DIY Homemade Portable Wargaming Table

June 13, 2014 ·


Though not strictly Tau related, I did put my R'varna in a couple of the pictures. That counts right?

There aren't very many options out there for portable wargaming tables. Those that are out there all have their own flaws and my design is an alternative method for those of us who are limited in everything except willpower. No money? No time? No space? No problem.

This tutorial is not meant to be a strict step-by-step. It is intended to get your creative juices flowing and thinking about how you can make your own with what you have available following the same rough design.
In theory, this tutorial should have something of value for just about anyone, regardless of their resources or handyman skills.

Now, down to business...

Pros & Cons

First, why should you build this way instead of another? Only you can answer that. I used this design because it addressed a few problems that I had with the existing portable table designs out there, even if it had new problems of its own. 

The Good

  • Very cheap-If you already have the tools and a base table available(most people will I think), you could potentially make this board for free.
  • Simple to move-The cloth hinge design allows you to pack, move, and unpack this board all in one go. Instead of several trips to your car with segments and pieces. 
  • Quick & easy to build- there's no need for special skills, power tools or exact measurements to build this. Similarly, it is very easy to fix if something falls apart down the road.
  • Flexible storage- It can be folded or rolled depending on what space you have available. If you need it to go under your bed, just fold it in half and lay it down. If it needs to go in a corner then  roll it up and stand it upright
  • Builds character- If prying boards from a scrap pallet (that you had to ask a store manager for) to make your own wargaming table doesn't build character, I don't know what will. 

The Bad

  • Heavy- The board weighs about 40 lbs (18.5 kg) on its own. Keep your back straight and lift with your legs!
  • Upkeep- I haven't had this issue yet, but I am assuming that, over time, hinges will come unglued and they'll need to be reglued or replaced
  • Uneven surfaces- The odd board or warping can cause some uneven areas on your board. The gaming surface and good wood selection will make this hardly noticeable, but it won't fix it completely. What do you want from me? The wood is FREE! 
  • Builds character- Technically this is a good thing, but it never seems to feel like one when you are doing it...
If the good outweighs the bad to you, then read on. If it doesn't, read on anyways; maybe you'll have some creative revelations of your own. 

Materials

  • Wooden boards- Free if you can get it from scrap piles, pallets, fencing, shipping containers etc. If you buy wood from a hardware store then it will be less than $50 in most cases (and if you have your girlfriend/wife do the asking they might cut it for free :) )
  • Cloth- Free if you use spare cloth lying around. Just about anything that isn't stretchy will work. If you buy some then I'd expect it to be less than $5 for what you need (maybe half a yard?)
  • Base table- Wherever you play you'll need a 6' long table. You can also buy a folding 6' table from walmart for about $40 if there aren't any acceptable tables where you play.
  • Gaming Surface- this could be anything from Frontline gaming mats to a $5 sheet of felt, and is not strictly necessary. The point here is that the board itself is not pretty and you'll probably want something softer and better looking to play on

Choosing Wood

What you want is 4' lengths of somewhat thin boards. 1" thickness is very easy to come by (3/4" in actuality), but a 1/2" thickness would be better if you can get it. Definitely no bigger than 1" nominal thickness, anything else is too heavy. Less than 1/2" is not very rigid but is doable. flat wood is best, so shipping crates and pallets work well since they've been nailed down and formed flat. If you can't find full 4' lengths you can combine pieces to reach 4' without any issues (more on that later).You'll want to avoid adding lengths less than 12" since often the joints of those pieces will not be supported by the base table and could be an issue.

In my mind, the ideal wood for this project is THIS. It will roll nicer and weigh much less, but buying all you need would be well over $100. The most common wood I've found is 40" lengths of 1x4's from pallets.

Tools 

  • Carpenters Glue 
  • Scissors
  • hammer/prybar (not necessary if buying wood)
  • Measuring Tape & Pencil (not necessary if buying pre-cut wood)
  • hand saw (not necessary if buying pre-cut wood)
Most households will already have all of these. If yours doesn't, then you'll need them for getting through Life anyways, so go buy them. You could probably buy this whole list for less than $30 USD.

The Table

I am lucky enough to work as an engineer for a manufacturing company, and we go through tons of pallets, scrap wood, shipping crates, etc. I found some 1x4 pieces that were over 10' long. I spent 30 minutes during a couple lunch breaks to pry the boards off of the crates and cut them. I also cut one 48" length out of a 1x6 board so I could hit 72" exactly (nineteen 1x4's and one 1x6).

One of the crates that I dismembered for the Greater Good
Some of the 1x4's cut to length
I found some scrap cloth that was mostly inelastic and sturdy (some old khakis that don't fit anymore) and I cut it into a bunch of approximate 2"x2" squares. I laid down about half of the wood and glued the squares across the boards. Don't skimp on the glue, apply liberally to try and get as good a hold on the first pass as possible. The more squares you glue on, the stronger it will be. Make sure the cloth gets glued right on the seam to maintain as tight a hinge as possible.


For the other half of my board I used long strips along the boards instead of squares, just to see the difference.

Note how I apply glue directly to the seams for as tight a hinge as possible
I'd recommend strips, since it is a bit quicker and gets you the same results. Though you may still want some squares for gluing over large holes in the wood left from knots falling out (you may notice a couple of those in the first picture).

Letting the glue set overnight
Once everything is dry you can try flexing the table. Bend each board individually to see how tightly the hinge is holding. If the cloth isn't holding right to the edge of the wood for tight hinge, I recommend adding more glue and letting it dry again. Each time you make a pass of gluing, let it dry overnight, preferably with something pressing it down (like a few spare 2x4's). Now is when you'll decide if you want to add more rows of hinges or not. I used five rows of hinges on the second half of my board, but I bet three or even two rows would do the trick.

When the hinges seem to be holding well and tight, then your table is done! Roll it up, put it on the base table, unroll it, cover it with your gaming surface and you are good to game!

Ready for loading

Unrolling on the base table

Unrolled, adding gaming surface

All set. R'varna is for reference

Specs 

  • Unrolled- 0.75"x48"x72"
  • Rolled up- 48"x10"
  • Weight- ~40 lbs (~19kg)
  • Cost- $0.00+. For my gaming surface, I spent $8 USD on two sheets of felt from Joann's. Everything else I either scrounged or already had on hand.
  • Time- Working during lunch breaks and after the kids went to bed, it took me about 4 hours of work spread over 3 days, including 2 nights/workdays for letting glue set. If I were to do it again I bet I could do the whole thing in less than 2 hours with one night of letting the glue dry.
These are the specs for my own board, ymmv depending on the materials you choose and what you have on hand.

DIY Pallet Example:

Now, something for those of you who can only find free wood in the form of pallets. I did not execute this method myself, but I planned for it in case pallets were all I could find. Hopefully some people find it useful.

Pallets are an excellent source of free wood. Just about everyone uses them and just about everyone will be glad to give them to you for free. Most pallets have several 1x4 or 1x6 boards on them but they are only 40" long on a standard sized pallet (might be different outside US, not sure). So you have to redistribute the lengths.
You start by cutting each 40" board into a 16" length and a 24" length. You can combine two 24" boards into one 48" board, and three 16" boards into another. Six 40" boards transforms into five 48" boards.

6 1x4's will get you a 17.5" section without any wasted wood
Just keep adding until you have the total length you want. It can be time consuming but the 16" length should keep the joints at least partially supported by the base table. Doing it this way will end up with some extra wasted wood but it was free anyways. 48 1x2's will hit 72" exactly; 21 1x4's will hit 73.5" and 13 1x6's will hit 71.5" (both pretty close).
You will want to use extra strips of cloth and glue to make sure everything is properly supported. I'd say you'll need 5 strips minimum.

Strips 2,3, & 4 will need lots of extra glue
Obviously, finding anything 48" or longer that you can cut down will save you time, but sometimes you have to work with what you've got. With a little creativity, and some easy math, just about any boards that you can get your hands on will work for this table.

Thanks for reading!

Well that's it! Please let me know what you think of my design. It's far from perfect but it gives you an idea of what you can do and how cheaply you can do it!



I'll be posting the "advanced" course in a little while to show some of the extra improvements I made to my own table.

11 comments:

Farmer Geddon said...
June 13, 2014 at 6:00 AM  

Genius idea. Thank you kindly!

eriochrome said...
June 13, 2014 at 9:56 AM  

Looks interesting. Weight is a bit an issue since the table is separate so you are making two trips. By buying wood you might be able to find thinner pieces but you cannot make it to light as the table does not support the edges and you do not want a heavy model to tip the table.

Skyler Hoeft said...
June 13, 2014 at 4:26 PM  

Weight is definitely the major concern. You dont want to go too thin to maintain strength. And too light makes it that much easier to slip or tip.
The edges hang over about 8" which is no problem at all unless you are using pretty thin or weak stuff. Or a forgeworld titan...

As far as trips go, there is only one table design i have seen that incorporates everything. It is more labor intensive, is heavier, and costlier so i did mine this way.

Nicolas FLAGEY said...
June 13, 2014 at 7:44 PM  

Great idea!
That made me think about the slatted bed base that I have, from IKEA ... :)

Harley said...
June 16, 2014 at 6:50 AM  

Looks like a great idea. For improved durability you could use leather or nylon strapping/webbing instead of cloth. Drill holes and fasten with rivets and washers. Should hold up forever at that point.

David Drage said...
June 16, 2014 at 6:55 AM  

I just nominated you for a Liebster Award.

Cheers

http://ironmammoth.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/iron-mammoths-studio-won-liebster-award.html

Skyler Hoeft said...
June 16, 2014 at 1:47 PM  

Harley,
I have already added staples to the hinges for added support.
And I am in the process of drilling 3/4" holes throughout the wood to reduce the weight. We'll see how that goes.

Leather or nylon would definitely be tougher, but I think the area that needs the most reinforcement is the attachment method (glue). There are other construction adhesives that will work better, but this is the glue I had on hand :P

Tyler B said...
June 24, 2014 at 7:09 PM  

What if...
Instead of using strips, you just used one big piece of felt which is also the gaming surface.

Skyler Hoeft said...
June 25, 2014 at 5:18 AM  

Tyler,
I considered that, and I'm sure it is possible. I decided against it for a few reasons.
1-the felt surface is not very tightly woven, so the glued parts might just tear away from the rest of the felt
2-you'd need Way more glue, you'd have to glue Everything all at once, and it wouldn't be as easy to repair

Mostly I just did it my way for #2, to save glue. I see no reason why it wouldn't work though, somebody should try it!

Kevin Angelo Molato said...
August 16, 2015 at 7:13 PM  

Amazing! I hope this will work with coco lumber

PliskinAJ said...
October 2, 2015 at 10:12 AM  

If you cut the strips so it would have hinges on alternate sides per plank it would be able to fold up much tighter into a rectangle opposed to a coil.

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