Introduction: Add Side Ball Returns Your Halex/Franklin Foosball Table

I bought this inexpensive Halex foosball table for my family at Toys R Us. It's great, but it annoyed us that we had to reach over to the end of the table to retrieve the ball after each goal. So I decided to add some ball-return lanes to roll the ball back to us.

Before you start chopping up your foosball table, take note: This mod works ONLY for tables of this design! You may be able to customize this plan to work with your table---but first, read all the steps carefully and be sure you know what you're doing. If you mess up your table, I can't be responsible!

Step 1: What You'll Need

Parts:

6 feet of 3 x .25" hardwood or plywood
6 feet of 1 x .25" rectangular wood molding
Six 2.5" metal angle braces
Twelve 1" bolts, plus 2 small washers, 1 lock washer, and 1 nut for each bolt
1 foot of 2" PVC pipe
2 right angle (90-degree) 2" PVC pipe connectors (Get the type called "medium", not the narrower or wider types---see photos)
Duct tape
.5" brads (finishing nails with narrow heads)
Wood glue

Tools:

Dremel rotary tool with disc-cutter bit (or a coping saw)
Electric drill
Drill bits: 1.5" flat bit; 1/16" bit; bit for bolt holes (depends on bolt thickness)
Hand saw
Hack saw
Measuring tape
Small chisel and rubber mallet
Screwdriver
Pliers
Small adjustable wrench
Flat file
Fine sandpaper
Rag or paper towel
Safety goggles---and ALWAYS WEAR THEM when you use power tools!! If you've never gotten a splinter or metal shaving in your eye, you're lucky... But believe me, you don't want to find out what it's like!

Step 2: Remove the Corner Cover

Remove the plastic cover from one of the corners between a player's goal and that player's side of the table. (You want the ball to roll back to that goal's player, not the other player, right?) This reveals the "downhill" end of the goal box.

Step 3: Drill Hole in Goal Box

Drill a 1.5" hole through the end of the goal box. Be sure your hole is horizontally centered on the box's back wall, with the bottom of the hole just touching the box's floor. Take your time and measure first.

Step 4: Remove Staple(s)

If you find a protruding staple or two, pull them out with the pliers. If the pieces are too short to grab, carefully file them down to floor level so they won't block the ball.

Note: When I pulled the staples out of one of my goal boxes, that end of the box's floor came loose. (These things are cheap for a reason!) If that happens, just use some glue and a couple of brads to reattach it.

Step 5: Clear the Hole

Be sure the floor of the box is smooth where it passes through the hole. If necessary, sand it or lightly scrape it with the chisel.

Step 6: Enlarge the Hole

With the mallet and chisel, carefully enlarge the lower half of the hole so it looks like a mouse hole.

Step 7: Check Your Roll-through

Roll the ball through the goal several times to be sure it passes through the hole. It doesn't matter if it bounces off the end of the box, as long as it rolls through the hole. If it stops against the box, file down the hole's inside corners so they angle into the hole.

Step 8: Clean Out the Goal Box

Dampen the rag or paper towel and wipe the sawdust and debris out of the goal box.

Step 9: Seal the Inside of the Hole

This table is made of composition board that gets dusty and crumbly when you cut it. So with your finger, spread a light coat of wood glue over the inside of the hole (the surface exposed by the cut) to seal it.

Step 10: Cut the Ball-lane Board

To cut the board for the ball lane, measure the distance from the center of the hole to a few inches past the center of the table (where the player stands). In my case, this was about 24". (This photo shows the board already installed, so you can see how long it should be.) Cut a piece of the 3 x .25" board to this length.

Step 11: Drill the Holes for the Braces

Mark and drill the six holes for the three angle braces that will hold the board. This photo shows the braces installed so you can see where the holes should go.

Hold your board against the table so you can mark the braces' general locations. Brace #2 goes under the center of the board; braces #1 and 3 go a few inches from each end of the board.

To mark the holes, hold each brace so its horizontal half protrudes just under the table's bottom edge.

As you can see, I've attached the 2nd and 3rd braces to the inside of the table, pointing up. I couldn't do this with the 1st brace because the table leg was in the way---so I attached it to the leg itself, pointing down. (The board will cover it, so it won't be obvious.)

As you may also be able to see in the photo: On braces 2 and 3, I counter-sank the lower holes so the ball wouldn't hit the bolt heads. This wasn't really necessaryif your ball bumps into the bolts, you can just tilt the return lane slightly away from the table so the ball doesn't roll against the table's side. If you want to be fancy and counter-sink the holes anyway, use a slightly wider drill bit to make a second hole inside the first ones, just deep enough to hide the bolt heads.

Step 12: Attach the Braces

Attach the angle braces to the table using the bolts, nuts, and washers. (The next photo shows how all the pieces on.) Use the adjustable wrench to hold the nuts as you tighten the bolts with the screwdriver.

Step 13: Washers & Nuts

Here's how the washers and nuts go on the bolts. The piece of paper represents the table wall or leg.

Step 14: Level the Braces

If the bottoms of your braces aren't level (mine weren't), use the rubber mallet to gently tap them up or down. Don't worry if they're not perfect; once you've mounted your return lane, you can silghtly tilt it up or down to do the same thing.

Step 15: Cut the Side Molding

Use the hand saw to cut a piece of 1" molding that's about 1" shorter than the board.

Step 16: Drill Holes to Attach the Molding

Align the molding with the edge of the board and drill several 1/16" holes through the molding and into the board's edge. (Somehow I managed to do this freehandbut you'll probably find it easier if you clamp the board to something, or hold it in a vise.)

Step 17: Drill Holes to Attach Molding (continued...)

As you go, you can keep the molding from slipping by pushing a brad partway through one or two of the holes you've drilled.

Step 18: Glue & Nail the Molding to the Board

Apply a thin layer of glue to (1.) the edge of the board (which is pointed toward my knee in this photo), and (2.) the part of the molding where you'll attach it to the board. Spread the glue evenly with your finger. Re-align the molding with the edge of the board, push the brads through the holes, then gently hammer them in. Wipe off excess glue.

Step 19: Add the End Cap

Cut a 3.25" piece of the 1" molding and use the same drill/glue/brads method to attach it to the end of the lane. Be sure it's even with the board where they'll meet the table.

Step 20: Place the Lane on the Braces

Place the lane on the braces (open edge against the table, open end aligned with the center of the goal-box hole), and then...

Step 21: Attach the Lane

...duct-tape it on. (Yeah, you could cement it on, or use very short screws, but duct tape worked for me.)

Step 22: Measure the Inside of the Connector

Measure the inside of the PVC connector's end-ring to see how far your pipe will go into it. (Mine was .75")

Step 23: Measure for the Pipe (1)

Place one end of the PVC connector on the end of the lane, align its other end with the hole in the goal box, then measure the distance between the goal box and the end of the connector.

Step 24: Measure for the Pipe (2)

Now add your two measurements (steps 22-23) to find the length of PVC pipe you'll want to cut.

Here you can see that my pipe will be 2.75"2" from the goal to the end of the connector, plus .75" into the connector.

Step 25: Cut and Insert the Pipe

Use the HACK saw to cut your piece of PVC pipe. Cut as straight as you can. (Sorry, I didn't take a photo of this.) Gently file off the debris from the pipe's cut edge (photo), then insert the pipe firmly into the PVC connector.

Step 26: Add Pipe-support Brads to the Goal Box

Tap two brads halfway into the end of the goal box, on either side of the hole, so that when you rest the pipe on them the ball rolls into the pipe. Before you nail, hold the pipe in place and be sure the ball rolls through the goal box into the pipe. Notice that I also added a bit of glue to the holes before I tapped in the brads.

Step 27: Raise the Center of the Connector

To help the ball roll smoothly, attach something to the bottom of the connector to raise it about 1/4". I used a piece of thick stick-on felt from the dollar storebut a piece of folded-up duct tape (or just about anything else) would work. (Hey, "would work"---get it?)

Step 28: Attach the Pipe (1)

Place the pipe on the brads and the connector on the end of the lane, then duct-tape the pipe to the brads and the goal box. (You don't have to attach the connector to the return lane.) Test-roll the ball through the goal a few times.

BTW, if you've followed these steps carefully, the return lane is far enough to the left so the middle of the connector rests on it. If it's not, move the lane over and re-tape it. :?)

Step 29: Attach the Pipe (2)

[Include a large piece of duct tape on the underside of the pipe]

Step 30: Mark the Corner Cover for Cutting

Slide the corner cover back on till it meets the top of the pipe. Mark the area that you'll need to cut out so the cover can be slid down over the pipe and the end of the return lane. (No, folks, I don't have an actual pen that marks like that---I used a paint program.)

Step 31: Cut the Corner Cover

With the Dremel toolor a coping saw, if you have the patiencecut the corner cover. (WEAR THOSE SAFETY GOGGLES, GO SLOWLY, and BE CAREFUL!)

Try fitting the cover back onto the table. When you've cut enough for it to fit (it took me several tries), gently file the debris away from the cut edges, then sand them smooth with fine sandpaper.

Step 32: Reattach the Cover

Reattach the cover.

As you can see, I cut the corners off the ends of my lanes to make them a bit more finished-looking. (Don't cut off the parts that support the pipe, though.) I also added a small piece of felt to the end of each lane [not shown] where the ball stops.

Now repeat these steps to add the other side's lane.

You may wish to paint your new parts to match your table. I didn't botherI like the DIY look. :?)

Step 33: Pad Your Goal Boxes (optional)

As a final touch, I got some of this thin foam padding from a discount store's Crafts section and used it to line the insides of my goal boxes.

After measuring and cutting the pieces, I used one of my kid's glue sticks to attach them. Now there's no loud rattle on each goal. The balls will probably last longer too.

Comments

author
squawker made it!(author)2009-10-01

Duct tape always looks messy. Try to avoid using it.

author
squawker made it!(author)2009-10-01

Very cool. A friend of mine did a similar thing but the ball rolled along the bottom of the table before being lifted through the center by a series of electro-magnets. You don't see this operation but every time a goal is scored the ball shoots out of a hatch. The best part is that the hatch is lowered so it doesn't get in the way and the ball will roll over it freely. OMG He refuses to tell anyone how he made it and wont even post youtube videos of it in action. :(

author
b2gills made it!(author)2009-08-20

I would have run it through the inside.

author
brunobl3 made it!(author)2009-05-07

Amazing work! Very clean and useful!

author
jongscx made it!(author)2009-01-11

I guess the wooden padding makes it look more authentic, but you could also just cut a PVC pipe in half to make the tray, no?

author
jongscx made it!(author)2009-01-11

urg, not wooden padding, wooden trough. Looking at the last step that says padding and got confused.

author
ander made it!(author)2009-01-23

Sure, an all-pipe return would work too. But to rip the entire length of pipe (lengthwise), you'd need to feed it into a table saw—and I don't have enough experience with such unconventional cuts to recommend that.

author
SmartSkinnyKid made it!(author)2009-01-12

AWESOME DUDE!!!!!!

author
mmh made it!(author)2009-01-11

Good idea. A little surgery does the trick.

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