Thread: Do It Yourself:: Building a gaming table in Australia – An honest cost breakdown, and lessons learned.
Australia Hi Everyone! I’ve detailed out the process of me building my gaming table. I started with Bum Kim’s guide to decide ‘Can I do this?’ and then customized it myself. I couldn’t have built this without the advice and learning from this forum so thanks to all those who have posted such helpful info already – what a wonderful bunch of people! Before making the table, I’ve only made a bar/beer fridge for my Dad’s 60th and a basic TV cabinet. So I’m no expert. I say this to point out that anyone can give this a go, and I’m posting how I did it and what it cost to try and give a realistic view of the effort, cost, time, and patience involved in making a custom piece of furniture. I noticed a few people have said “Yeah but I don’t have the tools so it costs way more than $X.” Fair enough, so I’m also posting it for an Australian reference point too for those of us here who might want to try it. I made plenty of mistakes, I just hid them pretty well ^_^ the finished project speaks for itself. I hope people find this useful! Cost The materials cost me $314, and other supporting materials cost me $180, with the total project costing $494. I made some design decisions that increased the cost, it could be done cheaper. I didn’t /need/ to use more expensive wood, or marine grade ply. Using all pine and painting it could have saved at least $70. Still, I thought it would be helpful to break down the costs in a realistic way to help others manage expectations. I’ve also summarised the cost of tools (very roughly) for those who might want to invest in some of those too. Materials: Dressed Meranti (its similar to jarrah just cheaper, only in WA):8 – 116 x 19mm 1.8m (Top and sides of top) ($130)4 – 42 x 19 mm 1.8m (inside edge of vault, and supporting top pieces) ($20) Dressed pine boards: 6 – 64 x 19mm 1.8m Premium Grade Dressed Pine (All of your base) ($42)2 – 90mm x 90mm Pine Posts 1.2m (I was going to use 70 x 70mm but that’s what was in stock, for the legs) ($51) Lid and base: AA Marine Grade Plywood 2400 x 1200 x 9mm ($71) (Less than 9mm thickness was too flimsy, and ECOply looked awful, so spent more money for the Marine Grade ply for aesthetic. Bunnings will cut it in half for you for free in store as well, we did this for ease of transport). Supporting materials: Kreg screws 38mm hardwood, and 38mm softwood screws. ($8 for a packet of 100, $16~ for a packet of 250). Screw depth is dependent on the depth of your wood, read the Kreg guide. Timber screwsPine DAR 18mm x 18mm ($4)1 Ltr Cabot’s satin maple varnish and stain. ($57)Paint brushes if you don’t own them ($3-$5 each)Sandpaper: 80 grit, 240 grit, 320 grit. (~$30 total)1.5m x1.4m Faux Suede (Micro suede) (~$16 at Spotlight)6mm staples. ($4?) Build process: I wanted a table that we could use while sitting on couches, its more comfortable, and we play games with different groups of friends. So it needed to be able to accommodate us playing games, and for larger groups up to 8. I looked into IKEA…and other suppliers and didn’t see something that would fit our needs. Then I saw this forum…and down the rabbit hole I went to build my own table!I started with SketchUp, a free 3D modelling tool. I hadn’t used this program before and it only took me half an hour to get the hang of it after watching a brief tutorial. I find it useful to visualise what it’ll look like to think about the build and what will or won’t work. I then used some pieces of wood to mock up the height and form of the table to see if that will work practically. Even after being careful about this, I still stuffed this up. My final table is based on coffee table height of 450mm, and the sides impede on my knees, leaning towards the table, so I’m going to raise it by 70-100mm for clearance. I had considered the vault depth, the outer dimensions, the sides, the shape, basically everything else except that my knees hitting the side. It’s an easy fix though thankfully, I’ll use a round shaped pine table leg to add the extra height (They’re $4 each). Once I was happy with the design I went to buy my wood.I then created a ‘cutting guide’ where I wrote down what cuts I needed to do for each wood length. Starting with the base frame first. E.g. Cut (64 x 19mm Pine) – 4 lengths of 1181 (approx.). A Mitre saw makes it easier to ensure you have all four lengths exactly the same. When planning this, its easier to get all your 90 degree cuts down the same, then your 45 degree cuts at the same time. So everything is the same angles. Also, always do test cuts as with my Dad’s mitre saw the guide is not always 100% accurate so you need to double check that 45 degrees is not 46degrees etc, or this will put out your squares. It matters most for the top where you have flush 45 degree joins. Once all the pieces are cut to size, I test the pocket hole depth, then cut my pocket holes for each piece, then assemble. I didn’t use glue…some argue ‘you should always use glue’ but I didn’t and I could use my table as a hammer and the joints would still hold. Double pocket holes are really strong when done correctly (see tips section for more detail). I also didn’t use glue though because it would impact the stain later…glue on stained wood looks awful…With the base assembled I started on the top frame with the same process. I needed an extra pair of hands for joining each of the corners, even with the clamps it wasn’t a firm enough hold for the tightness I wanted in the corners. I’m not going to give a step by step, hopefully it speaks for itself through the pictures. I made a mistake with one of the corners, because the wood was warped slightly, there was a raise in one of the corners, I corrected it by putting a piece of dar inside the corner, clamping it all flat, screwing into the dar then into the wood and gluing the inside of that corner to reinforce it. I then did the routered inside edge of for the lid, this was pretty tricky, I wouldn’t do it unless you have a straight edge clamp and practice using a router.I sanded down all the pieces with 240 grit sandpaper to prep for varnishing. If there are any knots in the wood its worth giving them an extra sand or avoiding buying wood with knots…but that’s not always possible depending on supply. Varnished the base first, being careful to do each face reasonably quickly and trying not to overlap as the stain and varnish combination would show the difference colors. Each coat takes 2 hours to dry, then I would give a very light pass with 320 grit sandpaper just to knock down any notches or rough parts to smooth out the final coat. Each piece had 3 coats. I then measured up the lid for the top, cut that to size. Then varnished the top and the lid. 3 coats for each. Lastly, I went to buy some suede for the base, and I bought a staple gun and staples to attach it to the base. Cut the base to fit on the base frame with 5mm clearance around the inside edge. Stapled the suede to the frame with 60mm spacing and 5mm clearance from the edge of the base on the top. Then, I folded the excess underneath and stapled the to the baseboard as well. I made sure the suede did not overlap at the corners, for it to sit flat, so cut triangles out of the corners basically before stapling it down. I’ve taken a photo to try and demonstrate this. Then I put the whole thing together. The base frame sits down first, then the suede board sits on top of that, then lift the top frame onto of that and just line it up. It’s heavy enough that it won’t move, I could put some dowels underneath if it shifts…but I don’t think it will. I designed it this way so that I could take out and replace the felt if I wanted to. The suede is pretty tough though, and stain and water resistant so should be ok, and easy to vacuum if need be. So that’s it! Tips/ lessons learned: Please always wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Most power tools are loud, and dangerous, particularly a mitre saw. Ear muffs, and safety glasses are a must, gloves, and sometimes a dust mask (if you’re doing a lot of sanding), closed shoes would be a good idea too. Sometimes working with wood, it warps or has twists. I had to take two of my top pieces back because they were too warped for me to use. I should have checked this more thoroughly in store. Thankfully, returning and swapping was easy enough. These minor twists can cause problems when you want everything to line up. Particularly in this case, as I was making a rather large square. It can be corrected with extra reinforcing, but its easier to fix before it happens by picking a good piece of wood! When varnishing after each coat has dried (coat 1 and 2 of 3), swipe over the wood once with a 320 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. It just helps get rid of those little bits that might stick up from the varnishing and helps create a really smooth finish. Always do a few test cuts on spare pieces of wood when resetting a mitre saw. Especially on 45 degree cuts. If the angle is just a little bit off it can impact the tightness of your join, but this still applies to straight cuts too. Working with pocket holes creates a really strong join, but only if you’re going into the inside edge of the wood. If the hole is going to angle out towards an edge or drill into the end of a piece of wood, it won’t give you the strength you need. Inlays are really hard to get perfect. Practice lots if you haven’t used a router before. You could just put little dowels in the inside edge instead for the lid to sit on. A stain and varnish is easier to use than a stain, then a varnish, but when using it be sure to avoid overlapping areas overwise you’ll end up with some sections that look darker than others. I went with ‘maple’ as I liked the colour, and it turned out a little more orange than I originally would have liked, so do a few test coats as well. The store guides on what the colour will look like are pretty useless based on my experience. Pine doesn’t take to staining very well, which is why I used Meranti for the top (visible) part of the table. Pine is the cheapest wood to get, but this is a downside, it can make stains look ‘blotchy’ and uneven compared to other woods. Something to consider. Meranti is a more expensive wood, but I think its worth the difference because of the look. It’s what the marine grade ply is made from here too, so it matches well to the lid. You don’t have to stain or varnish at all…you could just paint pine. Suppliers: I used Bunnings mostly, but for specialist woodworker tools I used a store called Timbercon. They’re in Melbourne and Perth and a lot of the time were cheaper than Bunnings for some of the tools I needed (right angle driver for those tight pocket holes, and Kreg screws). Also Spotlight had the faux suede (called micro suede (LINK) in the forums and more broadly). Tools I borrowed: Mitre saw – needed for 45 degree cuts, You can get one at Bunnings for about $200 at the moment. I borrowed my Dad’s (which he got on sale when Masters closed down hehe…)Router – not needed as such, but I used one for creating the inlay to rest the lid on. These things can be pretty unwieldy, so if you’re a beginner I would recommend not using one, and just using pegs to rest the lid on. I didn’t get the lid inlay perfect either and I used a straight clamp and guide, inlays are hard. Tools I own: Each of these can be bought for less than $100 each. If you’re just a hobbyist you don’t need a commercial grade version, and they’re mostly pretty reliable. (I bought my jigsaw, drill, orbital sander, and multitool at the same time and they cost $220 total 3 years ago.)Orbital sander – it really speeds things up…you don’t want to do all that sanding by hand. Kreg Pocket Hole Jig – I have an R3, it’s a cheapish ($45?) pocket hole jig kit that comes with the driver, drill bit and jig. It does the job well and suits a hobbyist just fine. I use this thing a lot, honestly, its so easy to use and creates really strong joins, could not sing its praises more. Cordless driver – I got a cheap one from IKEA for $15~ and it does the same thing as more expensive versions from main brand tool manufacturers but a 10th of the price. I’d recommend a driver to screw in the pocket holes so you don’t overtighten and weaken the wood/joint rather than an impact drill which is just too easy to do. Impact drill/wired drill – I use my drill for drilling the guide holes, the cordless driver isn’t powerful enough for that. Mine has a nice grip and depth guide as well. Circular saw or jigsaw – I used a jigsaw to cut the plyboard down to size because I don’t own a circular saw and generally find them terrifying. Jigsaw’s are cheaper to buy, and more versatile, but you have to be really careful you don’t cut on an angle as you’re cutting your lid or base out from the ply. A circular saw would provide a straighter cut, and with a straight guide do this very easily, there’s just more of a risk of chipping unless you have a really fine cross cut blade on it. You still need a super fine cross cut blade on the jigsaw but they’re super cheap. Clamps – the unsung hero’s of this kind of work. I could have used more honestly, and it would have made my job easier. Cheap to buy and you can never have enough. I used corner clamps and Irwin grip clamps most of the time (This doesn’t help anyone, but I call them angry ducks, because that’s what they look like to me). You could get a four pack of smaller clamps for less than $30 from Bunnings I think. Multitool – also not needed, but I used it to round out the inlay corners with a sandpaper attachment, and get into some tricky corners for sanding. Workhorses or a work bench – You can get cheap but stable work horses (piece of wood with four metal legs….basically) for about $16 each, or an adjustable workbench for around $50. Staple gun – you don’t need to buy an electric one, handheld spring one can be bought for pretty cheap, between $16-$40. I bought a nicer metal one for $35, it felt solid and did the job well. Right angle drill driver – I needed this for the tight pocket holes on the inside of the frame. $38