DIY gaming tabletop

DIY gaming tabletop

I thought I’d take a little bit of a break from my cosplay posts to delve into another love of mine: gaming!  Every Wednesday night I have a bunch of friends over for gaming. We have 3 running RPG campaigns right now (An occasional Dresden campaign, Pathfinders Council of Thieves which I DM, and Pathfinders Rise of the Runelords which Earl DMs). We pick up different campaigns depending on who’s in town and who’s out in the field doing research. Occasionally though, we decide to just play a few board games. We also host board game nights outside of the regular game night as well. You can find some of my favorite games for large groups here.

I love our little rental home, but let’s face it, it’s little.  There really isn’t any place for us to have a large table sitting out all the time.  So… we did a little brainstorming, and decided to make our own table top!  I even documented the process to share it with you!  Plus, we found a clever little way to hide our table top when it’s not in use.

Fair warning: most of the pictures are horrible.  The carpet in my rental is really old, and usually needs to be vacuumed due to our pets.  Plus, we did this project inside, during the winter, and often at night.  please forgive me the horrid pictures.

With that said, let’s get this project started in here!




For this project, we wanted a pretty big table top, and we wanted it to be simple, so we decided to start with a tabletop base from Ikea.  I’ve listed everything we used below.  If you’re working on your own tabletop, check out different bases that work for your space!  We did a lot of measuring and planning before hand, which really helped the project move a lot smoother.

White Gallant Desk Top (63 x 31.5″)
2 x 2 1/2″ Decorative Chair Rail
2 x 2 1/2″ x 3/4″ x 8′ boards
Varathane 1/2 pt. Carrington Stain
Varathane Matte Poly Finish
2 mil Drop Cloth
Paint brush
Gas powered air gun
1 1/4″ 16 gauge Finishing Nails
1″ 18 gauge Brads (Note: We should have bought the 16 gauge ones)
2 yards Burgundy Velvet
2 yards headliner fabric (I’ve linked to the product online here, but I reccomend getting this from the store.  It feels a bit like a squishy foam, but is kept by the vinyls)
Upholstery Staple Gun
Miter Box

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Staining the wood

The first step was to stain the wood. We had 2 pieces of each type (the rail and the wood), which we cut to size before staining.  The rail will end up being a bumper around the table in the finished product.  Earl used a handsaw and a miter bracket to create 45 degree angles.


Then I painted on 2 coats of the stain.

Be sure to do this in a well ventilated area.  Preferably outside.


For the decorative railing parts, I wiped a bit off with a cloth while it was still wet to give at bit of a weathered look on the egg part.


Then it was time to let it dry.  Tick tock. Tick tock.  We let it sit like this for 2 days.


Once it was all dry, I added on the coat of poly and let that dry some more.

Prepping the tabletop

For the table top, we started off with a rather large Gallant table top from Ikea.  So, I guess this project counts as an Ikea hack!  We measured the absolute largest table top we could fit in our room and went with it.  It’s a bit tight when there are 8 people, but it works.  Plus, by using an existing table top, we found that it was easier to find a piece cut to the size we want.  I don’t remember how or why, but we got the table top for about 1/2 the price it is online right now.


The first thing we did was lay down the headliner foam.  This bottom layer creates a bit of a cushion to play on.  That way there’s a bit of give under the table so that things slide easier.  You can also dip into the foam to do things like slide one card underneath another more easily.  There is a special type of pool table foam that we could have used, but we found the headliner fabric at a JoAnn’s nearby, and it was the right price with a coupon, ,so we went with it.


Once it was lain over the table, we stapled it down making sure to stretch it a little bit taught along the way.


Don’t forget to leave plenty of room for the help!  Once you’re done stapling, cut the foam down to size.


Next up was the velvet.  Again, we laid down the fabric, stapled it, and pulled it taught.  You’ll want to keep your staples pretty close to the edge so that the railing will cover them later.

Be Aware: Make sure that you pull it all the way taught!  We did not, and so had to re-staple the fabric as we added the rail later.  If you find that it’s not as tight as you want it, you can always tighten it later like we did.



Again, once you are done stapling, you can cut your fabric down closer to the size of the board.

Putting it all together

Most of our time on this project went into the planning.  Once we got to this stage, we knew exactly what to do.  I also convinced Earl that we needed an nail gun to do the job, and thankfully he agreed!  We managed to find one on sale for about $100, and it was well worth the price.  We also ended up getting a gas powered gun, since we don’t have an air compressor.

Again, this is best as an outside job.  We did it inside, but probably shouldn’t have.  What can I say, I was too impatient to wait for spring.

First, we nailed the railing to the edge of the wood.  We put one 1″ brad about every 4 “eggs”.  It’s hard to see here, but if you look close you can see them in the holes between the eggs 2nd in from the right and 4th in from the right.


See how it makes a corner between the wood and the rail?  We placed this corner up against the table top and nailed through the wood into the table top.  I wasn’t able to get pictures, since it’s a two person job, but you can see the results here.  We just put a nail in every few inches as it felt appropriate.


Our corners don’t match up perfectly, and there are a few spots where the stain didn’t grab, but we’re ok with that.  It’s not as obvious unless you’re really looking.  As we went along, we re-stapled each of the sides as well by smoothing out the velvet towards the edge just before nailing the siding on.

Play games

But wait!  Where are the legs?!  Well, that’s the beauty of this project.  It’s just the table top.  We happen to have a very sturdy dining room table that we take advantage of and plop this sucker right on top of.  So when it’s time to play games, it’s just a matter of moving things around and having fun!



Set up in the picture above you can see an 8 player game of 7 Wonders.  You’ll need the Cities expansion to be able to play with 8, otherwise it’s usually a 3-7 person game.  As you can see, there’s quite a bit going on there!  Bug is really contemplating his next move hard.  We’re really happy that we’ve got so much game space.  As a matter of fact, we haven’t hit a problem yet with fitting all the pieces on the board!

As you can see though, it really does take up most of our living room.  So what do we do with it when we’re not gaming?  Well, we prop it up behind the couch and use it as a bit of decoration!


Originally we talked about painting the backside with some chalkboard paint so that we could add quotes and pretty pictures… but it’s been 4 months now and that hasn’t happened.  Maybe soon?  We do find that it picks up cat hair pretty consitently, but a quick swipe with our FurzOff fixes that.

What do you think of our gaming table?  Is there a piece of furniture that you’d like to custom make for your own home to improve its usability?  What about pieces that you can use and stow away?  I really love the clever solution we came up with for our table top when it’s not in use!

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20 Responses to DIY gaming tabletop

  1. My mouth is agape right now at this awesomeness. I’m so impressed by the outcome and how portable it is – – so smart to just do the table-top. And I love the idea of adding a little cush beneath the velvet. If I show this to Mark, I think he might drop all current projects to take it on. Seriously, SO cool! And my sister just asked me if we have 7 Wonders (which we don’t), which I think might mean a gift is coming during her visit this July. You’ve got me excited to play it after seeing yours in action. Thanks for sharing all the deets, Kristy! And congrats to you and Earl on another top-notch project! Glad you didn’t wait till spring to make this puppy, but just went for it. Life’s too short to wait till spring!
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    • Aww, you’re making me smile with joy again Lauren! You should show it to Mark! Then we could have matching tabletops! Well, I’m sure they wouldn’t match 100% since you’re so good at making projects your own. Though, I have to say portable is certainly a bit of a stretch. Much more portable than a table with legs, but it’s still darn heavy!

      And definitely let me know if/when you get 7 Wonders! The first time you play you’ll be seriously confused, but bear with it. After that it will make more sense. There are so many different strategies you can use to win, and it’s not death to switch things up part way through. I never know who’s winning till the end!

    • Haha! Thanks Jessica. Though I don’t know how big your house is, I’m pretty sure it can’t be any smaller than mine. Your pretty much looking at my entire living room there! There’ another couch on the other side of the table, but behind that is the door. That’s the beauty of having just the top of the table, it’s so much easier to move out of the way since there is no way we could keep it out all the time! That being said – if I were to have a bigger house, a gaming room would be number one on my list of wants, even before a proper craft room!

  2. I have always wanted to make something like this. The problem is, that if one of the gamers on one side leans on the side edge with his weight, it could flip the table. I have heard about hunged bars you attach to the bottom so this topper will be more stable. Have you had any problems with the table’s stability?

    • We have a table that we fit it on top, and for the most part we don’t have any problems with stability. If someone tries to lean on the table for their own stability (to get up or down), it will cause problems, but this rarely, if ever happens. The table we have it on can expand (it’s a cube with half tables on either side), and we could use that for more stability, but it really hasn’t been an issue. We do also use the table to eat on when we have guests with no problem.

  3. Looking for a cat-proof way to play games while keeping it set up. I really like this especially for those living in an apartment.

  4. I was brought to your site when looking for a DIY gaming table. Holy Cow I was overthinking it! This is perfect and it fits within my limited skill set. Maybe 🙂

    Thanks for the great ideas. I may try to add another table top to put on top of it for when I don’t want the soft side? Or maybe put rails on both sides so I can have dual sided? Hmmm…

    Thanks for the great ideas!

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