Sunday, January 29, 2012

Making a Portable Snow Table: Out With the Old, In With the New!

CVinton's New Table for the Wolves

I love to have a table at my house.  Though it doesn't get much use, I feel its my home field as completes my hobby side of the game.  Evolution has, at best, game store quality terrain (funny enough, I made most of it). I feel like if I invite someone to my house for a game, I'm hosting their game experience and just as a host offers a guest the best amenities they can, I too feel this is the attitude for the 'Home Game'.

Thus I present:

(to go)

The design of the table was to be nice and well crafted to the eye as well as able to travel...for some reason I thought it needed to travel.  Maybe I'll take it to OST's house for some weird reason.

Whatever happens in the future aside, the goal for travel was to fit in a car or an SUV or something similar that wasn't the bed of a truck.  Though we live in Michigan and there is no shortage of trucks, the wife says I'll NEVER own one, which I disagree with, but just in case I don't get one, I planned for the worse and am hoping for the best.

So as you can see in the top picture, it folds in half.  The design in my brain when this was first storming around was a table that could be folded in half so that the surface of the two halves weren't touching but where on the inside of the fold to be protected from damage while moving.  Once I started to put it to paper I realized it wasn't as easily done.

The main problem was that the design required the hinges to be on the top of the break instead of the bottom.  With the weight of the two halves pushing downward, it naturally folds the table in half because of the positioning of the hinges.  The solution was that I needed to lock the two halves in place once the table was folded open.

I started with locks that matched, like the one in the lower picture.  When I first opened it and locked it, I let go and it almost immediately collapsed.  Luckily my cat like reflexes caught it and avoided having to start all over once it was turned to splinters by the garage floor and gravity.  I switched over to the top ones which will completely support the table with just saw horses under it.  I don't intend on ever doing that, but it gives an idea to the strength of the locks.

The lock below is on the ends of the 6' side to hold the table shut when its folded up.  Pretty simple, not a lot of stress at this lock so the fancy ones worked just fine.  I'm just sad that one piece of hardware is brushed nickle and one is steel.  Its my OCD.

On the short 4' edge is where the table will rest.  I put furniture sliders on it so that the finish of the wood wouldn't get scuffed when it's slid or just sent on end.

The large hole in the support edge is for a bolt.  I wanted this to be a frame what you would put your table in.  When MI40k featured the most baller gaming room ever, the guy had a table top that had like a dozen drawers under it all with different table tops.  Not to say I'm making a dozen, but I think it'd be cool to have a snow, grass, dessert and city/ash wasteland board.  Go big or go home, right?

Below is a shot of the underside of the snow board.  I put furniture countersinks in so that I can bolt the boards in place.  I had to use a thicker board than originally intended and because of fear of the plywood's imperfect surface showing through I wen't with MDF board.  That plays into later problems. (I like 15% planning then mostly think on my feet to solve problems that should have been obvious during planning, as illustrated by this project...and most of my projects)

Shot of the two halves together.  The frame didn't come out perfectly sized so the halves are just a slight (like 1/16-1/8") different so I had to make them to know which half was were.  In all there are four bolts holding each half down: one in each corner of each board.

Folded and empty there was more than enough room for the boards to slide in.  Aside from the slight 'offness' of each half they are perfectly square and very sturdy.  If I get tired of the board being flimsy I can easily joint the two ends together and make them structurally sound enough to be a free standing permanent table, with removable legs in case we move to Delaware or something.

The project as a table I found a complete success. Its a gaming table, and a nice one at that.  Its make of poplar, stained, has metal brackets, the screw holes are sunk with hole covers and it has a quality finish.

For travel though...its a failure.  It ended up too thick when folded in half to fit in a car which was the ultimate goal, though it will fit in a small SUV.  The other thing is that with the board bolted in, it is very heavy and very awkward for one person to carry.  It ends up weighting I would bet, 75 pounds.  Without the MDF board I could toss this thing around one handed; its basically 1/4" MDF and soft wood weighing like 20 pounds.

Changes I would make would be to make the outside out of something that handles abuse better.  The stained poplar is already pretty scratched up just from setting it out, taking pictures and putting it away.  Maybe I would use a plastic composite or a harder wood.  Oak would be cheaper than the composite and might handle the dings better than a soft wood like pine and poplar.  That or instead of staining it I just paint it black and touch up dings with a sharpe.

Next I would have just found a nice smooth piece of plywood or used the 1/2" or 1" foam board for the surface.  I could have then saved some money on the project as well as been able to travel with it while keeping the surface protected.

Lastly, I don't think it really needed to travel.  If I tossed that idea out I could have focused more on how to make a light weight table that I could sore in my house without any house guests noticing and as the wife fears a little...asking questions.  Basically the same reason she made me put my display case in my workshop in the basement.

On a final note, I am happy with it and don't feel it will get scrapped as much as have some improvements made upon it.  I think it'll become more permanent once I figure out how I would add some removable legs to it.  Right now it folds away at the very least and if someone does come over for a game they'll help me lug that table up and onto my kitchen table to play.  We'll see how far the black abyss of a money sink I can make this table...

As an added bonus tip for reading the post, I want to let everyone know what I did for the snow.  Its not that special, but it was the cheapest table covering ever, except when Joann was selling felt at like 2$ a yard.  An no, I didn't use extra cocaine I had. 

 I used baking soda.  It was super cheap and I bought way way way more than I'd ever use for 7.50$ which was 5 of the big boxes.  

I spread watered down PVA glue first.  Though I usually recommend wood glue for other surface coverings; it turns yellow and is obvious with the white covering.  So after spreading the glue, sprinkle your baking soda over the table.  For added effect I set it upright for 10 or so minutes which caused the glue to sort of 'run' and cause drifts and cracks.  After that lay it back flat otherwise it'll just keep running and look bad. I'll get around to putting up shots of that after I FINALLY do a fur tutorial that I've been meaning to do for like 4 months now.  

After its dry in a couple hours, brush off the baking soda.  The excess really sticks and won't just fall off when put upright like other surface coverings.  I used a shop vac brush (without the shop vac) to brush it all off.  Once all the excess is off go back and do it again.  You should have a good covering that won't budge.   Also, its as ruff as sandpaper which is why my nice stained and sealed wood is all beat up now.  

Good luck!  Any questions feel free to post.


  1. I would use a longer hinge for the folding, that hinge might not last too long with only 2 screws per side. When I get around to building mine I'll be having hinges with 6 screws per side, as they tend to be more 'heavy duty' and less prone to the screws being torn free.

  2. Fantasitc work! I'd love to have a crack at something like this!

  3. That is awesome work! Well done!

    But what I´m wondering is who of your gaming buddies needs the kiddie seat to reach the playing surface of the table? Exactly how tall is OST anyway?

  4. @Thalenchar, I stand a mighty 78.5" tall, though sadly it takes a serious chair to hold me. I am known to wreck plastic patio furniture and even steel folding chairs, lol!

    In all seriousness, CVinton, I knew when I saw how crazy you were about making the table, that you would make a good one. I am no handyman, but I think it looks great and seemed very sturdy when I checked it out in person. I look forward to eating ... Err, meeting the Space Wolves on that particular field of battle soon enough.

  5. Elbrun- I too wanted better hinges. Sadly, without looking on the internet I couldn't find any that were more than the two screws and would fit on the 3/4" edge. Most of the longer ones were at least 2" wide (that's what she said) so they couldn't work for the odd placement.

    Gun, Thalenchar- thanks for the nods, always appreciated. The seat is for my 2 year old. I'm currently grooming her to stomp local kid Harth that won adepticon last year. She's a WAAC RAW monster.

    OST- Thanks. Since our game was pushed back it gives me more time to finish up the terrain. I expect smoking room quality from you now that you have an extra five days to finish your army. Chop chop!