the edges so I just left them to be.  If I had tried to square out the grid I think the results would have been shoddy.

All set up in the living room
After the grid came the real fun: six coats of Varathane Spar Varnish.  It turned the white tabletop more of a mottled beige.  I liked the results as it seems more like parchment.  After the sixth coat dried for 24 hours I used some corner supports screwed down over the corners for added protection. They worked like a charm.

The Spar Varnish gives the tabletop a waterproof finish that lets us use wet-erase markers just like the  game mat does.  We have to be careful with the red markers though, just like we do with the game mat.  The only issue is that the table is very glossy.  If the blinds aren't closed, people sitting opposite the window cannot make anything out over the shine.
Notice the shine

No big deal....we'll just put the game mat down.

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