Making a Gaming Table

Years and years ago (1989 ish), I had an idea for a gaming table. I had a Toshiba 1100+ which was a very small laptop with a 23 or so line text screen. I’d been programming and was looking at using NETBIOS as a method of chatting with others who might have laptops as a Dungeon Master. The table would have 5 spots for laptops to slide in and the gaming surface itself. In this way notes could be passed without others noticing and the game could be managed without much trouble.

For years since then I’ve checked out various ideas for tables like a taller surface with an underlying cubby-hole setup that included PVC pipe to roll notes to others and tables using old drafting hardware to raise the table itself and smaller board game oriented tables and even tables that look like poker tables.

I’ve done some wood working in the past and a few years ago I snagged a joiner. This is a small cutter that creates a 2″ or so half-oval cut into the side of a board. You’d use it along with the 2″ biscuit to better connect two pieces of flat board together. In my case, in testing this process, I snagged 6 1″x6″x6′ long pine boards and joined them together. I created an ‘X’ base out of plywood. In order to get it upstairs, I had to quickly trim the corners but I ended up with a 6’x5′ table top. The ‘X’ didn’t work very well so I cut the two pieces in half and created a square base about 3’x3′. Under the table I screwed in a 2″ rim about 4″ in from the edge and another 2″ rim for the 3’x3′ base to sit on. You’d then screw the base to the top. Eventually I used some glue and black felted the top plus some left over red paint to paint the base and underside. It’s not too bad in general. Reasonably spacious for my Role Playing purposes. Space on one side for me and all my gear. Space on the other side for a large wet-erase mat and a little space around the edge for people’s stuff.

Recently I was hanging out at my Friendly Local Gaming Store, Atomic Goblin Games in Longmont Colorado, and he had picked up a small 3’x3′ board game demo table. On two sides it had a trough for bits and in the center of each trough, a round holder for a dice cup or drink. This finally gave me an idea for building a table and it was time. I whipped out a paper and drew up my idea with the trough in mind. Using hard woods (which might get expensive), I designed a trough. You can see the side view in the picture below. I wanted a place where you could put a clipboard and it’d be supported at an angle. Hence the route on the top left and the attachment and route on the right outside of the trough. It would hold a 3″x5″ or so piece of wood and you could prop your clipboard into the outside route and lean it on the wood on the right outside. In the center would be 1/4″ strips of plywood which would hold a sliding tray (on the right). The tray could be for dice or pencils or miniatures. The trough itself would be a lower level, same idea though. Pencils, minis, a bunch of dice.

(See here for the rest of the plans.)

One of the bigger ideas was to make it modular. With carrying the big table top downstairs, I didn’t want it to be so large and heavy I couldn’t move it without help, but I did want it to be at least as big as the current table. So modular. It’ll be a base 3’x3′ table that will be attached to other tables to make a 6’x6′ gaming table or since it was modular, a 3’x3′, 3’x6′, 3’x9′, or even 3’x12′ if you put all the tables in a line. Each trough will fit a side of the table. With 8 troughs, you’d have a 6’x6′ table with 8 stations, 2 on each side.

I also wanted it to be taller or shorter. Since it’s modular, I can make the table legs any height. My first run was the height of a kitchen counter or bar. This way you can comfortably sit on a bar stool or stand and play (I prefer standing myself). But later I can create table height legs, or even floor height where you can sit on the floor and game.

I had some ideas for the clipboard support panels as well. I can make them out of nicer wood or even dry erase material and you can write on it for others to see (like your game name, race, things folks would normally see). I also plan cup holders made of oak which attach to the troughs.


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