My First Woodworking Project -- 5'x5' Gaming Table

My First Woodworking Project — 5’x5′ Gaming Table

The Final Product

This is finished table without the neoprene mat. Its a perfectly fine general playing surface, although I decided that I wanted a mat after all for card games. (The mat was ~$45)
My non-tool costs

Plans (David Solheim):
Sketchup File (David Solheim):
Youtube Construction Video (gaminggeek):

Add $45 for the neoprene/nylon playing mat. (

Note that there are some "extras" in this spreadsheet due to warped wood, or me having a brain cramp (e.g., the lone 1×4 and 1×6, and the 14-3 Romex [completely unnecessary for this project, but I accidentally bought it first]).

Lumber Comes Home

Thankfully I could fit 8' boards in my Prius. I had to borrow my friends minivan to get the 4'x4' plywood home, though.
Building the Base Frame

Used my outdoor table as a simple stand. (Wish I had a work bench 🙂 All cuts were made using a mitresaw, and then drilled in using 2.5" screws. Using a countersink bit for the drill helped quite a bit here.
Inner Playing Surface

The 1x6s are mounted around the outside now, with the 4'x4' plywood resting on the base frame shown in the previous picture. Since I was doing this as one person, the nail gun came in handy to quickly tack things in place once they were lined up, and then I followed up with 1.625" screws to really hold it down. (Also used wood glue–belt and suspenders here.)

You can see the legs resting against the wall in this picture–pretty simple: take two 2x4s cut to height (making one shorter by the width of a 2×4 so the base an rest in the notch), and glue 'n screw 'em together. Solid table legs! (Unfortunately, I was following the plan too closely here and didn't realize at the time that these legs were a bit short for me–I remedy that later with a small 2×4 block screwed into the bottom of the legs.)

Struts in for the Outer Frame

The game table is off to a good start. This's the first real woodworking project I've done (barring, perhaps, a birdhouse in boy scouts)–all sorts of fun is being had! Lesson 1…plywood is heavier than it looks.

Here the struts are in place using wood glue, finish nails (for holding the piece steady), and screws.

Outer Frame In

The outer frame is done (include holes for electrical sockets). The tops have all been dry fit, and the holes for the cup holders and trays have been planned out. Unfortunately, I couldn't cut those today due to one of my 1x4s "exploding" when I hit it with my nail gun. Now I know why knots in the wood are so bad. (had to go buy a spare and recut–also had a bad 1×6 [too warped] that needed replacing.)

You can see I cut the holes out for the electrical outlets here (drill a big hole, and then let the jig saw cut out the rest).

Anyway. Once the holes've been cut in the top, I can glue/nail everything down. No more wood-cutting after that–just filing holes with putty and sanding/staining/sealing.

Dry fitting facade, planning cup holders and pencil/token trays

All the 1x6s cut and dry-fit on the top. Now I'm measuring out where all the holes would go.
Facade In

Hole saws are the best!

I had to make two extra trips to Home Depot (in addition to harbor freight to get clamps): I didn't like my initial choice for the tray bottoms; also I needed 3/4" screws to fasten the bottoms on (rather than the 1/2" screws I bought). If I had stopped to think about it, I probably would've figured that out when I bought the backing board.

Oh well.

The cup holder holes are all cut, and the dice/pencil/card trays are cut and backed! I was originally planning on cutting the cup holders out using my jig saw because I didn't want to buy another ~$100+ tool (hole saw). Thankfully someone at work pointed out to me that a hole saw is really just another "bit" for your drill. I found a small set of holesaw bits at harbor freight for ~$20 and they worked perfectly.

Tomorrow is the big day–fastening the tops down, and (hopefully) getting wood putty into all the nail/screw holes in prep for sanding.

Sanding … so much sanding

Geometry's not supposed to be this hard. The inner quarter-round trim is what will hold the "dining" table top up, but I could not figure out how to cut the piece such that they sit 45 degree flush. Somehow I managed to get it upside down, forwards, backwards, and everything in between. I finally got it, though; the national nightmare is over.

Unfortunately the cup holders I got off Amazon were slightly larger than 3.5 inches, so I had to take the jigsaw to the pretty hole-saw holes to make them slightly bigger. It's not pretty … but it's covered up by the lip of the cup holder, so no biggie.

I also got 90% of the sanding done. So much wood dust. I'm sure a spark in my garage would blowup the house. I used 220 grit pads for everything. I'm still kindof puzzled by what the bast sanding technique is because I still had (very subtle) gouges in the surface (I think the sander was putting them there …). I thought I was replacing the pads frequently enough, but maybe not … (?)

You can see a test of the red oak stain I'm planning on applying to the table (it doesn't show the semigloss, polyurethane coat, though).

Stain (red oak)

I find it hilarious how much I'm underestimating the time each of these steps takes. (Of course this comes with experience.) Painting should go fast, right? Brush in stain-bucket, smoosh it around the table, good to go, yeah? No. Not good to go. Good to take two hours.

You can see I was probably too liberal with the wood putty when I was filling in screw holes (all those patchy areas). I scraped away all but the stuff on the hole, but apparently the putty treats the wood on contact making the stain less likely to hold.

I'm in the final stretch. The stain will set in overnight, and then the coats of polyurethane go down! Sunday'll probably be the day the table gets moved inside, and gets the legs attached. After that, it's just the electrical (the one thing I have any experience with in this whole project :).

Sadly the neoprene/nylon playing mat won't show up until next week (possibly the week after, due to the holiday 🙁

Staining the top boards … don't do it like this.

I've never stained anything before. I thought I was being really clever doing it this way (leaning the boards against the wall and letting gravity help). This isn't very clever. I was better off just using scrap wood to stand the boards off the floor and staining them horizontally.
Protective polyurethane coat in place

Polyurethane is down. The table looks very purty now. I decided to go with four coats of semi-gloss for the surfaces people will be using most frequently (2 coats for the table legs, 3 for the cover panels, 4 for the main body).

I'm kind of nervous about attaching the legs. I did a couple "test runs" drilling through two 2x4s (effectively what the leg attachments will be), and I managed to crack one of the boards. I'm wondering if it would be better to drill through a single 2×4 (i.e. the leg) first, as a sort of pilot hole, and then, after the table is resting on the legs, drill through the pilot hole into the table frame (rather than drilling through both 2x4s in one go). I'm planning on putting two bolts through each leg (rather than lag bolts) to allow me to take it apart later if I need to move it.

I should mention that the original legs in the plans I was following turned out to be too short for me. I didn't think to check it at the time I was cutting though. So you can see a little 2×4 square stuck on the bottom legs to get an extra 1.5 inches of height (too cheap to go buy more 2x4s and do the legs completely over) It made all the difference!

Putting in electrical

So a funny thing happened while I was wiring the electrical for my table. I get an outlet all wired up, stick the outlet tester in it, and what do I see? Neutral and Hot are reversed. What?! How did I screw that up? Turns out it wasn't my outlet, it's my garage! The entire garage was wired with hot and neutral reversed (the house was correctly). So that was fun (what's great about that kind of error, is if I /had/ really gotten it reversed, I wouldn't've been able to tell because two wrongs actually make a right in this case).

One other goof up–for some reason I bought 14-3 Romex when only 14-2 Romex was needed because who knows why. I guess in my head I was thinking "I need three wires: hot, neutral, ground." and just picked up the 14-3 without a second thought because the number 3 matched my thoughts. The silly thing about this stuff is the ground wire is always implicit, 14-2 has two primary conductors AND the ground wire.

Woo hoo, it works!

It's done!

Getting the table to rest on the legs was a bit of chore–it was more prone to resting its weight completely on the bolts, rather than dividing the load onto the legs. Jon helped out a bunch here, keeping the table stable while I worked things out below.

I wish I had a planer …

Unfortunately the top boards aren't totally flat. Good enough, but still.
Temple of Elemental Evil

Overall a very fun and worthwhile project. I've got some basic wood-working literacy now, and a cool, new table to boot! Just looking at comparable gaming tables online, a table this size would go for ~$3,000–I'd say I came out ahead 🙂 (Granted this isn't super-professional quality, but still …)
Small World

Source : eireamhoine from Reddit

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