Last year I learned some woodworking skills and built a dining table that converts into a board game table. My wife and I had been playing boardgames more recently, we are particularly enjoying leveling up our characters in the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. Like many, we had been using our dining room table to set up and play our games. But our previous table was at bar height and is not very comfortable to sit at for long periods of time. We also had recently doubled our family size after having twin girls in 2013. They were going to join us at the dinner table and a larger table to accommodate them as well as occasional guests. After seeing a few posts on r/DIY and board game geek, I was inspired to build my own 4-6 person convertible dining/board game table to upgrade our dining and entertainment experience!
The inspiration for this build was from several sources. Like many others who have considered such a convertible table, I have salivated over the tables made commercially by Geek Chic, as they are the gold standard for board game tables in material and construction. However, the biggest influence in my design was from a DIY table made by Mr. Fackrell He thoroughly described the materials and plans as well as several important construction methods that were required and convinced me that a build was within my novice woodworking experience (meaning no woodworking experience, but I am pretty good with spatial understanding and working with my hands on other projects).
My design used the Fackrell table as a starting point but I also had a few additional requirements
- Construction that hides all fasteners and joinery
- Removable legs for moving the table
- A 4″ wide ‘elbow rail’ for the board game mode
Thinking about that last requirement lead me to a few different options. One of which was to rest the dining surface inside the elbow rails of the gaming table. But, like Mr. Fackrell, I did not want any spills from eating to easily get to the cloth pad of the gaming surface. The second option meant that the dining table would rest directly on top of the elbow rail. I didn’t think this would look good and I also worried about whether the tables would perfectly align or whether they would scratch each other if there was any play in how the top fit onto the frame. After searching for other plans and ideas I came across this Luna table design that featured a floating top. I like the modern look of that table and so I decided that my dining surface would float about half an inch above the elbow rails and also extend a bit beyond them. A beveled edge would make the top look sleek and modern.
I spent a considerable amount of time in figuring out how to build the frame in such a way as to hold the removable legs while hiding any bolts from view. The design I ended up with involves an inner frame that is visible from the inside of the playing surface table, and an outer frame that composes the outer skirt of the table. The inner frame is joined by half-lap crossing joints which will allow the legs to be bolted in from underneath the table.
There was a trick to setting the threaded inserts: using a drill press to make the initial angle. If you try to set them by hand its almost impossible to get just the right angle and once you start at a bad angle it is really tough to correct it. So if you place a bolt into the threaded insert you can place the bolt into a socket head attached to a drill press. Then you can align your piece on the drill press and lower the drill. Instead of using the drill’s power you just rotate the head with your hands or use a wrench on a nut attached to the bolt/threaded insert. This way your initial entry into the wood is perfectly perpendicular to the piece. I did not take pictures of this process for some reason :o.
We love the finished table and I’m very happy with it. There are a few issues with the build that I probably would do differently if I ever made a second table. The top is great for preventing spill through and this is essential with my daughters! But removing the top is a two-person job and this means that we use the table for multiperson games, but I almost never use the table for solitaire games. If the top were mulitple pieces, it would be easy to just take half of the dining table off and play some good one-person games. The second issue is that the table wobles a bit and this bugs me to no end. I need to add some shims to the outer frame to improve the stability of the leg-table connection.