Friday, April 3, 2009

Where is a Wargamer Without a Table

Crawling around the floor on his hands and knees and where is the dignity in that?

After deciding on getting into the hobby I realized that I needed a place to play. Like all middle aged war gamers my initial thought was to liberate the dining room table. Heck, we hardly ever use the thing and I’d be happy to pick up my scale miniatures if a Turkey dinner was the payoff (we all have our price don’t we?). Merrily, I told my wife about this exciting new venture my son and I were embarking on - we would be spending time together (approving nod), it’s educational (approving nod), and it’s creative (approving nod). In fact it’s a bargain when you think that the only cost to you, oh mighty Empress of the Household, is the meager use of your oft neglected dining room table (stony silence, then well you know...). The reaction was like that part in the second Lord of the Rings movie where the Orc army has marched up to the gates of Helms Deep and it grew eerily silent until one of chowder heads on the ramparts looses an arrow (a metaphor for asking to use the dining room table?) and all hell breaks loose. I didn’t stand a chance.

So I “elected” to build my own table. Now I am economist by training and I thought I should to put that academic background to work - so my initial build effort consisted of “assuming a table”. (The economist amongst my readers will get that, the rest of you, well, just move on). With economic theory put paid it’s off to go use tools, which required me to create a plan. Obviously, I needed a plan so that I had something to ignore while building the darn thing.

I wanted a table that would have multiple uses so I came up with the following criteria:

Playing Surface:

6 x 4 feet for most games with an additional 2 x 4 section for modeling and to hold rule books etc. The two table top sections will be on the same plain so the playing area can be expanded to 8 x 4, if needed. The entire 8 x 4 perimeter will be surrounded by 1/2 inch shoe molding to help prevent dice and miniatures from falling of the table. I have been toying with the idea of making geomorphic terrain tiles so the edging will also be useful holding them in place.

Tilt-able Drafting Surface:

I built the table so that both the 6x4 and 2x4 sections could be lifted and positioned at both 45 and 60 degree angles to function as a drafting tables. I coach my son’s robotics team and the designs they come up with are complicated so having a drafting table is useful. The table top use a piano hinge to spread the weight around. I still need to figure out how to install a pneumatic hinge to avoid gravity fueled top slams and the associated finger injuries.


Since the table tops can be lifted, there will be storage underneath. The table was built using a 1x6 box frame so there is about 14 cubic feet of storage for miniatures and other items. Given the alarming rate at which I’m collecting new armies, I can never have too much storage.


The table is supported by 4 x 4 cedar legs which provide an immense amount of structural integrity and look great. The support structure will also allow me to add under table shelving or fold down leafs if I need and even larger playing space in the future. Plus cedar has a nice aroma, which is more than I can say for some gamers.

The construction is fairly simple, so it shouldn’t tax the average DIY’er. Having access to a power mitre saw and a finish nail gun is extremely useful.

As with any project that involves power tools there are risks, so please be careful and wear eye protection. If your under 18, please get your parents permission and help.

The total cost of the table was approximately $250.00 (US). I did elect to use cabinet grade wood for the 1x6 siding and hinged top as I’m unsure what the final finish will be. Staining the table will look sharp but will not be as durable as a paint. The trim moulding around the top is painted white (it’s from another project) so I’ll need to strip it if I go with a stain.

Here are some pictures of the table during construction:

Here is a picture of the below table top storage. Both surface open, one is 2x4' and the other is 6x4"

The table is extremely sturdy (I can stand on it, which is impressive that I can still climb that high up!). I may redo the moulding lip. The quarter rounds look nice and keep both the dice and miniatures from slipping off the edge but they aren't that stable to hold clip on shelves unless I router the underside of the clip to match the quarter round.


Ouchies said...

Nice table! I just recently went through the same thing. I stayed at 8'x4' only because that is what the boards ship at and it simplifies the building process.

I'm no carpenter after all. :p

jmilesr said...


Building the table wasn't that hard. The trickiest part was tracking down a decent piano hinge. The table is getting a great deal of use from wargaming to robotics (my son is on a high school robotics team).

Harry said...

Great looking table! Would it be possible to see a bigger picture of the table opened (clicking on the small picture doesn't work for me in Safari or Firefox)


Miniature Gamer 72 said...


Great game At HISTORICON did not get to play but looked great. Steve from WWPD metion your Game Table work and wondered if you had a plan you could forward. As I have moved from NOVA to Central Indiana it is hard to find gaming shops but easier to have more room so I'm going to build my own game table and building.