I've been getting back into miniature war gaming, and have also recently moved into my own place! Now I have space to make a real gaming table. However, my place isn't that big, so the table still needs to be portable, and easy to store. We will make a table frame that can sit on top of an existing table (or be balance on a box, or balanced between four chairs...) that will allow you to have a proper gaming surface.
In this Instructable, we'll be going over how to make a modular gaming table top. The goal of this Instructable is to create a table that gives you the maximum number of different layouts, all while taking up the least amount of space. Before you get started, read through the entire Instructable and make sure you have all the parts that you need so that you only need to make one trip to the hardware store! I made at least four trips because I kept thinking of different ways to do things, and different pieces to add.
We'll cover the design of the table top, assembly of the frame, then a way to make it even more storage friendly. I've got a second Instructable that you can find HERE (coming end of March!) that will show you how to make modular terrain tiles that you can use with this frame.
Let's get started!
The design stage is extra important because once you figure everything out, the hardware store will usually cut your wood for you. If we can make a good list of pieces we need, once you buy all the wood you can get it cut, then take it home and assemble!
The first thing to decide is how big your table is going to be. Mine is 6ft by 4ft (72 in x 48 in), and I'm making a series of 2ft by 2ft terrain boards that can be swapped out. You can also decide where you want to put the cross beams, to best support the foam tiles. You can either use six tiles, and play a full 6x4 game, or you can use four tiles and play a 4x4 game, centered on the table. Both options work, but depending how you make the support bars underneath the table the foam tiles will either be more stable or more wobbly. My table has the beams set up so that playing on 6x4 will be more stable, since that is what we play most often. I'll show you both versions. Later we're going to cover how you can make the table fold in half. If you have a good enough saw, once the table is complete you can literally cut it in half, if you don't then you need to account for the joint when you're determining your vertical cross beam measurements.
The second thing is finding what wood you will use to make the frame. I found some pieces that were 3/4 in by 1.5 in, and 3/4 in by 2.5 in. Knowing these dimensions are crucial for getting proper dimensions. NOTE: The label at the hardware store said this wood was 1 in x 2 in, and 1 x 3 in. Measure the wood to know exactly what it is, don't trust the label.
To start, we'll make the outer border. Since we want the inside measurements to be 72 in x 48 in, we need the border pieces to be bigger. To start, we need two wide pieces (2.5 in) that are 48 in long. If you want the tiles to sit a bit looser inside the frame, you can add ~1/8 in or so. I wanted my tiles to wedge into the table, so I cut it at exactly 48 in. Below that, we will attach a thinner piece (1.5 in) to make a ledge to rest tiles on. These pieces needs to be 46.5 in. 46.5 in because it is the 48 in width, minus the two halves (0.75 in each) of the long edges. These pieces create the short edges of the table. The long edges need to be cut at 73.5 in. This represents the 72 in inside measurement (again, add ~1/8 in if you want some wiggle room), plus the thickness of the wood (3/4 in) on either side. You need two wide pieces (2.5in) and two thin pieces (1.5 in), all cut at 73.5 in. See the picture for a close up of the joint, so you get an idea of how it goes together.
Now for the hoizontal cross beams. If you're making the table supports for six tiles you need two (since they rest on the edges). If you're making table supports for four tiles, you need three horizontal bars. If you're planning on cutting the table in half, use two thin pieces of wood (1.5 in) rather than the wide piece for the center (which would mean you have four horizontal bars). Cut these horizontal bars to be 46.5 in, same as the bottom of the short edge.
For the vertical cross beams, you need a bit more complicated calculations. I'll break it into two steps, one for six tile support and one for four tile support. We will use the wider wood (2.5 in) for these cross beams as well.
For 6 tile support:
The table has two horizontal cross beams. To start, we need to imagine the table as three equal sections of 24 in (since it is 72 in total) The first section needs to be 22 in. This is because it is 24 in minus the 3/4 in sticking out on the bottom of the short end, minus 1 1/4 in which is half of the horizontal cross beam. 24 - 0.75 - 1.25 = 22 in. The other side of the table needs a 22 in piece as well, for the same reason. The center piece is 21.5 in, which is 24 in minus two halves of the horizontal cross beams, 1 1/4 in each. 24 - 2 * 1.25 = 21.5 in.
For 4 tile support:
This table has three horizontal cross beams. We need to imagine the table as four equal sections of 18 in. The two outer pieces need to be cut at 16 in. This is because it is 18 in minus the 3/4 in sticking out on the bottom of the short end, minus 1 1/4 in which is half of the horizontal cross beam. 18 - 0.75 - 1.25 = 16 in. The two inner pieces are 15.5 in, which is 18 in minus two halves of the horizontal cross beams, 1 1/4 in each. 18 - 2 * 1.25 = 15.5 in. If you were planning on cutting the table in half, it's easier to save the inner pieces for later. They will be just under 15.25 in (18 - 1.25 - 1.5 = 15.25 in), depending on how big the hinge gap is. Get them cut at 15.5 in, and adjust them later with a hacksaw. The measurement they have to be depends on how you attach the hinge.
Now that all our pieces are accounted, for, this is the final shopping list
For the border, we need:
2 x 73.5 in by 1.5 in
2 x 73.5 in by 2.5 in
2 x 46.5 in by 1.5 in
2 x 48 in by 2.5 in
The horizontal cross bars
2 (or 3) x 46.5 in by 2.5 in
The vertical cross bars
2 x 22 in by 2.5 in
1 x 21.5 in by 2.5 in
2 x 16 in by 2.5 in
2 x 15.5 in by 2.5 in
Now you're ready for a trip to the hardware store to get your wood cut! You can also buy a 4 ft x 8 ft sheet of MDF (or plywood) to act as a base. If you want your table to eventually fold in half, cut it into four pieces. Two pieces 3ft x 4ft, and two pieces of 1 ft x 4 ft. You can use the 1x4 as edging for a four tile setup.