My Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) group had been using virtual-table-top (VTT) software for some time. We would gather in the family room and project the game onto the TV, using digital tokens for monsters and characters, but still using paper sheets and dice. Eventually however, the big TV got left behind, and each player was sitting on couches with their own respective laptops.
I began to miss the social and tactile feel of D&D when played around a gaming table with miniatures and dice though. I wanted to try to find a way to bridge the gap between the convenience of VTT and old-school D&D with miniatures and dice. Then I learned about people building TV tables for their D&D groups, so I started to plan my own.
However, I knew I couldn't dedicate this amount of space to just D&D, so the table had to be multi-purpose. It would need to allow for normal board games, as well as provide a large flat surface for normal day-to-day needs.
Finally, I had been dreaming about putting together a sweet RetroArch arcade system, and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to put one together.
I made a couple prototypes out of cardboard and a 55" TV. The 55" TV provided plenty of surface area for maps, but its size, plus table space, made it difficult for players to reach the miniatures on the board. Ultimately, I decided that a 43" TV would provide enough map space and table surface with out making the table too big for both player reach or the space of my room.
I had never made a piece of furniture before, and my plans didn't include exact measurements. Since the whole thing was going to be built around the TV, everything after building the frame is pretty much measured to something else that has already been built. I feel this provided a very fault-tolerant build process - great for an amateur craftsman like myself!
- 2x4 Pine Boards ~ 20'
- 2x6 Pine Boards~ 16'
- 1x2 Pine Boards ~ 19'
- 1x4 Pine Boards ~ 26'
- 1x1 ~ 6'
- 1x3 ~ 6'
- 1x6 Edge Glued Poplar ~ 16'
- 1x12 Edge Glued Poplar ~ 18'
- 1" Plywood Sheet
Hardware & Supplies
- 4 Window Latches (you'll only use 2 bases, and 4 hooks)
- Wood glue
- Lots of screws of various sizes
- 8 Long Bolts, Nuts & Washers for the legs. Long enough to go through two 2x4s.
- Stain & Poly
- Tools (Miter Saw, Nail Gun, Jig Saw)
- Rags & Sandpaper
- (1) 43" 4K HDR TV
- (2) 90 Degree HDMI Adapter (optional depending on TV)
- (2) MAGCAP Magnetic Wall Mounted Bottle Opener
- (2) BATIGE USB 3.0 & HDMI to HDMI + USB3.0 AUX Extension Dash Panel Waterproof Car Flush Mount Cable For Car Boat and Motorcycle - 3ft
- (10) GSE Games & Sports Expert Stainless Steel Drop-in Cup Holders
- (2) TOPGREENER TU21558AC 5.8A Ultra-High-Speed USB Type C/A Wall Outlet Charger
- (4) 2 Gang Outlet Recepitcals
- Plenty of Romex wire, electrical nuts, and fittings
- (1) Appliance cable
- ODROID XU4 with active cooler and power supply (running rentro pi)
- Hikig 2 Player led Arcade Buttons and joysticks DIY kit 2X joysticks + 20x led Arcade Buttons Game Controller kit for MAME and Raspberry Pi - Red + Blue Color
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Step 1: The Base of the Table
The first thing I made was the base for the table. Four legs, and a big wooden box should do the trick.
The frame is comprised of 2x6s, and was sized to fit my 43" TV. The TV. Ultimately the plywood board will make the fitted frame the TV, so this can be as big as you want your table base to be. I cut the 2x6s to size, and then used some long lag screws and glue to secure them together. This part of the table will not be seen much, so I didn't do any fancy mitered corners. You may want to use corner brackets for added stability, but I didn't do this on mine.
I wanted the table to be relatively high, so I cut the legs to be about 26" tall, with the notch side cut to be about 21" so that the 2x6 frame could fit on the short end. I glued the two pieces together, clamped them, and then put some screws in them to lock 'em together tight. (See CAD image).
At this point if you wanted to put some wood filler at the seam, and sand them down, you could make these look like one nice solid piece of wood. I'd also suggest sanding and rounding out the bottom of the table legs some too, so that if you need to gently slide the table on carpet or the floor, it won't catch and splinter off (like mine did).
Position the legs on the inside oft he frame, stagger your holes a bit, and then drill through. I recommend big washers on both sides of the legs (bigger than in my picture!) to secure them well, and keep the bolts from damaging the holes overtime.
Step 2: TV Brackets
To make a the supports for the TV I cut two 1x2s to fit along the inside length of the table, between the legs. The TV won't rest right on these brackets, but instead on the green crossing ones I put in next, so I attached them low onto the base. I'm going to position and level the table later using a multi-point leveling system, so I didn't need to worry too much about these being perfect.
Next, I cut at lest 3 brackets to go across the table, resting on the 1x2s I just put in place. I used 1x3's for this, and its worked out great. I wanted to use the minimal amount of supports for the TV to leave the bottom open and airy for ventilation. TV's weren't meant to be set flat - they're designed be upright so to allow heat from the electrical components inside to rise up and away. When its flat, you'll notice a lot of heat coming directly through the screen. So far, I've had no issues with heat, but I have considered installing some small computer fans under it to help disperse it even further.
Step 3: Cut the TV Hole
Next I made the opening for the TV. I used a great big sheet of 1" plywood that I cut to fit the frame I made. At 1" thick it was strong enough to overhang the 2x6 box frame, and still be plenty sturdy. At a minimum, you need your plywood to extend off enough that you can attach the 1x4 frame in the next step and have enough room between it and the 2x6 frame (orange) to put electrical boxes in place in a future step. Mine overhangs the 2x6 frame by about 5" on each side.
To cut the hole for the tv I simply placed it screen side down on the plywood, got it into position and traced around the TV. I then took the TV off, and carefully cut the shape of the TV into the plywood with a jigsaw.
I then securely attached the plywood to the frame using wood-glue and screws.
Step 4: Outlets and Electronics Frame
Next I took more 1x4s and created a bottom frame around the table that would house the majority of the electrical components, such as the HDMI ports, and outlets.
The 1x4s were measured and attached to the bottom perimeter of the plywood as seen in the CAD drawing.
To attach it, I flipped the table upside down and positioned the teal frame. After applying some wood glue and toe-nailing it, I flipped the table back around and added additional screws from the top.
Step 5: TV & Buffer Frame
The TV will be flush to the plywood (yellow), but I wanted a little buffer between it and the walls of the gaming surface.
Using more 1x2s, I cut the the gaming wall frame (red) to go around the TV, on top of the plywood. Eventually the hardtop will rest on these walls, and I wanted it to be deep enough that I could leave a game with normal size pieces and miniatures in place with the top on. That way, we could "save-the-state of the game" by simply putting the topper back on.
If I could go back and do things differently, I'd have added a little more space in this buffer area of the table. This would have made the overall size of my table bigger, but I think it would have been worth it in the end. As it is right now, I only have about 2" of surface around the TV on the inside. This is perfectly fine for making sure the inset TV isn't obstructed by the walls around it, but it does not give much space for putting miniatures, dice or other scatter-pieces that you may want near by but not actually on the TV.
Step 6: Finishing the Table Base
I continued to build up the table. The purple frame is made from 1x6 edge glued poplar. Its measured and cut to fit snugly around the gaming walls (red). With this frame in place, there should now be a 1" wall around the outside of the TV area.
The table is going to have accessories that will slide into the table and are held securely in place between the bottom (purple) and top frame (future steps). To keep them from sliding around, the gold brackets in the CAD drawing provide slots for each accessory, but they also do double duty by providing anchor pieces and support for the top frame I'll be adding later.
To create the gold brackets, I cut a bunch of 1x1s and then made longer extension brackets to support the top frame as it extends out past the frame.
To make the longer support brackets, I cut 12 inch long 1x4s, and notched them at the appropriate spot so they would slide onto the purple frame, making contact with the gaming wall (red) on the top, and the electrical walls (teal) on the bottom. You can see the shape in the picture. I apologize I did not take a close up of these while in progress.
Not only am I making accessories such as dice trays, drink holders, and writing areas that will slide into these spots, but one entire side of the table will slide out! Anything that will require more than one slot should be positioned now. The brackets need to be perfectly straight for these spots, or they won't slide in and out easily. The while I right angle can be helpful, I prefer mocking it up with spare wood, and making sure it will work before gluing and screwing everything down. You can see me using an orange 1x3 to help position everything evenly.
When everything was done, I had the image seen here. You can also note, that I'm building a bottom shelf for my table, which is completely optional, but does provide an additional level of support for the legs.
Step 7: Electrical Outlets
With the bulk of the table made, I started to run the electrical.
I attached the primary box to one of the corner legs, and ran the appliance plug into that to start the flow of power.
Going around the table, I put my outlets in the right side corners of each side. If I were to do this again, I would actually put them in the middle of each side, since that seems like the better spot after using it for a while.
I'm not going to go into much detail about the actual wiring, since I'm no expert and this is the one part of the project I don't want to give bad advice. Needless to say though, use proper electrical boxes, romex wire, and make sure everything is properly grounded. Buy and test your outlets with GFCI Outlet / Receptacle Tester before plugging anything in! They're less than $10 and can save you a lot trouble and money!
For the HDMI and USB outlets that will go to the TV and other electronics in the table, I found some great little round ports by BATIGE that are designed for cars and boats. I simply had to use the appropriate size drill bit, make my hole, and slide it in. Way easier than adding additional an electrical box.
Step 8: Top'o'The Table to You!
For the top of the table, I used 12x1" edge-glued poplar boards. - these are the ones that typically come wrapped in plastic from the lumber store. You need to use edge-glued boards here so that your table top doesn't warp.
These were the most difficult cuts and measurements of the projects, so when building your own, make sure you take your time and cut precisely. Mitering 12 inch boards was a challenge on my cheap miter saw, and I had to use plenty of wood-filler (as you can see in the picture) to smooth it out. For added strength to my corners, I added metal plates to the underside as well.
As you may have noticed in the first few pictures of the Instructable, there is one picture with a completely smooth table, and one with arcade sticks and buttons on it. For one of the top frame sides, I took the 12" board and cut it into two boards measuring 8" and 4" widths.
Only the 4" board was physically attached to the table, and the 8" board had 1x3 boards attached to the bottom that could slide into the accessory holders as well. I cut a second 8" width board for the arcade controls. Again, these cuts were challenging, since they were mitered and needed to be very precise so that both sections could slide in seamlessly. When this side of the table is locked in, it rests on the extension brackets, and when pressure is applied, the 1x3s underneath will brace themselves against the firmly attached 4" board they were slide into.
The top frame will rest mostly on the brackets you added in a previous step, but also a little bit on the gaming wall (red) since we don't want any gaps. The gaming wall will hold the topper by providing just enough lip to rest on. Account for this lip when measuring and cutting your top frame.
Once the frame is built, take more edge-glued poplar boards and cut them to fit the middle, resting on the game wall lip (red). I tried to measure this opening as best I could, and bought additional poplar boards of varying width to avoid having to cut them lengthwise as much as possible.
I now had a nice flat table top, which protects the TV below it when not in use.
To attach the top frame to the table, I picked screws that are long enough to go all the way from the bottom of the table, up to and into the frame with out going through it. To do this, I set the top frame aside, and took a really long drill bit and drilled from the points where I wanted it to enter the frame and down through the rest of the table. I then glued and placed the top frame table, and used those pilot holes to go back up through with the screws.
You could likely go right from the top down, and use wood filler hide the screws as well. Using a drill bit that long was a bit of a headache.
From the picture here you can also see that I've made my removable cup holders by taking a 1x4, a 1x3, and a 1x1, assembled into the shape of an "h" that can slide into those accessory slots. I found the cup holders and matching drill hole online.
Step 9: Staining the Table
I went with an ebony stain for the majority of the table, and then a deep Merlot red for the accessories and table top. I used a few pieces of scrap poplar to test the ebony stain, since I didn't want it turn out just black and hide all the grain and variations in the poplar. When using test boards, make sure they are all sanded down to the level that your actual table will be, since I found that the smoothness of the wood had a great impact on how quickly the stain took.
Since the ebony stain was darkening the wood so fast, I applied it quickly around the table, and started wiping off the excess as soon as I made it back around to the starting point. Even then, it was too dark, so applying a bit of mineral spirits to a disposable rag, I continued to wipe off stain. The effect was striking, and the darkened poplar still showed its beautiful variations and colors.
The red stain didn't take as quickly, so I let it stain a bit longer before wiping away the excess.
Finally, 2 coats of poly around the entire table, and 4 on the top, I was ready to insert the TV.
Step 10: Placing & Leveling the TV
I struggled for a bit to figure out a system to get the TV level and flush with the gaming surface. I didn't fully trust my cutting skills that my table was going to be perfect, so I needed a means to level the TV on multiple points that was permanently positioned.
Using some long bolts with plastic nobs on the top, I was able to raise and lower separate points of the TV. Securing the bolts into place with wingnuts, I ended up with a perfectly flush TV. I have a total of 7 points under the TV, but may add one or two more to insure that the TV itself doesn't warp over time.
A thin piece of clear acrylic cut to fit over the TV provides an added layer of protection for the screen. Given that went with a TV a bit more expensive than I originally intended, I may regret not going with a thicker piece of acrylic, but I didn't want the miniatures to appear floating over the map. I didn't think my table saw would smoothly cut the acrylic, so I went to a local acrylic fabricator to get it cut to size, and they matched the opening exactly... However, during play, the acrylic began to warm and expand, causing it to bow out as it hit the edges of the plywood. I decided to try shaving off just a little bit on my table-saw and it cut it just fine.
When picking a TV for a table, its important to see it in person and observe the viewing angles. TVs are designed to be seen from the front, not from extreme side angles on the sides. I started with a 4K/HDR TCL model, but when viewed from the sides, it completely washed out the colors and made text difficult to read. After taking that back, I bought a slightly more expensive Sony model that displayed beautifully no matter where a player was sitting.
Step 11: Board Gaming Surface
For the traditional board gaming surface, I cut a piece of hardboard and used spray-on-adhesive to attach red felt to it. The hardboard is fairly sturdy, but you may want to use actual plywood for this part. There is still bit of flex to it, and I wince whenever a slightly inebriated friend reaches over the table to move their pieces - the last thing I want is too much pressure applied to it and damaging the TV below.
A small loop of felt attached to one of the corners provides a hold for removing the felted surface insert.
This has really worked out well, since the gaming walls provide a nice frame for activity, and the 12" top frame is enough space for each player to organize their own pieces
Step 12: Arcade Accessory Insert
Finally! The pièce de résistance of the whole project, and the part that really wows my guests. The removable arcade system.
Mounted under the table is an Odroid running RetroArch. I usually leave it powered on and hooked up to one of the HDMI ports of the TV. One of its USB ports runs to a port in the side of the table.
Using one of the 8" removable frame boards, I position and installed the arcade sticks and buttons. I used a mid-level arcade kit I found online, that included two USB boards for the buttons and sticks to hook into. No soldering or major wiring needing! These USB boards then went into a small hub, that finally runs to the USB port on the side of the table.
To hide the arcade wiring and circuit boards, I went into TinkerCad and 3D printed two covers.
The side inserts are held securely in place with pressurized window latches on either side. These also help pull the boards down into alignment if they've warped just slightly (like mine).
Step 13: Final Steps and Thoughts
The table turned out way better than I though it would! I am by no means a carpenter, and the last thing I built out of wood was a birdhouse back in middle school.
Its greatly improved our D&D games, and the arcade setup has been a huge hit at gatherings!
I put some magnetic bottle openers that catch the bottle cap on each leg, and a pocket-door pull made a great lift for the hardtop, that kept the surface nice and flush.
I hope you like my first Instructable! Let me know what you think in the comments, and feel free to ask any question!
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