Posts Tagged ‘Gaming’

Greetings Fellow Gamers!

 

I received lots of positive feedback in regards to my refurbishing of our game room table and I wanted to share the table’s background and the process of turning it from an eyesore to a decorative and functional piece of furniture.

The Table

Years ago… like back in 2010… we were given a table. This table was going to be thrown away by one of my husband’s co-workers. They didn’t want the table because ‘someone’ had left an iron on the table and it scarred it really bad. The table also had lots of deep scratches and blemishes from its previous owner(s).

table 01

My husband and I weren’t married yet (not even engaged yet) and he took the opportunity to acquire a table for our table-less game room. Since 2010, this table has traveled from the first rental property we were living in, to one other rental house, and finally to the house we now own. We had thrown table cloths over it all these years to hide the blemishes. The tablecloth would get caught on everything and get pulled off the table all the time.

In October of 2018, I had finally had enough and we were thinking about getting a new table. But I had an epiphany, and why it took me eight years to come up with it, I’m not sure. I was thinking about my ‘battle map’, which is a half sheet of particle board that’s spray painted green and has a one inch grid drawn in pen on it. We use it at our FLGS for large D&D battle royales, or to expand the table size for D&D games. It’s just a piece of particle board – not a table. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to turn the table into a new battle map with a dry erase top…”

Then it hit me! There are acrylics and other finishes for that. I decided to refinish the table instead of buying a new one and so the project began!

Supplies
  • Table
  • Hand Sander
  • Sandpaper
  • Paper Towels or Rags
  • Paint – Color of Choice
  • Yardstick
  • Square Tool
  • Ruler
  • Sharpies – Color of Choice
  • Polycrylic
Project Time

About 12 Hours – This is from beginning of sanding to the final coat of Polycrylic.

First…

Regardless of how nice your tabletop is, you’re going to need to sand it to prepare it for paint. DO NOT SHORTCUT PAST THIS STEP. This is important. I’ve seen lots of projects go wrong because someone thought they could bypass the sanding step. Sanding the tabletop will smooth out any imperfections so you don’t get weird textures showing up through the coats of paint. In the pictures below, you can see how bad the iron burn was an just how deep the damage went. After sanding it many times, it was smooth enough for paint to hide it. Had I not not sanded the table, the paint would cover the burn, but the bubbling scar would have shown through.

Once you’re done sanding, take a some moist paper towels or rags and wipe all the dust off the tabletop. Be sure all the dust is cleaned off and do not use any chemical cleaners. Chemicals could have an odd effect on the paint, so be sure you only use water. My table was quite pretty after the layer of finish had been sanded off. It’s a shame that I couldn’t sand out the iron burn or I might have left it like this.

Second…

After the tabletop is sanded and wiped off, you can begin to paint it. Depending on how you prefer to paint will determine if there is a primer involved, how many coats of paint, etc. I used a paint and primer combination from Lowe’s (LINK), which was around $12 when I purchased it. I only purchased a quart because I didn’t plan to use it for a large scale project. I also chose a flat finish so I wouldn’t have any trouble drawing on the painted surface with my Sharpie markers.

paint

The Valspar paint claims to cover in one coat, but like every paint out there, that’s not really the case. I put three coats of paint on the tabletop to be sure there was complete and even coverage. I used a roller to apply the paint and not a brush. I prefer the look of rolled paint to brushed paint on surfaces like this. You can see in the picture below, there is a touch up spot on the right that was still wet when I snapped the picture.

table 06

There was also some water damage (toward the bottom right corner of the picture) to the table that I couldn’t sand out without cutting into the table and partially replacing the top. It’s noticeable in this picture, but not so much now that’s it’s finished.

Third…

Once the paint is dry, you can begin to draw the lines on your tabletop. I used a ruler to help measure and the yardstick as my straight edge to draw the lines. I used a silver colored Sharpie brand permanent marker for the lines on my table.

sharpie

I chose silver because I wanted the line color to be noticeable, but not too bold. Black was definitely too dark for me and it would also make dungeon lines harder to see. I had thought about using brown or copper, but I thought it would still be too dark for my liking. The silver I chose has a cool ‘shifting’ look depending on how the light hits it. Gold might work as well and have the same shifting look as the silver, but I haven’t looked into it. I’m more of a silver person anyway.

table 07

I was asked a bunch of times about my method for how I chose a starting point for the lines on a round table. It’s super simple – I put the yardstick on the table’s edge and drew a line. It looked good enough for me, so I started from there. I’m sure there’s a super complex mathematical method to make the lines exact, but I didn’t care about ‘exact perfection’.

If you don’t like your first line, or any line, it’s an easy fix. A quick touch up with the paint and a little drying time and then you can start again. I got lucky and my first line looked good enough for me.

Marker Tip: Be sure you do not draw with the tip of the marker. This will chew up the marker long before you run out of ink. Use the side of the marker tip and not the point of the marker tip.

table 08

Once you’ve got your first line, use a ruler near one end of the line and measure one inch from the line. Use a pencil and make a light mark, then go to the other end of the line and do the same thing – measure an inch from your line and make another light pencil mark. Then lay the yardstick on the table and line up the edge with the two marks. Once you’ve got the yardstick lined up, place the tip of the marker on its side and slide it down the edge of the yardstick.

If the table is longer than your yardstick, which was the case when I got to the center of the table, make multiple marks along the length of your line and draw as far down as you can. Then move the yardstick and line it up with the partially drawn line and the other measured mark and finish the line.

Measuring Tip: Make sure you measure the same way each time. What I mean by that is, if you place the ruler on the center of the line’s mark and then on the far side of the next line’s mark, your squares are not going to come out as the exact same size. That’s because the marker line is thick, unless you use a pen or something with a fine tip.

table 09

Once you’ve finished drawing all the lines in one direction, you can start drawing the cross lines. To start this, I used a square tool and put on one of the lines to make a 90 degree corner, then placed the yardstick against it and drew a very light pencil line. I checked corners along several of the lines to make sure they were all square and then drew the line again with my Sharpie.

table 10

Once you have your first cross-line, the rest of the lines are drawn the same way as your first batch of lines.

table 11

I recommend checking your squares with the square tool to make sure they’re all uniform and something doesn’t get off track somewhere. I was paranoid enough that I checked every single line. Some of my squares may be slightly off in size, by like a hair, but they’re all square!

Fourth… Final Step!

When all the lines are done, you’re ready for the final step of the process. It’s time to coat the table with your finish of choice. There are tons of options out there, but I chose the most cost effective for my particular project. I chose to use Polycrylic (LINK) because it was only $10 and not $50 – $100 like all the clear Dry Erase finishes I found. If that price decreases, then I will likely refinish the table in Dry Erase so I can use those type of markers.

acrylic

This finish works best if you apply several coats. I used a nylon brush and applied four coats to the tabletop. I would recommend applying the finish just before you go to bed or leave the for an outing, that way it will be dry when you get up or return home. You’ll be able to place items on the table when it dries, but the finish needs at least two weeks to cure before you try drawing on it. I tried to draw on it the next day and everything stained it. I consulted some folks at Lowe’s and was given the advice on allowing it to cure. Allowing it to cure means you’re giving it time to fully harden.

Making Your Mark!

The Polycrylic I chose does not work well with dry erase markers. They tend to stain the finish and there was only one way I found to salvage it without a complete re-work. I had to use rubbing alcohol to remove the marks on the stained area, let it dry completely, and then re-apply the finish. I tested a variety of colors of dry erase markers and each one stained the finish. I tried Expo’s Vis-à-Vis wet erase markers and found that only the black works perfectly. The red, blue, and green all have a tendency to lightly stain the finish.

visavis

Once the finish has cured long enough, there should be no trouble cleaning off the black Vis-à-Vis marker. It only takes a damp paper towel to easily and quickly remove the marks. I’ve let marks stay on the table for hours and had no trouble erasing them. I can’t say how long the marks can stay without them staining the finish because I haven’t dared to test that. I might try it on the very edge at some point, but right now, I prefer to keep my work intact.

The examples above are mostly D&D related, but we also use the table for our Star Trek Adventures (Modiphius) games. That system uses ‘zones’ and not a grid system. Even with the grid lines on the table, I can still draw out the zones without them being a distraction because of how light they are compared to the black marker. The walls I drew could easily be two zones in a Star Trek game or a building in D&D. These marks were on the table for about two hours before erasing them.

Conclusion

My table is very low tech compared to the super fancy tables that I’ve seen. I like using low tech accessories because they’re much less work for me in the long run. I’d rather spend thirty minutes drawing out a map than spend hours trying to figure out how to draw a map, download a map, and then get a map from a program to fit correctly on a TV table insert. I’m kind of a ‘theater of the mind’ type of player/GM as well. We draw out maps for combat to make it easier to visualize where everyone is. This type of gaming accessory is perfect for me and my players. Is it perfect for every group? Definitely not, but it’s perfect for us.

This is a project that anyone that’s inspired to do so, can take and modify to their budget and abilities. We used an old table, tools we had on hand, and only purchased what we needed. The project cost us less than $30 because we had most of the tools needed. I only needed to buy a yardstick, paint, Polycrylic, brushes, roller, and Sharpies. Don’t like grey and silver? Pick tan and gold! We used neutral colors that we liked, but also ones that would fit with the various games we play.

table 12

Colossal Red Dragon (D&D Icons Miniature) against a party of medium sized adventurers.

My table project is not fully completed yet. I want to finish the edges of the table in either silver or grey and maybe modify the tabletop into a turntable. The turntable option is one that I likely won’t have done for a little while because of the mechanisms involved. If I don’t go with a turntable, I might put pull out trays around the edges for folks to put their drinks/dice/books/etc on so they have more room in front of them. You can be certain that I will share the updates when I finish them!

Do you have a project you’re proud of?
What are your future projects?
Share them with me here or on Facebook at Dice Dice Kitty!

Qapla’!

 

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