Tuesday, May 26, 2009

DnD Project: Building a Digital Game Table, Pt 2

In which a table is built and Paul thinks this might actually turn out kinda nice.

My Memorial Day weekend was spent collecting materials and assembling the table that will house the projector. The weather did its best to frustrate me - being nice and sunny one hour, and rainy the next - but I finally managed to get the thing put together.

The table is going to have a 3'x3' surface that is 32" from the floor - this should allow players to sit on a couch and view the top, or stand and not have to bend too far over. It would also allow me to acheive the 50" minimum distance I decided on after playing around with the digital projector (the dimensions of which are 16" wide, 12.5" deep, 6" tall).

Here is my list of materials from Lowe's:
Part #DescriptionQtyPriceSubtotal
45121"x3"x8' Premium Furring Strip2$1.48$2.96
45132"x2"x8' Premium Furring Strip2$1.86$3.72
374613/4"x49"x97" MDF1$19.98$19.98
100549Pine Outside Chair Rail4$1.78$7.12
838Straight Top Plate4$1.68$6.72
4365214" Traditional Chair Leg4$4.64$18.56
96871A21Z 2"x1" Angle Zmax8$0.51$4.08
23916x1/2" PH FL Wood Screws1$3.77$3.77
TOTAL (before tax)

The medium density fiberboard (MDF) panel was a large 4 foot by 8 foot sheet. I had already determined that I wanted the panels on this table to be 18" wide, so I had them cut the panel into four 18" x 4' panels with some extra left over. Having this done at the store is a huge time saver.

I still needed to make four straight 18" cuts to get the panels down to the 3' width I wanted. Unfortunately, MDF is very dense and my poor little jigsaw was taking forever to cut through it.
A quick call to my dad, and he brought his circular saw over - I was already borrowing his miter saw and finisher nailgun, so one more tool wasn't a huge deal. ;-) The miter saw was then used to cut the furring strips of both sizes to fit the panels.

I used Liquid Nail (Heavy Duty) and a cordless Dewalt finish nailer (to which I am very lucky to have access) to secure the furring strips to the MDF panels. I used 6 nails along the bottom strip (the 2"x2"), but only 3 for the top. This was because the 1.5" nails I was using were sticking out of the 1"x3" furring strip. I filed the points down so no one would pucture a hand when moving the table, but they still stick out a tiny fraction of an inch.

The furring strips do not go all the way the both ends of the panel. I decided that I wanted the strips to interlock with each other in the corners. I did not, however, take into account the width of the panel itself and soon found myself faced with the following problem when I tried test-fitting a couple of panels together:

I had to take a coping saw and a chisel to each of the strips that had been attached to the panels and remove 3/4". This added a lot of time to this phase of the project. Finally, I was able to glue and nail the panels together:

As soon as I would get a corner joined together, I would add the right angle brackets. These help maintain the square shape of the table and take some of the stress off of the nails in the MDF. I put the long side of the bracket against the outside furring strip, and the short side on the strip that sat further back in the corner. I have no basis for this reasoning, but it seemed like it'd be more sturdy that way.

So, finally having gotten the panels fit and joined together, it was time to attach the plates that the table legs would screw into. This would allow the table to use legs of differing height if needed and to be disassembled to a point and moved more easily between rooms. We are also planning to move in the near future, so anything that makes that easier is a plus.

It was at this point that using the MDF for the table panels became a bit of a burden. MDF does not like screws - it tends to split and can break. Most of what I read on the internet suggested using coarse drywall screws. I just used the screws that came with the plates, and you can see the results below - not catastrophic by any means, but annoying (to me, at least). Pre-drilling the holes does help a little, as does going very slow. To compensate, I slathered a generous helping of Titebond II Premium Wood Glue into and over the splits.

One final touch and the table would be ready for a finish (MDF is terrible with moisture and needs to be sealed, else it will flake and disintegrate). Instead of screwing down the plexiglass sheets that would be used for the surface, I thought it would be easier to hold them in place with something - ideally something that might add a little style to the table as well. I found these chair rail exterior corners near the table legs in the store and thought they looked nice:

I have considered adding decorative trim to the top and bottom edges of the panels, but it is prohibitively expensive and does not add any functionality to the table. Still, I will keep it in mind for the future. Another feature I'm hoping to add, but will probably hold off on are hinged trays on the outside of the panels that would allow players to set their materials on.

The next post in this series will deal with finding a solution to getting the projector into position and supporting its weight. Whatever I use will have to be adjustable to different styles and types of projectors.

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