Intro: Put an LCD in Your Poker Table
If you're like us, you like to hold a home poker tournament every once in a while. My friends and I have been doing this for a few years, and have become used to using a computer or laptop as a blind clock, and to keep up with game and player statistics.
A friend and I have been wanting to re-cover a used table he'd been given several months ago. A few weeks ago, while thinking about where in the "Poker Room" the blind clock computer was going to go, I was struck by the crazy idea of just putting it in the middle of the table. It seemed ridiculous at first, but the more we thought about it, the more we realized it had to be done.
This Instructable is going to go through the overall process we went through to re-cover the table, but focus primarily on the steps we took to mount the LCD right smack in the middle of our poker table.
Step 1: Decide What Materials You Want to Use...
We started out with a used table top that needed to be recovered, so we got to skip a few steps.
But a good resource to check out is Home Poker Tourney, with several examples that will take you all the way from designing a table and what type of wood to use to a completed table. Of course, none of them have put an LCD in one yet...
You also need to choose the type of foams you'll use for the padded rail and under the table surface. We went with Your Auto Trim.com as a supplier, with the following choices...
Padded rail foam...
Play area foam...
There are, of course, several choices for these, but you have to find choices that work for you.
We like the play area to be pretty firm, and since our LCD will have a border of solid edging, too soft of a foam would end up providing a visible lip.
For the cloth and rail vinyl, we went with Sadler and Carter
The cloth we chose is Black Suited Speed Cloth...
And the vinyl is...
The website only has black vinyl listed, but in the store we were able to get the color we wanted ordered. It's called "WHI-2123 Luggage"...
If you're in the DFW area, these guys treated us great and made the effort to order the color of vinyl we wanted. Plus, we were impatient and didn't want to wait for it to ship after it came in.
Also, there's a few items you'll need specifically for this type of crazy idea.
- A length of 5/32in by 1 1/4in PVC Lattice board, or something similar, thin and wide.
- A small section of 1/2in MDF board or something else that can be used as the shelf under the LCD.
Four 4in long machine screws or bolts, and the nuts and washers to go on them, as well as 4 wing nuts to use for adjustment.
Power Tools used:
- Drill (and a selection of drill bits)
- Staple Gun (Get one BEFORE trying to cover a table like this)
- Jigsaw (Helps to have a sharp blade, and one intended for the material you'll be cutting)
Hand Tools used and misused:
- Wrench (for the nuts on the adjustment shelf)
- Sanding block (and sandpaper, for cleaning up rough cuts)
- Utility knifes (Sharp blades are a requirement)
- Exacto Knife
- Various rulers, tape measures, and a Carpenter's Square
And lastly, you'll need some spray on adhesive. The brand and type don't matter as much as following the directions on the can.
Step 2: Find an LCD to Use...
Find and disassemble your LCD. We purchased a used LCD from a friend, liked the price and no warranty for us to worry about voiding. As if that would stop us, of course.
Taking it apart was very straightforward, just a few screws and popping off the plastic case. We ended up with just one assembly that housed all of the electronics and the screen its self.
Attached via a short connection are the buttons. We're going to let them hang loose for now, and later on will finish a mount for them in a separate Instructable about finishing the bottom of the table. This Instructable is just meant for getting the table top done and the LCD in place.
Also, the edge of our LCD is silver, about 1/4in wide. So, we covered this with some black electrical tape. This was purely to hide the silver, however it also helps to both keep the glass from sliding around, and to protect it against scratches should sliding around occur.
Step 3: Get a Peice of Glass to Cover the LCD
We got our piece of glass from a local glazier, a place called Wylie Glass.
After getting the measurements, they snapped off a piece of 1/4in thick tempered gray smoked glass for about $15. The edges were then sanded down to remove any felt-endangering sharp edges.
We got a piece of clear glass the same size to see if that would be better, and it's not. I wouldn't even suggest trying it. The smoked glass darkens the view a little bit, but it's worth it in the quality of the look after everything is done.
Step 4: Measure and Cut Edging Material
To achieve a nice edge around the opening for the LCD, we used some PVC lattice boards, which are 5/32in thick and 1 1/4in wide. We used these mainly because they were the thinnest piece of material we could find that was thin enough to not be noticeable and wide enough to extend down into the table for a proper installation.
After measuring our piece of glass (don't rely on the measurements you give the glazier, just in case it's not exact) we added 1/16th of an inch to each side. This is because the speedcloth will be wrapping around this edging, and we'd still like the glass to fit in the hole after it'd done. And that's 1/16th of an inch total per side, not on each end.
Sorry, no picture of the boards before they were taped together or put into the table, but this shows the looser fit with the glass inside.
Step 5: Find the Placement of the LCD Opening
Now that you know how big of a rectangle you need to cut in that nice, flat, SOLID piece of board that is going to be your poker table, you need to figure out where to put it.
To do so, we took a wooden ruler and at one end punched a stick-pin through it, and about half way down drilled a hole just big enough for the end of a marker. This is our high-tech arc-maker-thingy.
To draw out the rectangle...
1.) Find the center of the table from both sides and from both ends. Mark as Point A.
2.) Draw a line down the center of the table through the center point.
3.) Using the center point, mark two edges of the opening by measuring out from the center. Mark as Point B, and Point B. If that makes sense.
4.) Measure out from those two edge points and make two additional marks, Points C and C. It's very important that these two marks be exactly the same distance from Point B.
5.) Using our fancy arc-maker-thingy, draw two intersecting arcs using each Point C as the center.
6.) Draw a line between the two intersections of the arcs, creating a perfectly perpendicular line to use as the edge of the opening.
7.) Measure out from the center line to find the tops and bottoms of the opening, a mark these points as Point D.
8.) Using the four Point D's, connect the dots and draw the top and bottom of the opening.
You should end up with a rectangle just the right size to slip the edging through. You can verify this opening will be square ( right angles at all four corners ) by measuring the distance between opposite corners. If the two diagonals are the same length, you have done a great job.
Also, you might as well make sure the edging and glass will fit within the hole as well. I just taped the edging together and laid the edging and the glass over the hole. Looks like a good fit to me.
Step 6: Cut a Hole in Your Table
This is of course where you really have to take a step back, and ask yourself, Do you REALLY want to cut a hole in your poker table?
OF COURSE YOU DO! Who wouldn't want to?
The normal way to cut a hole in the middle of a material is to drill a hole big enough for a jigsaw blade to fit in, then gradually cut towards the edge and proceed around the opening.
To make it easier, I tried a slightly different method, since our surface would be covered with foam and cloth anyway.
I drilled four holes, centered at the four corners of the opening, and then simply cut straight lines between the holes along the pre-drawn lines we'd laid out. I believe this helped, as I didn't have to line up with a path the saw wasn't already on. If you've ever used a jigsaw before, you know that it isn't as easy as it sounds.
To help out on the fourth cut, I tacked a piece of scrap wood to the cutout and the table both. This makes it so that when I got to that last half of an inch of the cut, the weight of the wood didn't pull the material down and tear off the last bit, ruining that nice cut. The scrap can then be easily removed afterward.
Now, you have a nice big gaping hole in your table. If you feel a sinking feeling in your belly, it's normal.
Step 7: Add Some Bracing and Paint the Bottom...
Our used table is made from a sheet of 1/2in MDF, and it's a little too flimsy for my taste. So, we simply added some 2x4's as bracing, in a rectangle around the LCD opening.
Now, this part isn't required, but if you're about to mount an LCD in the middle of your poker table, I promise that the first thing your friends are going to do when they see it is drop down and look underneath.
So, we just put a single coat of flat black spray paint on the underside of the playing surface and the bracing. We didn't think anything more was needed, since it should be dark under there most of the time anyway.
Step 8: Add LCD Shelf and Adjustment System
Next, we cut out a piece of MDF the same height as the LCD opening, and about 3 inches wider. We thought this would allow the most access to the LCD from beneath, once it's in place.
After we had the shelf, we aligned it over the opening and roughly centered it, then drilled holes near the four corners through both the shelf and table at the same time. This way, the holes will line up correctly later on without much fuss.
The diameter of the holes needs to be big enough to allow the bolts to slide through without too much trouble, so the shelf will move up and down properly, but not so big that the head of the bolt will pass through the table.
Also, since we didn't want four little bumps in the felt after we were done, we countersunk the heads of the bolts into the table.
Next, with a washer and nut, we tightened the bolts down to their permanent position. Using a nut and washer on the other side before the shelf is mounted will make sure the bolts never try to come back out and through the surface once the table's finished.
Then after they were tight, we filled the holes back up with a little putty to level out the surface before we applied the table foam.
Step 9: Apply Table Foam
After the opening is cut and the adjustment bolts are in, it's time to put the foam on which will be the base underneath our speedcloth.
First, clean the garage floor. This step was important to us, since we didn't want to risk getting the glue on the carpet, and we'd made a mess on the garage floor with the jigsaw when cutting out the opening.
After a good sweep, we laid the foam out on the ground beside the table.
We then sprayed the table first, and the foam second, both with a liberal amount of the spray adhesive.
The instructions stated to let the spray set up for between 1 and 10 minutes for the best results, so we only needed to wait for one additional minute after spraying the foam before proceeding.
Here's where two people is pretty much a requirement, and a third would be great. With a person on each end, gently pick up the foam and flip it glue side down. Lifting the ends high, we started to lay the foam down, making contact with the table first by dipping the middle down and holding the ends up high.
After the middle made contact, I then laid my end down slowly to cover one half of the table, and moved quickly to take the large cardboard roll that the foam arrived on and use it as a rolling pin to smooth out the foam. After I'd done this to one end, I rolled the cardboard towards the other end as my cohort slowly lowered his end of the foam.
Sorry there's no pictures of this process, but both of us were occupied at the time. A third person would have really helped though, as two people could hold up the ends, while the third works from the middle to flatten out the foam. With just two, we did end up with a bubble on one end that had to be worked out.
Step 10: Cut Off Excess Foam
Before moving the table, cut off the excess foam using your favorite sharp object.
We removed the outside of the foam while still in the garage, but choose to grab the table and retreat back into the safety of the air conditioner before carefully removing the foam covering the LCD opening.
Step 11: Install Edging Around Opening
Now you're ready to install the edging around the LCD opening. This is where we started to realize this was actually going to work.
Take one of the long pieces of edging, and have a friend hold it in place with the top just a hair underneath being level with the foam padding. It's better to end up with the edge slightly below the foam than slightly above it.
Put some brads in your staple gun, if it has the capability, and secure the edge in place. Repeat for the opposite side.
Really, any form of securing the edging to the table will work, as long as you can keep it in just the right place until it's secure. Using the staple gun with some brads in it was fast, and gave us no time to slip during the process.
When doing the remaining two sides, line up the ends with the two pieces of edging instead of the foam. You have a certain height set with the first two pieces, and you'll have a lot of trouble if the corners don't all line up.
Check for a good fit with the piece of glass, and if the size of the opening is right, put in several more brads per side to ensure the edging stays where you've put it.
If you end up with some gaps in between the foam and edging, fill them in using scraps. Our scrap material was a softer foam that had been wrapped around the table foam for shipping.
Step 12: Test Fit LCD and Glass
Before you move on to covering the table, you want to make sure everything's looking ok. You only get to put the speed cloth on once, so if it's not right now, you want to know.
Step 13: Cover With Speed Cloth
After the edging is installed, you're ready to cover the table.
Clear the room of any obstacles that may impede your crawling around, vacuum, and vacuum a second time. There's not much that would suck more than ripping that new cloth at the last moment.
Lay out your chosen cloth face down on the carpet, and then carefully place the table, foam side down, on top of the material.
Pick a side and start in the middle, placing the staples as close together as you can, and keeping the fabric wrinkle free. Then move to the opposite side, pulling the fabric tight and moving out from the center.
For the ends, start in the middle again, and move in small increments towards the sides. Be sure to pull the fabric taught as you continue around the curve, making pleats as needed.
Due to either our staple gun, or the possibility that we were not using it correctly, not all of our staples were going in all of the way. So, we took the time to go around the outside with a hammer and make sure each staple was completely in. This didn't take too long, wasn't hard, and made for some fun. Who doesn't enjoy beating things with a hammer, anyway?
Once the perimeter is completed, cut off the excess with a very sharp utility knife to avoid tearing, leaving about half an inch behind the line of staples.
Step 14: Cut the Opening in the Speed Cloth
Flip the table back over and place on a stand again.
This part hurts, but now that you have a nice smooth, finished surface on top with that perfect speed cloth, just asking to have cards dealt across it, it's time to cut a hole in it.
Be gentle, and only cut up to between 1/4in or 1/2in from the corners, making an X in the opening.
Before pulling the fabric down and around the edges, we went ahead and put some electrical tape in the corners because our edging is white, while everything else is dark in color. We didn't want a little bit of white visible where the fabric splits.
Now, carefully, pull the fabric down tight over the edge, placing one staple in the tip of each triangle, back away from the edge of the opening. When you have all four sides done, flip the table back over again onto the floor.
Make sure the fabric is tight, and staple down each side to secure it in the opening. After you have the sides stapled down properly, cut off the excess just like before.
Our edging ended up slightly wider than the thickness of our foam and table, leaving a lip on the bottom. This wasn't a problem though, and you can remove it if you like.
Step 15: Install Adjustable LCD Shelf
While you have it upside down, it's easier to go ahead and put the shelf on now.
Line it up with the holes you'd drilled before. It may only fit on one way, depending on how accurate you were with the bolt holes. We didn't' measure them out, so ours only went on one way.
Layer One -- Washer and nut placed on when bots were installed, and tightened into their permanent place.
Layer Two -- 2 nuts and a washer. Later on, after you get the shelf and LCD lined up just right with the surface of the table, tighten the lower nut down to meet the shelf, and the second nut down on top of it to serve as a bump stop. Should help in getting the placement right again should you have to remove the LCD later on.
Layer Three -- The shelf, very important to the overall success of the table.
Layer Four -- Washer and a wing nut, to use for adjusting the height of the shelf. Using the four corners, you can level the shelf with the surface once the LCD and smoked glass are in place.
Step 16: Cover the Padded Rail
Using the spray adhesive, glue the rail to the foam. This doesn't have to be great, just enough to hold it in place as you cover it. Cut the excess off, leaving enough foam to wrap down to the bottom of your rail. This ended up being about an inch and a half for us.
After the excess foam is gone, vacuum again. Just in case. You did just staple all of that speedcloth down on this same floor, and there's no reason to take a chance.
Lay the vinyl material out face down, and place the rail/foam combo down on top of it.
This is the most labor intensive part, since you have to go around the rail twice, but at least you've already had practice. We tried a diagonal staple pattern with the padded rail, and I believe it works a lot better. This would be worth doing on the fabric as well.
Do the entire outside first, before moving to the inside.
When you're ready, cut a large exaggerated H pattern in the foam, then radials in each end. It helps to have a second person here, with one pulling the material, and the other person both smoothing out the wrinkles and wielding the staple gun. Take short breaks as needed, your hands will most likely start to cramp up if you're doing this right.
We also went around and hammered in each staple on the rail as well, just like we did for the fabric.
After everything is stapled down tight, cut off the excess.
Step 17: Place LCD in It's Rightful Home
Now, finally, you can flip the table back over, put the rail on, and lay the LCD and smoked glass in place.
Using the wing nuts below the shelf, adjust the height of the four corners to get just the right fit. Start by placing the LCD onto the shelf, and moving the shelf up to the point where the glass will sit above the surface.
Then, slowly lower each corner until the glass is just right. You want to adjust all four corners at the same time, working your way around as you go. Go slowly and evenly, and you can get a perfect fit.
Remember, you want both the glass and the speedcloth to be even, or cards will jump when crossing between the two.
You can see in the second image here, when set up correctly, cards will slip across both glass and table without an issue.
Step 18: Final Thoughts...
Our first table build:
- This is not only our first time to put an LCD in a poker table, but also our first time to cover one. Like everything, practice makes perfect, so some of the difficulties we had with this will become easier the next time. These include things such as using a little spray glue around the opening to help in creating a neater fold and appearance, as well as the pure mechanics involved in pulling and stapling the materials.
Blindclock / Tournament software:
- The software we're using is called The Tournament Director and is fully customizable. In the pics we have included here, you can see a few different versions of the layout we were looking at. Each is only a screenshot of the software though, which is why you see the same times shown in different pictures. Just the ability to have four outward facing clocks seems justification enough for the $24.99 license fee. The software also includes a system for keeping statistics on players though, and several other great features. Check it out if you run a game at home, it's fun to be able to show how much better everyone else is at poker than you.
- So, if you've gone as far as to put an LCD in the middle of your poker table, you can't forget about the mouse and keyboard. RF or Bluetooth is the only way to go, so that you have complete mobility. I mean, as you're recording the fact that you just knocked out your best friend, you don't want to have a mouse cord knock over the huge stack of chips you just took off of him. We went with the Logitech MX 3200 keyboard/mouse combo, but your choice will be totally dependent on your own preferences.
- For now, we simply needed to get the top ready to play on. Later, we'll finish up the underside of the table with a proper set of legs, rather than the antique sewing machine base we have it sitting on right now. Also, we plan on hiding the computer by mounting it to the underside of the table, and also to create a place for mounting the LCD controls. They can't just hang there forever. We'll add some separate Instructables on these stages as they're completed.
Other technological additions are planned for the table as well, but we want to save those so they'll be a surprise...