Introduction: Justin's Poker Table Topper
I wanted a NICE poker table...trouble is...I don't have a poker room...or a man cave....or a game room...or a den...you get the idea. We live in a small place without a lot of storage.... So this project was going to have a few challenges. The basic idea was to create what looked like a permanently installed poker table...that could be placed in the dining room on the existing table. It would have to be stored in a smallish closet in the basement and carried up a flight of stairs every couple of weeks for the neighborhood poker game. And of course...I couldn't spend too much $$$ (the wife would have my head).
I looked at a number of DIY table designs and decided I could adapt them to a table topper design that would have all the elegance of a true poker table with the portablility of a table topper. I wouldn't be carrying this topper outside of the house, so it didn't need to go far, but it did need to be mobile enough to get in and out of that basement ...solo. Having used a number of different off the shelf toppers, I REALLY didn't want seams...they are troublesome...and get in the way of dealing....and more importantly to an obsessive-compulsive eye like mine, they are just unsightly. I wanted a shiny race track and smooth speed cloth playing surface. The first thought was just to build a table much like many of the others you've seen, but just leave the legs off. No way that was going to make it up those stairs and around that corner...even with help. But I couldn't figure out how to get around hinges and seams. Finally I conceptualized a three piece design that would minimize the impact of the seams, leave a single piece smooth playing surface and remain easy enough to move around the house and store in our limited space. The basic idea is to build a one piece table with rail, racetrack and a removable insert (playing surface) and then split the table (less the insert) in half and connect them with a pair of hasps that will be hidden under the insert.
As we prepare this project there will be 5 major phases to this project:
Phase 1: Selecting and assembling materials (step 1)
Phase 2: Woodworking (steps 2-11)
Phase 3: Upholstering (steps 12-13)
Phase 4: Finishing (step 14)
Phase 5: Final Assembly (steps 15-19)
Step 1: Select & Assemble Materials
Not to belabor the obvious, but you want to start by thoughtfully selecting your materials. I took my time on this one, nearly 6 months in fact. I didn't want to rush things and at the end of the day what you are looking at is a product of this decision more than anything else. The critical decisions are 1) the vinyl 2) the playing cloth and 3) the race-track veneer. There are a lot of options out there, so look around and see what you have available. For upholstery I ended up at Texas Poker Supply (http://texaspokersupply.com/build-a-table/). They have a full spectrum of materials including cups, vinyls, speed cloths, felts, and the prices are good enough. They will also do custom prints on the cloth if desired. Fabrics are cut in appropriate sizes so you end up doing better here than most bulk suppliers (that make you buy more than what you want). So look around, but the convenience of one-stop shopping is hard to beat.
I recommend taking the extra time and cost to order swatches and spend some time with matching your vinyl and cloth!
The other important piece is the race-track plywood. I ended up with a reasonable birch veneer from my local lumber yard, but if you want to get crazy, check out a fine-woods supplier. Your choices will be limited at standard lumber yards or Home Depot.
Here's the list of what I ended up with:
Upholstery & Cups (Poker Supplier or Fabric Store)
Vinyl & cloth Samples = $4.99 (marine vinyl) + $6.50 (exotic vinyl) + 2.50 (speed cloth) = $14
1) Vinyl (54" wide x 9 ft) = $9.98/ft = $89.82 Brown Crock Vinyl
2) Cloth (54" wide x 7 ft) = $5.98/ft = $41.86 Trump Card Suited Speed Cloth Poker Felt
3) 1" Foam (for Rail) = $54.95 High Density Open Cell Foam 105x55
4) 1/4" Volara Closed Cell Foam -(for playing surface) (60" wide x7 ft) = $3.25/ft = $22.75
Cup Holders (x10) = $6.50 ea = $65.00 Shallow Stainless Steel Cup Holders
Spray adhesive (1 can) = $8
Wood & hardware (lumber yard)
Racetrack - 3/4" Plywood Birch Plywood 4'x8' = $40
Rail - 3/4" Plywood (low grade) 4'x8' = $32
Base - 15/32" Sheathing Plywood 4'x8' = $18 (you could use a thicker piece, but it will add unnecessary weight)
Chest Latches (x2) = $3
Screws 1 1/4' (1 box) = $7 (note: I actually used 1" screws as depicted in the photo-too short. you want 1 1/4")
Staples T50 5/16" (2 boxes) = $2.67 ea = $5.34
Sand paper 400 grit
Sand Paper 1000 grit wet
Sand Paper discs 220 = $6
Polyurethane, 1 qt = $12
Stain, 1 pint
Rubbing compound (for final varnish buffing) = $5
Rotary Buffing pad
Wood filler (optional)
1 Large Drop Cloth = $40
Bottom Pad (carpet Pad) = $25
Approximate Total cost = $400
Hole Saw 3"
48" Metal Ruler
Router (with straight bit)
Rotary cutter & mat
A couple of cases of your favorite beer. It's going to take a while, so slow down and enjoy it. The more time you take, the better your final product will be.
Step 2: Cut the Corners on the Rail
The first thing to understand is that you will be using THREE pieces of plywood. This can get confusing so make sure you understand this before you make any cuts. For simplicity I will refer to them throughout the project as:
1) Rail (this is the lower grade plywood and will be covered with vinyl)
2) Racetrack (this is the nice veneer)
3) Base (this is the thin one)
First we are going to mark & cut the Rail Piece.
a. (picture 2) Mark the Center of each end radius. Use a ruler to mark the center point of the radius on both ends 24" from the end and each side.
b. (pictures 3 & 4) Draw your cut lines. Draw an 180 deg arc on each end. I used a framing ruler here as a compass, but if you don't have a similar instrument, you can create one out of a board or wooden yard stick (drill a hole to place your pencil in) or you can opt to use a wire (avoid string as it will stretch and leave you an uneven arc). However you choose to do it, drive a screw into your center point as an anchor to draw your arc around and make sure your arc meets both edges of the board evenly.
c. (picture 5) Cut the arcs. Use a jig saw with a fine (ish)- tooth blade to cut your line. Take your time on all your cuts.
You should end up with a 4'x8' oval (picture 1)
Step 3: Cut the Corners on the Racetrack
We're now going to repeat the same step on our Racetrack sheet but using our previous cut as a template.
a. (picture 1) remove your RAILsheet from your sawhorse, place your RACETRACK piece down first and then lay the previously cut RAIL piece on top. Line up the edges carefully and then clamp them together tightly..
b. (picture 2) Trace the four corners with a pencil
c. ****(picture 3) Mark one end of each sheet with an "X" This will be used to line them up again later in several of the steps and even in the final assembly of the table each time you pull it out of the closet. As hard as you try, you will NOT have a perfectly symmetrical cut, so the pieces will not fit together if they are not oriented properly. So save yourself A LOT of headache and pain by doing this simple critical step NOW!
d. (not shown) Cut your corners. remove the RAIL and cut the four corners carefully with the jig saw.
e. (picture 4, 5) Inspect your edges. Replace the RAIL piece on top of your now cut RACETRACK sheet and once again line all of the edges up carefully and re-clamp it. Inspect the edges for a match. While its not entirely critical since the rail will end up covered with 1" foam and vinyl, you do want a reasonable approximation of the form here.
f. (picture 6, 7) Adjust the edges. I doubt it would have made a difference, but I used a belt-sander to sand down the excess edging to get a better match of all of my curves. (yes I've got a bit of OCPD)
Step 4: Cut the Rail
During this step we are going to cut out the main rail from the RAIL sheet. Take a look at the first image and note that you will end up with a ring and a center piece. This center piece is scrap and will not be used (if you were making a stand alone table, you may end up using this piece as the base to install your legs on) for our project). You may want your rail bigger or smaller, so make your own adjustments to the measurements I used. I used a 4" rail.
a. Remove the RACETRACK sheet and make sure you are working on your RAIL sheet of plywood
b. (picture 2 - 5) Draw your cut line. Use a framer's (rafter) square to mark 4" from the outer edge of the sheet, following the curve all the way around on both ends. Using a straight edge, connect your two arcs making a straight line.
d. (pictures 6 & 7) Drill a single hole just large enough for your jigsaw blade on the cut line. This isn't that critical, since it will be covered with upholstery,but I didn't want any notches to be felt through the vinyl on the inside edge of the rail, so I drilled my hole INSIDE the line to avoid an uneven edge. This hole will be used to start your cut with the jigsaw.
e. (pictures 8 & 9) Now apply your helping hand! As you make your cut, the rail will fall away from the center piece that is supported by your saw horses. in order to keep your cut even and make your job easier, clamp the soon to be rail to the center piece. The cut away corner scraps will work well for this. Using two clamps, clamp one of the scraps so that it has a healthy overlap across your cut line, clamping the scrap to the rail only. Four of these jigs works well. As you cut, you can move one behind your cut as you progress around the oval. This makes a messy job easy to do single handedly. We'll use this technique later as well on 3 other cuts, so learn it now.
f. (picture 10) Cut your line. Insert your jigsaw blade into the drill hole you made earlier, and follow your line carefully around the entire circumference of the board. As you approach one of your jigs, pause, unclamp it and reclamp it behid the saw before progressing further down the cut line. In this way you will make your way around the entire cut without losing control of your wood. TAKE YOUR TIME ON THESE CUTS. This is a good cut to practice on, but if you aren't yet proficient with a jig saw, practice on some scraps first. Since the rail will be covered with upholstery, small imperfections won't be seen, but when we do the racetrack later, every minor deviation from the cut line will show, so now is the time to get comfortable with your saw and this technique. It's a long cut and we are going to make two more very similar ones later.
g. (picture 11) Sand your edges. Using a finishing sander with coarse sand paper, sand both cut edges to remove all splinters. It doesn't need to be smooth, just splinter free.
h. Set the rail aside for later and discard the center piece. It will not be used for this project. You can reclaim in another project down the road.
Step 5: Cut RAIL TRIM From the RACETRACK Sheet
We are going to cut the rail trim now during this step from the RACETRACK sheet. This piece will be combined with the rail that we cut in the previous step to form your actual rail.
(picture 1 & 4) The RACETRACK sheet is going to be cut into three pieces:
1) the Racetrack
2) the insert (playing surface)
3) the rail trim
Note: the dotted line represents the position of the edge of the finished rail when placed on top of the racetrack. [Fast-forwarding in time as is only possible on the internet] it may be helpful at this time to visualize the relationship of these pieces in the final assembly in the last photo. You may want to draw this "virtual rail line" in now for later reference at least on one segment of your racetrack.
a. Place your RACETRACK sheet on your saw horses and make sure you are working on the correct sheet. (This is your NICE piece of wood (and probably cost you more so you don't want to mess it up!)
b. (picture 2) Mark your radius centers on both ends at 24" from end and side just like you did on the first piece. Screw your compass in (in my case the framing ruler) as before.
c. (picture 3) Draw the outer racetrack cut line. Mark 1.5" from outer edge and then trace this all the way around the sheet using your compass and straight edge as we did on the rail in the previous step. This is the line we will cut for our rail trim piece.
d. (picture 1 & 4) Draw the inner Racetrack cut line. Now mark 11" from the outer edge and then trace this all the way around the sheet in the same fashion. This will be the cut line to separate your inner insert (playing surface) from the racetrack. We will cut this later, but it is useful to mark it now while your compass is installed.
e. (picture 4) Mark an "X" on one end on ALL THREE pieces. Before you make any cuts, make sure your "X" end is marked on each piece. Note that the Racetrack itself (middle section) will show, so keep the marking on the outer edge.
f. (picture 4) Drill two start holes for each cut line. It is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that you keep the hole on the inner cut line INSIDE the line (on the insert side) as this line will be the most visible of the entire project. We will plug this hole with wood filler later to avoid it being seen through the upholstery, but if any of that hole crosses into the racetrack area it will be visible on the finished product.
g. (picture 5) Cut the Rail trim. Using the same technique described in the previous step, clamp, cut and sand the outer strip (1.5") that will become the rail trim. Do NOT cut the inner line at this time!
Step 6: Assemble the Rail
Now things are starting to take shape. During this step we are going to take the two pieces we cut in the last two steps (the rail trim from the RACETRACK sheet and the RAIL from the RAIL sheet) and assemble them into the final rail composite assembly. This is where those orientation marks ("Xs") start to pay off. I in fact messed this up and had to re-do this step because I wasn't paying attention to my orientation marks on the rail trim.
As you saw in the last photo, the rail trim fits back onto the racetrack in the same orientation you cut it, so as we assemble this rail, make sure you keep the "X's" up and together on both pieces. Failing to do this will result in an impossible fit and you will have to re-do it.
a. (picture 2) Do a dry fit. Line up the Rail and Rail Trim pieces (with the X's up and together). Clamp them together. Make sure the outer edges fit together and are well aligned. If they aren't, you may have inadvertently flipped one of them.
b. (picture 3) Glue. Unclamp the two pieces and apply a bead of film around the entire piece and then re-clamp and align the two pieces.
c. (picture 4 & 5) Screw. Now using your 1 1/4" screws screw the two pieces together securely (note that the 1" screws depicted were a hair short. I made them work, but you want 1 1/4" screws!) Picture 5 show the finished rail (upside down).
d. (picture 6) Confirm fit. Now place the assembled rail back onto the table to make sure it fits. If it doesn't, re-check your alignment and make whatever adjustments you need to make sure that the rail fits on the racetrack. You'll want to make any corrections before your glue dries.
(picture 7). This is my error correction when I realized I had flipped my rail trim upside down. I discovered it when the rail would not fit onto the racetrack. Surprisingly easy to do in a hurry, you'll notice the lights went out as I was repairing this mistake late into the night! Still it was an easy enough mistake to recover from. The X's should have both been facing up on the same end! Easy enough to detect if you keep aware.
e. Sand your edges. Again, not critical since the entire rail will be covered with foam padding and vinyl, but you do want reasonable approximation of the edges and certainly splinter free.
See the rail aside. We'll check fit later again and upholster it later after finishing the wood work.
Step 7: Cup Holder Cut Outs
You could do this later, but I felt like it would be easier to do before I cut the insert out. This was actually quite a time-consuming step. the hard part is getting the cups in the right places equally spaced out. While this is conceptually easy, for a obsessive-compulsive wood-workers eye, getting the measurements right is a trial and error process and takes time. But don't get impatient, because if the spacing is off you will notice and once you cut these holes, you can't go back.
I had a 3" hole saw which matched my cup holders perfectly as seen in pictures 2 & 3. If you don't have one or don't want to buy one, you can cut these holes with your jigsaw. Just draw the circles using the cup holder and then drill a starter hole in the middle and spiral your jigsaw out to the cut line. Make sure that if you do this, you leave enough room for the cup without cutting the hole bigger than the outer lip.
a. (picture 4) Determine the horizontal spacing (center line). You'll recall that earlier we had drawn the "virtual line" of the rail before we cut the rail trim piece off. Measure the midway point between this virtual rail line and the inner cut line for your racetrack. this will be the center point for your cups. I used a combination square to set this distance for reference which you note from the photo is 3.5" from the inner cut line.
b. (picture 5 & 6) Determine the circumferential spacing. I used 10 cups. You may be using 8. Determine where you want your cups, and then place them on the table. Figure out equal spacing by measuring and trial and error. The more equal the spacing is, the better it will look in the end. As you can see from the photo, I placed on center on each end, and then four along each side. You may want them placed differently.
c. (picture 5) Mark each center point.
d. (picture 1) Cut the holes. Using the hole saw, drill your pilot hole at the center marks and cut all of your holes. I highly suggest you take a practice run on a scrap. Hole saws do tend to buck and if you leave teeth marks on your racetrack, they will show. As I said earlier, once you cut these, there is no turning back or repairing, so it is work the time to practice.
e. (pictures 7-10) Verify the fit of all your cup holders.
Step 8: Cut the Inner Racetrack/Insert Line
Now its time to cut that inner cutline separating the RACE TRACK from the INSERT (playing surface). You'll do this in the same manner we did the other cuts. The difference is that BOTH sides of this cut will be visible. This line will be one of the most prominent features of your table, so you want to do it well. TAKE YOUR TIME and move slowly.
a. Insert your jigsaw into your start hole. Attempt to minimize the damage to both pieces, but keep your blade on the side of the insert as you get started. We are going to go back and plug that hole in the insert with wood filler. The insert will then be covered with fabric so you won't see it. But the Race Track line will be visibil in 360 degrees.
b. Cut your line carefully all the way around. Keep your blade straight. Smooth staight lines is what you are after. You will not be perfectly straight, but you must avoid jagged edges.
c. Double check to make sure you marked your orientation marks ("x" on the insert side and outer edge of the race track). The insert will most likely only fit back in in one direction.
Step 9: Cut the BASE
Now its time to turn to that last sheet of plywood (the thin one) and cut the BASE. This is the piece that will hold everything together. We are going to cut it, and then route partial thickness holes to accommodate the cup holders.
a. Place your BASE sheet on the sawhorses. Then place the previously cut RACETRACK on top of the base board.
b. (picture 2) Mark the Margin. Use your combination square to mark a margin around the racetrack. The idea here is that we want the base to be wide enough to cover the seam from the racetrack and the rail, but we do NOT want it to extend to the edge of the rail. Remember that the upholstery on the rail will be meeting this edge, so if its too long it may interfere. I used 1/2" I think it was just a hair too small, so maybe 3/4" would have been a better fit. It's not real critical but it does need to extend beyond the edge of the RACETRACK. MARK the orientation marks on the BASE.
c. Make your cut. Remove the RACETRACK and cut the baseboard around this line using the same technique as before.
d. (picture 3 & 4) Mark the cups. You notice in picture 3 that when you test the fit of the cup holders, there isn't enough depth for them to rest flush, so we are going to need to dig that out some more. Let's now eplace the RACETRACK and remeasure your margins, aligning the two sheets. Trace the edge of the racetrack so you can realign this later. Then take your pencil and trace all of the cup holder holes onto the BASE sheet.
e. (picture 5) Route the cup holder holes. Remove the RACETRACK. Using your router with a straight bit adjusted to about half the depth of this board route out each of the 10 holes. This does not have to be precise work ad it will be covered and completely out of view. The objective here is to make the hole deep enough to accomodate the cup holders which are slightly deeper than the 3/4" plywood used for the RACETRACK. If you didn't do this step, the cup holders would not be flush with the surface of the RACETRACK.
f. (picture 6) Now its time to do a preliminary fit of the table with the BASE, RACETRACK, and RAIL now cut. Coming together isn't it!? Its finally starting to look like a poker table.
Step 10: Prepare the Insert
We need to route a "dig out" to accomodate the hasps that will hold the two sections together, repair the hole we created when we cut the insert line, and create a "pop-out"/"push-through" hole on either end of the base to allow for easy removal of the INSERT after the full table has been assembled.
a. (pictures 2-3). Plug the starter hole. When we cut the insert out, we created a starter hole for the jig saw. If you did this well, the hole was completely contained on the INSERT side of the cut line. Now, we will plug it with wood filler. Any wood filler will do since it will be covered with speed cloth. I like this minwax epoxy-based filler because it dries quickly and strongly and sands very well, but use whatever you may have on hand. Apply the filler according to the directions and let dry. Then use a finishing sander to smooth it down.
b. (pictures 4-6) Mark the center line. Start by installing the INSERT in the table. Measure from apex-apex and mark the center point (should be 48"). Then draw a line across the middle of the entire table. Use a square to make sure it is perpendicular to the edges. Flip the INSERT and extend your center line on the underside of the INSERT.
c. (pictures 7-10) Mark the dig outs. Determine where you want to place your hasps. It isn't particularly critical where, but you do want symmetry here, and you want to place them close to the outside edge while still leaving plenty of room to route your dig outs. Place your hasps on the center line of the BASE (do not install them), and mark these points with a short line across the center line. I used my framing ruler to center them and placed them 9" from the center or 4" from the outside edge. Now transfer these marks to the underside of the INSERT. The framing ruler makes this easy. On the INSERT, trace the shape of the hasp, and then draw a rectangle with reasonable margins around the hasp outline. Mine were 2.5" x 6." This gives plenty of play between the two pieces and will allow for easy replacement of the hardware later should it be necessary.
d. (picture 11) Adjust the Router. Use a straight router bit and adjust the height to accomodate your hasp. Make sure you leave enough clearance to accommodate the entire height of the hasp without too much gap (the INSERT will help to hold the hasp closed).
e. (picture 12-15) Route the dig out. Now follow your lines and route out the entire box.
f. (picture 16) Cut the "pop-out" holes in the BASE. Using your hole saw, cut a hole in the base on both ends through the BASE layer. Place it approximately 1" from the race track just inside the apex of the arc. These holes will be used to push-up the INSERT from the bottom to make it easier to disassemble the table.
g. (picture 8, 17). Test the fit of the INSERT. Temporarily place the hasps on the baseboard (picture 6) at the marked locations. Install the INSERT to test the fit and alignment of your holes (picture 14). It should fit flush without resting on the hasps.
Step 11: Split the Table & Assemble Halves
Now's the critical moment where we cut our table in half. This is not for the light hearted, so make sure you understand what you need to do and then make your cuts with confidence (you can't go back after this). We are going to make TWO separate cuts through the RAIL + RACETRACK and the BASE with a slight offset in order to create an overlapping joint that will provide more stability in the final assembled table.
a. (pictures 1-2) Mark the center line. We did this in the previous step already, but make sure your marks are clear and complete. Measure from apex-apex and mark the center point (should be 48"). Draw a line across the middle of the table. Use a square to make sure it is perpendicular to the edges.
b. (not shown) Mark the BASE cut line (offset). Remove the INSERT and extend your center line onto the BASE between the racetracks. Now remove the RACETRACK altogether and draw your cut line on the BASE offset 1/2" to either side of the center line. This is where we will cut the BASE to create the overlapping joint mentioned earlier.
c. (not shown) Cut the BASE. Now using your jig saw or circular saw, make your cut along the BASE cut line. (remember this is OFFSET from the center line by 1/2") . Make sure you are supporting both sides of the board with a third saw horse or other support before you make the cut.
d. (not shown) Cut the RACETRACK + RAIL. Remove the BASE and place your RACETRACK+RAIL on the saw horses. Clamp the RACETRACK and RAIL tightly together. Once again, make sure you are supporting both ends and sides of the RACETRACK before you make the cut. Now using your jig saw or circular saw, cut both sides of the RACETRACK along the lines you drew eariler. (these are ON the CENTER line)
e. (pictures 3-4, 5, 7) Inspect your cuts. Reassemble ALL of your pieces and inspect the fit (both halves). The RAIL and RACETRACK edges should be flush with the BASE extending on one side and receding on the other side. (best seen in picture 5) Both halves of all three layers (BASE, RACETRACK, RAIL) should fit together tightly.
f. (picture 5-6) Fasten the RACETRACK to BASE. Now remove the RAIL without disturbing the alignment of the RACETRACK on the BASE and clamp the RACETRACK to the BASE board. Using your 1 1/4" screws, place a line of screws on the outer edge of the racetrack with screws approximately 12"-18" apart. Repeat on both halves of the table. Make sure your screws are flush or slightly countersunk so they don't interfere with the rail once installed. Your rail will eventually cover this line of screws
g. (picture 5, 7-9) Attach the hasps. Now fit both assembled halves together tightly making sure both sides of the RACETRACK are accurately aligned. (your marks for the hasps on the baseboard should line up to help here). It is important that the inside edges of the RACETRACK flow smoothly across the center seam. If not the INSERT will not fit properly, and discrepancies will be visibly noticeable. Place the hasps on the spots marked earlier and close the catches. Screw the hasps down. on both sides. You want to leave a slight gap between the two parts of the hasp (~1mm) to allow for some minimal amount of play once you get everything finished and upholstered.
Now put it all together and admire your work. You are DONE WITH PHASE II and the table has finally taken shape. This gives you a preview of what the final product is going to look like.
Step 12: Upholster the Rail
Now its time to turn to upholstery. This is somewhat tedious, and for the un-initiated can seem a little daunting, but really it isn't that hard to do. The good news is that upholstery is really quite forgiving. As it is somewhat tedious though, you need to take your time and take frequent breaks so you don't get burned out on this step and get sloppy. You are going to need a second set of hands for this step; don't try it alone.
The basic process here is to :
1) cut the 1" foam rail pad to shape.
2) glue the foam to the wooden rail
3) Trim the vinyl to shape
4) staple the vinyl down
a. (picture 2, 3) Layout the sheet of 1" vinyl on a firm floor. I reccomend working on a clean surface so try to find an indoor area large enough to work and sweep and mop before you get started. If you don't have this option, place a sheet or cloth down to work on to keep your vinyl and fabric clean. Place both halves of the RAIL top side down on the foam with a slight gap between the two halves. It will save you a cut if you line up one side of the rail with one of the pre-cut edges of the foam.
b. (pictures 3-9) Mark the outside cut line. We want the foam to wrap around the side of the RAIL extending to the bottom edge of the RAIL on both the inside and outside. Using your hand roll the pre-cut edge up on one side of the RAIL and re-position the RAIL until you get good alignment (picture 3). Once your are satisified, use a combination square to measure this distance. As you can see, mine was approximately 2 1/4" from the rail (picture 4). Now use the square and a Sharpie marker to draw the cut line all the way around the RAIL (picture 5-7). Now mark the edge of the rail at the seams between the two halves (picture 8). At this point where the two halves meet, we want the foam to be cut flush with the edge as you can see in pictures 8 & 9.
c. (pictures 10-11) Mark the inside cut line. Now repeat the same process for the inside edge. You will have to make a cut in the middle in order to flap up a piece of foam to determine the width of your margin (picture 10). Mark reference marks along both outside and inside edge of the wooden rail (to insure you can realign the rail with your foam later).
d. (picture 12) Cut the foam. Use scissors to cut both pieces along your lines inside edge and out.
e. (pictures 13-14) Glue the foam padding to the wooden RAIL. Spray adhesive spray to both top surface of the rail, and the surface of the foam. Place the rail back on top of the foam aligning it with your reference marks made earlier, and then weight it down letting it dry for 10-15 minutes. I used the INSERT laid across the two sides of the rail with a heavy box on top to provide even weighting as it dries. Repeat for the other half.
For each of the following steps, you will have to repeat for both halves of the rail.
f. (pictures 15-19) Trim the vinyl to shape (rough-in). After the glue has dried, layout the vinyl on the floor and place the two rail halves (with the foam attached) on top of the vinyl (picture 15) leaving equal margins on all sides. Draw a line half way between the two rails (picture 16). Using a rotary cutter and mat (scissors will work fine), cut the vinyl in half along this line. Now use your combination square, straight edge, and Sharpie to draw an inside cut line following the contour of your foam approximately 7" from the foam and an outside cut line approximately 3-4" from the foam (picture 18). Then use your rotary cutter and mat to trim the vinyl along these lines. The exact margins are not important, but do keep in mind that the inside margin needs to be a bit wider to allow for stretch and stapling. You will trim the excess neatly after stapling so don't worry too much about uneven edges here.
g. (pictures 20-) Staple the outside edge. This is where you will need an extra set of hands. Once you get it started, you can get it done by yourself, but don't try to get this going alone. You will likely end up with uneven tension and a sloppy finish. An electric stapler is GOLD here, but if you must use a manual stapler, it will work fine. Either way, make sure you apply plenty of downward pressure every time you squeeze the trigger. This is where you really need an assistant because this is best done with two hands (one on the trigger, one on the top of the stapler). Fold the vinyl over, rolling the foam over the side of the rail and staple into the bottom of the rail board. All of your staples for the outside edge need to be in the thinner rail trim piece. (If you fold anything over the inner edge, it will interfere with the installation of the rail on the RACETRACK piece. Start with the long straight edges and the apex of the arc (picture 21). When applying staples, it is a good pattern to use a "dividing" process. e.g. Place a staple on each end and one in the middle. Then split the difference and place another staple halfway between the first two. Then split the difference again, each time dividing the staples in half until the entire edge is complete. In this manner you maintain even pressure and avoid excess folds. You are going to use A LOT of staples (practically a continuous line of staples). I'd recommend having two boxes on hand. I used T50 5/16" flat heavy duty staples.
h. (picture 24) Trim the outside edge. After you have completed your staple line use scissors to trim the excess vinyl just inside the staple line. Make sure that all vinyl is trimmed so that it does not cross the inside edge of the RAIL TRIM board.
i. (pictures 25) Pizza cut the inside edge of the arc. Here's the tricky part. To do the inside curve of the arc you have to make radial cuts from the center of the arc towards the outside. You will make a series of these covering the entire arc (no need to continue these cuts to the straight edges. The hard part is knowing how deep to cut.If you cut to deep (ie. too close to the foam) your cut will be visible on the final product (not desired). If you don't cut deep enough, you won't have enough slack to roll the vinyl over the inside edge. I'd recommend erring on the side of cutting short. You can always extend the cut as you need once you begin your stapling. I started by cutting up to about two fingers from the foam. I did have to extend these cuts, but i felt like I remained in control this way.
j. (picture 26) Staple the inside edge. Start with the straight edges and staple the inside edge in the same manner you did the outside edge. Make sure all of your staples are on the bottom side of the top (main) rail piece (ie. don't let this vinyl cross the Rail trim piece. Then do the inside edge of the arc using the same dividing technique. Pull one of the flaps up and staple it down continuing in a dividing manner. As you staple you want to make sure that all of your slits are stapled down on the bottom edge of the rail and not visible from the side/top. You may need extra staples at the apex of the cut. Any cut left unprotected will be a weak point which may tear later. There is A LOT of tension at the apex of the arc, so be careful. I found that I needed to make a preliminary staple and then remove it and restaple as tension was relieved by stapling adjacent segments. There is a little bit of manipulation here, so take it slow and don't be afraid to pull a staple out (keep a pair of needle nose pliers handy). I ended up placing two rows of staples around the arc, one to secure the flaps, and another row closer to the edge to secure all the slits. Once again, the goal is to get all of the V slits behind your first row of staples.
k. (picture 27) Trim the inside edge. using scissors, trim all the excess vinyl on the inside edge. Make sure no vinyl extends across teh edge of the RAIL TRIM piece.
l. (pictures 28-30) Staple and trim the ends. The ends are essentially no different than wrapping a present. Do the best you can to fold it over neatly, stapling and trimming. You also want to be mindful that the ends on both halves of the rail will meet and be visible on the assembled table. The more alike they look, the better it will be, so try to do it the same on all four ends. Mine ended up a little uneven, and it is visible (though not critical)
Step 13: Upholster the INSERT
This is A LOT easier and quicker than the RAIL. By now you are an expert on upholstery and won't have any problems with the INSERT.
a. (pictures 2-4) Mark and Cut the Volara foam. Lay the INSERT TOP SIDE UP on the volara foam and trace the shape of the INSERT with a Sharpie marker. Draw an "X" for a reference matching the reference marks on the INSERT. Use the rotary cutter and mat to cut the foam.
b. (not shown) Glue the Volara Foam to the Insert. Spray both contact sides (foam and INSERT) with spray adhesive. Align the foam properly using your references marks and press it on. Turn it over foam side down and let dry for 15 minutes or more.
c. (pictures 5-6) Rough In the playing surface cloth. Lay the INSERT top side down on top of your speed cloth or layout. (The playing side of the speed cloth should be face down.) If you have a custom printed layout, make sure your silkscreen is centered. Once satisfied, use scissors to cut the cloth down with enough margin to fold over and staple.
d. (pictures 7-8) Staple the speed cloth. Fold the fabric over with a good amount of tension and staple. Start with the long straight edge. Then do the curved ends using the same dividing technique described before.
e. (picture 9) Trim the excess cloth.
f. (picture 11) Test the fit of your newly upholstered components. Its starting to look like a table!!
Step 14: Finish the RaceTrack
I'm not going to provide a detailed tutorial here on finishing. There are plenty of forums out there providing details. What I would say is take your time. Find a nice clean environment that you can leave your table in for a week or more as you finish this . A nice polished RACETRACK will really set your table apart, so do it well.
a. (picture 3) Choose your stain. I took my vinyl and speed cloth into a paint store that did custom stain mixes and tried to accomplish a stain that tied the two together. In retrospect I think I would have been just as happy with an off the shelf stain. I want a little bit of red, but not too much. Remember that all woods will stain differently, so you definitely will want to test it on a scrap before committing your RACETRACK to the stain.
b. (picture 2) Apply the stain. Wipe it on with a rag.
c. (picture 4 & 5) Apply the polyurethane. Working with polyurethane is tricky. Bubbles are a real problem and you have to apply it evenly or it will be a mess. You have to be patient. I recommend reading some tutorials or forums online for tips. A couple of key points:
- Use a clean brush. I like the foam brushes as I can use a fresh one every couple of coats.
- You can wrap your brush in foil and freeze it in the freezer between coats (no cleaning required). Make sure you let it thaw adequately before the second coat.
- Make sure your work environment is warm and dust free. Temperature is a key problem. It it is too cold, it will NOT dry well.
- Sand between coats using 400 grit paper. Use a tack cloth to clean before applying next coat.
- Make sure you allow full drying time between coats. Premature application will result in a mess.
- For the final coat, sand out the bubbles with a 1000 grit wet paper. Then use a rubbing compound to buff it back to a sheen.
- The sweet spot is about 6 coats. Too many and it will just be a mess.
Consider using an epoxy finish instead. It is more expensive, but will look better in the end. Next table, this is probably what I will do.
Step 15: Final Assembly
Once you are happy with your RACETRACK finish, it is time to put it all together.
a. (picture 1 & 2). Install the RAIL. Place your rail in place. Make sure you have both halves of the table clasped together to insure that the rails from both sides fit together. (they may need to slide to the end a millimeter or two.) Flip the table over and run a line of 2" screws from the bottom through to the rail about 2" in from the outer edge of the BASE.
b. (picture 2) Secure the BASE. Run a second line of screws (use a shorter screw this time, 1" is good) just inside the inner edge of the RACETRACk (from the bottom side).
c. (picture 4) Check Fit. Once again, put both sides together and check your fit. Pay particular attention to the seam of the RACETRACK. It may be necessary to adjust the position of one of the RAILS. (If you checked it first before screwing it down, this will hopefully NOT be necessary)
Step 16: Install the Cupholders
Its time to put the cup holders in.
a. (not shown). Use the rotary cutter and mat to cut ~1" strips of the volara foam long enough to wrap around the entire cup holder.
b. (picture 1) Warp the foam strip around the cup holder and cut to the circumference of the cup. Insert the cup with the foam into the hold in the RACETRACK. No glue is necessary. Push it snug so the ring of the cup holder is flush with the surface of the RACETRACK.
Repeat for all 10 cup holders.
Step 17: Install the Bottom Pad
Now we are going to put on the bottom pad. This will prevent you from scratching your table as you place the poker table on top and will add a non-slip layer so the topper doesn't move easily while playing.
a. (picture 1) Purchase the pad. It took some time, but I found the best material was a high quality "rug pad." These come in various formats and most of them won't work. You want the RUBBERIZED style. This wasn't easy to find. I ended up getting it at a carpet store after buying several others that didn't work. It has to be rubberized and not the waffle pattern gripper that is more commonly available. This solide pad (about 1/8" thick) glues well and provides a nice non-slip protective surface.
a. (picture 2) Rough-in the pad. Lay one half of your topper on the floor, bottom side up. Then lay the pad over and trim it to approximate dimensions. Make sure it covers the whole thing.
b. (picture 3) Trim the pad. Using scissors, trim the pad as closely as possible to the shape and size of the base sheet of plywood.
c. (picture 4) Glue the pad. This will take two people! Remove the pad and lay it out flat (you may want to work outdoors as the fumes can be bothersome and you don't want to get glue on your floor). From here, you need to work reasonably quickly before the glue dries. Cover the entire surface of one side of the pad with spray adhesive. Then cover the entire surface of the base sheet (bottom) of the topper with spray adhesive (you have to do BOTH sides for it to stick properly). Then, with your assistant, carefully align the edges and corners of the pad with the base sheet and lay it down smoothly and flat. Smooth the entire surface out with your hands. note: don't worry about wrinkles and folds in the pad before you begin; after applying the glue they will smooth out nicely.
d. (picture 5) Final Trim and cut the pop-up circles. After you glue it down and smooth it out, your edges will likely extend beyond the base sheet. Go back with scissors again and trim it once more to the final edges. then use your scissors to cut out the insert pop-up circles.
Step 18: Make the Covers
While this is an optional step, you will probably want a cover to protect your work while it sits in the basement/closet. One solution is simply to wrap it in a large cloth, but I took a step further. I used a large drop cloth (it was more convenient as I was making multiple trips to the hardware store and probably cheaper than a heavy duty muslin i would have found at the fabric store). It is a basic design. I cut the fabric and placed two seams to make a sort of "envelope" with a flap along the top. I then put a hem in the top flaps, and added velcro to the flap to hold it down. I made three of these envelopes for each of the two table pieces and the INSERT. This of course assumes you have a sewing machine and some basic sewing skills. A detailed sewing tutorial is out of the scope of this instructable.
Step 19: Final Inspection
Now enjoy your work, and invite your friends over for the inaugural game!