Introduction: Reversible Top Board Game Table

Picture of Reversible Top Board Game Table

These instructions will help guide you in creating your own reversible top game table. One side is hard wood while the other is felt with a little give. The top itself is more robust and finished than the base.

Keep in mind that this is my first real woodworking project so amateurs should be able to follow along as long as you have the patience for producing a polished final product... experienced woodworkers will probably cringe at some of my design decisions, but if you are experienced you probably aren't following these instructions anyways ;)

Step 1: Digital Design

Picture of Digital Design

I created a Google Sketchup drawing of the table to get it straight in my head exactly what I wanted to produce and how it would fit together (I don't have the talent of being able to picture that in my head). Feel free to check it out and modify as you feel fit or skip to the next step to follow the instructions to the letter.

The tabletop is the main focus of this project's energy and is designed to fit over top of the base. The top itself consists of an IKEA tabletop (one side covered in felt) and a border of Oak boards that serves as an edge for your arms, a clamp for the felt, and the rails to hold it steady on the base.

The base is as simple as I could think of. 4 x 4's at each corner, a couple boards along the length, and then 5 boards width-wise. The base shouldn't be started until the top is complete because it needs to nestle in snugly between the boards of the top.

Step 2: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

Tabletop

The top consists of 4 main portions:

  • the playing surface
  • the edging on the top
  • the edging on the bottom
  • the edging on the side

The playing surface

  • Linnmon tabletop from Ikea - $30, 29 1/2 " x 59 "`
  • Black felt - add at least 4" per dimension (allows for 2" per edge) to account for cutting and fastening. I chose a nice feeling black felt from Fabricland
  • Cotton Batten - 1/4" thick cotton underlay from Fabricland

Top and Bottom Edging

  • Long Edges - Red Oak 1 x 4 - four pieces that are each 59 7/8" long
  • Short Edges - Red Oak 1 x 4 - four pieces that are each 30 3/8" long
  • 1/4" dowels - about 20 - just buy a bag of 100; you will break a few in the process.

Side Edging

  • Long Edges - Red Oak 1 x 2 - two pieces that are each 63 3/8" long
  • Short Edges - Red Oak 1 x 2 - two pieces that are each 33 7/8" long
  • When I bought all the Red Oak I had the lumber yard rip the same 1 x 4's used for the top/bottom edging to get the 1 x 2's. If you do the same try to get them to be precise when ripping so that the width of each 1x2 is the same - if they are off by too much you will notice when putting the tabletop halves together.

Table Base

  • Long Edges - Knotty Pine 1 x 4 - two pieces that are each 56 1/4" long
  • Short Edges - Knotty Pine 1 x 4 - five pieces that are each 20 5/8" long
  • Legs - Knotty Pine 4 x 4 - four pieces that are 27" long

Tools Used

  • Mitre Saw
  • Sander
  • Drill
  • Professional quality woodworking glue
  • Spray type craft glue
  • Heavy duty stapler
  • Level
  • Square
  • Tape Measure
  • Scissors
  • Rolling Pin

Step 3: Apply Felt to Table Top

Picture of Apply Felt to Table Top

This step we attach the cotton batting then the felt to the table top. No woodworking tools required here, just spray glue, heavy duty stapler, a rolling pin, and scissors.

Cotton Batting

  1. Lay table on top of cotton batting. Ensure that the area underneath is clean otherwise the cotton will pick up any pieces of gravel/crumbs/etc.
  2. Spray one edge with spray glue then staple one side of the edges to the table using a shop stapler

  3. Lift table up so that it is sitting on its side and spray one entire side of the table top with spray glue.

  4. Carefully lower table back down onto the cotton batting. Ensure that the cotton does not bunch up. Gently and evenly pull the cotton tight along the length to keep it even. If you pull too hard it will bunch up.
  5. Spray the remaining edges with spray glue and staple the edges to the table.
  6. Leave the top lying down with the cotton compressed to allow the glue to dry

Felt

  1. Lay table on top of felt
  2. Spray one edge with glue and staple down
  3. Spray table top and roll felt over top being careful not to crease
  4. Pull the felt tight along the opposite edge
  5. Use the rolling pin to roll it even and keep pulling the felt tight along the edges not yet stapled down
  6. When an area has the felt nice and tight staple it along the edge
  7. Keep moving around the table, use the rolling pin and then pull nice and tight before stapling the edge

Step 4: Build Table Top Borders

Picture of Build Table Top Borders

The steps for the table top border is as follows:

  1. Assemble the top and bottom edging as 2 separate pieces
  2. Assemble the siding and glue to top edging
  3. Apply Varathane coating
  4. Place tabletop, bottom edging, and glue all together

I designed the boards to hang over the edge of the table about the same amount as the side piece is high, 1 3/8". The actual amount will vary depending on how accurate all the cuts are. I have included a picture of my scribbling for determining all the dimensions. They are good starting points and then upon actual assembly they go out the window and everything is sanded and modified to fit. As always, measure 8 times, cut once.

Step 1: Top/Bottom Edging

Cut the long pieces to 59 7/8 inches. There will be 4 of these. 2 for the top portion and 2 for the bottom portion

Cut the short pieces to 30 3/8 inches. There will be 4 of these as well.

Stand up all the like pieces and make sure they are all the exact same length and then check that they are all completely square.

The Top/Bottom edges are created by butting up 2 long pieces and 2 short pieces as in the diagram. The pieces are attached by pre-drilling holes, inserting a dowel, and then gluing it all together.

In order to line up the dowel holes I created a template with a small piece of board that had been cut off. Take a 1/4" thick piece of scrap and drill 2 holes that are centered vertically and 1/3 and 2/3rds of the width - take a look at the second figure that shows where the dowels end up. Clamp that template to the board that you want to drill your dowel hole into and make sure the template is flush with the edge. Drill the hole and then put the template onto the other board that will meet up with the board you just drilled. Make sure you flip the template around because if the template holes aren't centered completely perfect (and they won't be) then your holes won't line up.

After you have drilled all the holes dry assemble the pieces. If the pieces aren't flush and there is any overlap then there will be lots of sanding later so it's best to fix that now. If you need to make the dowel hole a little bigger to get a little wiggle room do that as it will save lots of time and sweat equity later on.

Apply glue to the inside of the dowel holes and the surfaces then assemble one of the tops (2 long and 2 short boards). Use clamps to hold the boards together. Don't clamp too hard or the boards will twist. I had clamps big enough to clamp width-wise, but not lengthwise. I pressed down hard lengthwise with my body weight to get those edges tight and left it standing upright so the pieces would stay together. Wipe up excess glue that squeezes out with a wet rag and then leave it clamped for a day.

Do all these steps all over again (except for the initial cutting - you should have cut all those pieces at the same time) to make the 2nd piece for the bottom.

Step 2: Side Edging

The sides go all the way to the ends of the table so these edges will be longer and need to be cut at an angle where they meet up.

Cut the 2 long pieces to approximately 63 3/8" and the 2 short pieces to approximately 33 7/8". Instead of measuring with a tape and cutting I just put the boards onto the top edge piece and marked where I needed to cut. I then cut it slightly larger than needed, measured on the edge, then trimmed to fit. These cuts will be 45 degree miter cuts so they fit together at the edges.

As with step 1, if these are too big there will be too much overhang and will result in a lot of sanding to finish the table later. Take the time to make small adjustments to make the fit perfect here.

Glue the side edge pieces to one of the top/bottom edge rectangles. You could probably glue everything together right now, but I did it this way because I didn't have enough clamps to do the whole table at once and had to do one side at a time.

Let it all dry and do the other sides so that you have a bowl shaped table edge like the 4th figure.

Put the table in the middle then cut some small scraps to put in between the inner table and the edge pieces so that the table is snug inside the edging. Glue the scraps down.

Step 3: Apply Varathane

Apply satin coat Varathane (no stain) to the inside portion of the top/bottom edging as well as the top/bottom edging pieces completely. You can't add to the inner portion after assembly because you risk getting it on the felt. Don't worry about the side edging because you will be sanding these pieces in a little bit.

Step 4: Finish Edge Assembly and Glue

Go buy more clamps because you now realize you need to glue the whole table in one shot.

Now glue it all together. A line of glue all the way down the edge and clamps all the way around the table. I also used some scrap pieces of wood on the edges and used ratcheting tie down straps to circle the entire table horizontally and squeeze everything in.

Now that you're at this step don't worry too much if it doesn't all align perfectly. You missed the boat during cutting and will now need to sand until your arms fall off :|

Step 5: Finish Top

Picture of Finish Top

Now that the top is assembled and glued together we need to sand it smooth and then varathane it up. I decided on satin coat varathane and no stain so that the natural wood really pops.

The edges should feel smooth and level. If you measured and recut many times you may have minimal sanding to do. If you have noticeable differences between edge pieces then you will have a lot of sanding to do. In retrospect I should have picked up some type of belt sander or better yet a planer. Instead, I used an oscillating air tool with a sanding pad to sand down the edges smooth. This is the step that took me the longest as it makes a big difference in the final product. I spent over 10 hours sanding so if you can align everything better to start (or get better tools) then do that!

To keep dust off the felt tape a piece of tarp of poly to the table top, but leave the edges available for sanding. There were also a few spots where there was a slight gap between edges. I ended up putting a little glue inside them and then sanded a bunch nearby (I needed to sand there anyways). I then plugged the gap with the dust, let it dry, and repeated if necessary. Once you sand over this it looks just like the rest of the table.

Once all done sanding you can now apply 4 or 5 more coats of varathane or you can wait until the base is complete and apply all the varathane at once.

Step 6: Build Table Base

Picture of Build Table Base

This is probably the step that would make a real woodworker cringe. If you have any woodworking skills its best if you avert your eyes now...

The frame is made of knotty pine 1x4's and the legs are knotty pine 4x4's.

I sanded everything well before assembly because this wood is fairly rough to start.

The base is designed to fit inside the edge of the table top so measure the inside of your top to cut your pieces. The 5 width-wise pieces are the important ones to have a precise length. We will cut them now and then sand to fit. Cut the 5 pieces to the same length as the inside of the tabletop (about 26 5/8"). Ensure they fit by placing in the table top itself.

Measure the long inside portion of the table and cut 2 pieces to about 56 1/4".

Cut the 4x4's to be 27" long each. You will have 4 of them.

Dry assemble the base by standing the legs up, placing the 2 end pieces that go width-wise, and then place the 2 long pieces on top. Square it all off and then predrill 3 holes down through the 2 frame pieces and into the leg. Screw down frame pieces to each leg. I used thicker screws than regular deck screws, but I didn't want to go overboard here because I didn't want to split the legs. There are probably many better ways of attaching these legs, but this is what I went with. If you change the method just be careful not to put anything on the outside of the top part of the frame otherwise it will get in the way of the table top sliding over the frame.

Glue and clamp the remaining 3 width-wise pieces.

Once the glue is dry sand the edges a bit until the feel about even and then try to place the table top on. If it fits over top fine then flip the top to the other side and try that fit. Sand down any edges that are in the way of making it fit until the table can be placed over the base either way.

Now that it fits it is time to Varathane again! You will need to do the sides of the top well as they haven't had any Varathane yet. I gave the top and bottom some more Varathane too, but was very careful not to get near the inside edge of the table. I also gave the base a few coats and then sanded it all smooth to finish.

Comments

Marvin2843 (author)2015-12-22

Instead of felt, you could put whiteboard or chalk paint for mapping the dungeon or terrain for miniatures. Good job!

PhillipA14 (author)Marvin28432016-06-10

A good idea in theory, but a lot of tabletop gamers don't just play DnD or Pathfinder or RPGs. Most TT gamers I know play RPGs as well as card games, board games and other sorts -- and a whiteboard or chalkboard would end up getting a lot of those items stained or dirty.

TobyS24 (author)PhillipA142017-05-22

Isn't it a reversible tabletop? So theoretically -and if you didn't need the table for anything else- you could chalkboard one side and felt the other. I was planning on making a board game top for our coffee table and I have some blackboard paint squirrelled away. Hmm. There's a definite idea in there somwhere. Shame I don't do RPGs much these days.

RoL9 (author)2017-04-27

This is great! I've wanted to make something like this for a while.

gabgra11 (author)2015-12-23

this is a great idea!

DIY Hacks and How Tos (author)2015-12-21

Great table design. This would make a good card table too.

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