Introduction: Folding Table Tennis Top for Outside Table

The idea started by me staring at our outside table after work one evening and thinking "wow, this table takes up a lot of space - this space would have been perfect for a pool table!". One or two beers later, and thoughts went from pool table to table tennis table. I looked up the dimensions of a table tennis table, and surprise, surprise, it was exactly the same height as our outside table. Because of the limited space, I decided to go with a smaller (about 2/3) version, which would do the trick - i.e. still big enough to have a decent game. Of course there were a few people on the Table Tennis websites saying, don't do it, it's not worth the effort! But in reality, it's quite easy and a fun project to do. My main requirements for this table top was that it had to be portable/foldable, and that it didn't scratch my current table!

Step 1: Materials and Supplies

  • 2 x MDF boards (known in South Africa as Supawood), cut to the size you want (I went for 915 x 940mm) - 16mm thickness. Thicker may be better in terms of the bounce of the ball, but it adds to the weight of the board - and this thing is pretty heavy! The overall dimensions of the table will therefore by 1830 x 940mm.
  • 1 piano hinge (1m) - cut it to size (940mm) with a hacksaw (Piano hinge)
  • 30 x 20mm M4 wood screws and screwdriver
  • Tape measure
  • Wood primer (paint) - white is preferable - it will make the lines a bit easier later on.
  • Chalkboard paint - green, blue or black (some countries may have table tennis paint)
  • White paint - matte finish - or white spray paint
  • Small foam roller brush
  • Masking tape (18mm width) - or depending on how wide you want the lines to be
  • 6-10 Floor protectors
  • 2 small bump-ons
  • Drill (optional), with a 2mm bit
  • Wood sealer (optional)

Total cost for me was about R430 ($30), assuming you already have some of the paint, primer etc.

Step 2: Prepping and Priming

Check the MDF boards to make sure they're all perfectly smooth - there might be one or two patches you'll need to sand (you're advised to wear a mask, due to the formaldehyde in the boards).

Once you're happy, wipe away all the dust and paint the wood primer on the boards, using the foam roller brush.

Make sure everything is nice and even - if you notice little "blobs" that sometimes occur, rather wipe it away before it dries - you want this surface to be as smooth as possible.

Step 3: The Lines

Once the primer has dried, it is now time for the real paint job.

First you need to mark the lines with masking tape. Rotate the board so that you are looking at it length ways - in my case this played a bit of a trick on my mind, as the width (940mm) was slightly longer than the length (915mm). Starting at the one corner, secure the masking tape underneath, and slowly stick it down the side - take some time to do this properly - these are going to be your lines after all!

Do the same for the other side line, as well as the back line of the board.

For the middle line, measure the distance from the edge to the middle. In my case it was 470mm - and then subtract half the width of the masking tape (18mm/2 = 9mm). Therefore the start of the tape was 461mm from the edge of the board. Make a little mark on either side of the board, and stick your masking tape down the middle. Make sure it's stuck down properly - you don't want any paint sneaking in underneath.

Right, now it's time for the paint - I used a water-based chalkboard paint - I'm sure there are better options, but it works fine for my needs - you want it to be a paint with a matte finish, and the chalkboard paint fulfills that quite nicely. Using the foam roller brush, apply 2-3 coats. Again, make sure it's nice and even, and pick out any specks or blobs as you go along. When it's touch dry, you can peel away the lines - this is when you'll get your first sense of accomplishment!

Now wait for the paint to dry properly, and then apply masking tape in the inverse way to previously, i.e. on the inside of the border lines, and on either side of the centre line. In retrospect, I should have used spray paint (make sure you mask the areas outside of the lines with newspaper) - as when I run my hands over the lines, there is a definite change in texture - I think spray paint would've made it a bit smoother. Once the new areas have been masked, you can now paint the white lines using the roller. Wait for it to dry, and then remove the masking tape - you may need 2 or 3 coats, especially if you used a pink primer like myself!

Step 4: Putting It All Together

The painting is all done and you should be feeling pretty chuffed!

Next, put the boards on top of each other, as they would be when they are closed. Line them up nicely, so that the corners are exactly on top of each other. If you have a G-clamp, clamp the pieces together - alternatively, use a few heavy books or bricks to ensure the boards don't slide around.

Now cut the piano hinge to the correct size, using a hacksaw - in my case this was 940mm. If you decided to go with a 1m wide table, skip this step!

Open and place the piano hinge next to the 2 boards and secure it with some tape. Mark all the holes on your board. Now remove the hinge and using a 1-2mm drill bit, drill pilot holes for your screws. Put the hinge back in place and secure it with your screws.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

Your board is now ready for play!

You'll be tempted to skip the next few steps, but another 15 minutes and you'll be done.

  • If you have some wood sealer lying around, seal the underneath of the board. Otherwise stick some primer on there. You never know, after a rough night of beer/ping pong, you may forget this outside, and you'll be happy you used some protection! :)
  • Stick a bump-on on the left-hand side of each corner - I realise they could get hit by the ball during the game, but that little bit of protection will help to protect your paintwork!
  • Lastly, using the dimensions of your outside table as a guide, stick your floor protectors to the underside of the table top. I used 5/half, but feel free to use as many as you like.

Go buy yourself net and start playing!!


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