Introduction: Convert IKEA Bar Table Into a Boardgaming Table

Tired of hosting game nights on the countertop, I decided I needed a game table. I couldn't afford the high end tables from Geek Chic, costing several thousand $$$, or even the $1400 starter model from Though it's not nearly so nice as theirs, mine is reasonably good looking, solid, and functional, and all in cost under $300. Also, when it's not game night, I can lift off the game table and have the bar table.

First, you need the Bjursta bar table from IKEA, $179:

While you're there, pick up the Dioder 4-piece light strip set for $20, if you want the table lit from within.

From the hardware store, you'll need several 2x4's, some 1x6's, some L-brackets, screws, black paint, sandpaper, and wood glue.

From the fabric store you'll need red felt, batting, sheet foam for the arm rests, and some fake leather.

Tool-wise, I recommend a table saw, router, router table, drill, measuring tape, staple gun, paintbrush, either a jigsaw or a band saw, and any power sander you can lay hands on.

A warning: The plans attached here look very exact and official. They are just guidelines! Owing to dramatic differences in actual dimensions of the wood from piece to piece (Curse me and my cheap wood-buying habits) most of my table was fit together in place with repeated test fitting and re-sizing.

Step 1: Board and Sides

I recommend downloading Sketchup and looking at the file above to show how the table comes together. Basically it's a square of plywood covered in felt, sitting in slots routered into 1x6' boards that wrap around it, and topped off with an arm rest made of 2x4's that are covered in padding and fake leather.

I recommend the following build order:

  1. Assemble the IKEA table.
  2. Measure your 1x6" boards to fit around the table, with a 1/4" space to spare on all sides so they can slide over the top easily.
  3. Assemble this with L brackets but no glue yet. If you want it to look nicer, router recessed pockets for the brackets so they won't show once it's covered in felt.
  4. Once you have the boards cut and assembled to fit in a complete square, measure off this the size of the actual game board, so that it can sit in a groove routered halfway through the 1x6's. Test that the board fits in this groove with a bit of wiggle to allow for the eventual felt.
  5. If you want your table lit, router a space for the light strip and its cable.
  6. Paint the outside of your side walls.
  7. Felting! Take apart your build first.
    1. Spray glue to cover the game board. Lay down batting.
    2. Smooth felt on top of this and flip board over.
    3. Spray glue where felt will attach to back side of board, and glue felt down.
    4. For side walls, I used only felt, no batting. Spray glue it, stick the felt down.
  8. Reassemble your build and test that it all still fits together.

Step 2: Arm Rest

See the Sketchup file and the pictures attached here.

  1. Cut the 2x4's to length.
  2. Router like mad.
  3. Drill holes from below to allow it to attach to the sides.
  4. Paint the inner edge.
  5. Assemble on top of your game board / side walls piece.
  6. Upholster! I absolutely stink at this and have no tips to offer, other than you might want to outsource it. I did it myself, and think I'll do it again since it looks so crappy.

Step 3: Lights

If you've gone with the light option, the IKEA set works well mounted to the bottom of the bar table. When you need to move the game table top, just be certain to unplug the four light cables first!