Dismantle-able Table Topper & Build (w/Speed Cloth Solution)

PokerDogDoc

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Thought I’d share this solution to my table topper build… enjoy!

Goal: build a large table topper with a padded rail that can seat 8-10, but still be dismantled / broken down for easier storage, for less than $300 (USD)

Problem: the classic issue of how to attach speedcloth to a foldable table topper

Solution : build a folding oval table top with removable rail sections that, when in place, secure a removable Triton Speed Mat over the table surface

Final product:
(detailed build instructions with photos and supply list is below)
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Supply list, tools, and build instructions w/photos:
1 sheet of 4 ft x 8 ft x 1/2 in. sanded plywood (NOT MDF)
1 sheet of 4 ft x 4 ft x 3/8 in. BC grade plywood sheathing (NOT MDF)
2 rolls of 24 in. x 72 in. x 1 in. cushion foam
1 can of 3M spray adhesive (61, 77, or 90 - it doesn’t matter which one)
2.5 yards of marine vinyl that’s 54 inches wide or wider
Several hundred 3/8 in. wide crown (or T50) x 1/4 in deep heavy duty staples
30 in. continuous hinge (aka cabinet or piano hinge) - discard the included screws— too long!
Size #8 x 3/8 in. long phillips flat head zinc sheet metal screws (enough for the hinge)
16 of 1/4 in.-20 zinc tee nuts
16 of 1/4 in.-20 zinc thumbscrews
32 of 1/4 in. x 1-1/4 in. zinc fender washers
Triton oval poker mat 35.5 in. x 77.75 in. (actual size is LARGER — 38 in. x 80 in.)
Electric stapler (a “must have”!)
Jigsaw
Circular saw with 80 tooth plywood blade — optional
Palm or orbital sander and 120 or 150 grit paper
Electric drill
3/8 in. drill bit
Phillips screwdriver tip for drill
Utility knife
Hammer
Pencil
Sharpie marker
Ruler
Flat head screwdriver (to pry up bad staples)
Pliers (to pull out staples)
Scissors
Set of sawhorses, or similar
Clamps (optional)

1) Lay the sheet of sanded plywood on the sawhorses and place the Triton mat on top… move the mat 4 inches away from one ”end” edge and from one “side” edge of the plywood. Trace the mat outline with a pencil. Remove the mat.

2) Drill a 3/8 in diameter hole in the middle of the ruler at the 4 in. mark. Lay the ruler on the plywood and line up the end of the ruler with the mat outline making sure the new 4 in. ruler hole is on the outside of the oval. Place the pencil in the hole. While using one hand to guide/slide the ruler along the mat outline (making sure to keep it lined up with the ), use the pencil to trace/scribe a larger oval around the original one from the mat. This new oval will be exactly 4 in. larger all the way around, and should come flush to one end and one side of the plywood. If your mat’s actual size is the same as mine, your large oval will be 46 in. wide and 88 in. long. You should now have what looks like an oval “race car track”. This outer track is what will support the padded rail that sits on top of it.
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3) Determine and lightly mark the midpoints of the oval on all 4 sides and draw lines here that cross just the outer track. This will divide the track into 4 equal but mirrored arched sections. Use paper that is taped together to cover one of the sections and trace its outline. You will have just outlined 1/4 of the entire track. Trim the paper tracing but make it just a bit shorter by cutting an extra 1/4 inch off each end. You've just made a paper rail pattern that you’ll use to make the wooden bases for the sectional padded rails. The 1/4 inch trim off the ends allows for the thickness of the padding and vinyl to be added later.

4) Use the jigsaw the cut the sanded plywood only along the larger outer oval outline. This is now your table top.

5) Draw a line across the table that connects the previously marked midpoints of the 2 long sides. This will create a line that completely bisects the table in half across the board. For my table, each half oval now measures 44 in. x 46 in.

6) Use either the (optional) circular saw or jigsaw to cut the plywood into 2 equal oval halves along this line. The circular saw will give you a cleaner and straighter line where the two halves will be hinged, so it’s preferred.

7) Use the palm sander to smooth down all the cut edges, top and bottom… you can round the outer track edges, but don’t round the straight cuts across the middle as you want those edges to meet up nice and flat. Set these 2 pieces aside.

8) Place the 4 ft x 4 ft piece of BC sheathing plywood on the sawhorses with the C side up. The “B” side is the nicer/smoother side and the “C” side will have knot holes and be rougher. Lay your paper rail flush to 2 edges and trace the outline. Spin the tracing 180 degrees (don’t flip it) and get it as close to the first tracing as possible and outline it again. It should kind of look like double-J’s facing each other, one upside down to the other. Be sure you use up only half the plywood for this as you’ll need the other half for the other 2 rails! Now flip the paper rail over and repeat the 2 outlines on the other half of the plywood… those should look like double-“backward” J’s.
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9) Use the jigsaw to cut out the 4 rails and sand the edges. Lay them out on the table top oval track with C side up. Mark each rail underside (B side) and it’s corresponding section of track with matching letters or numbers (A, B, C, D or 1,2,3,4). This will keep things matched up to the correct location as you move forward.

10) Clamp or hold a rail (C side up) lined up on its corresponding section of track and drill four 3/8 in. holes “through-and-through” both the rail and track below. Drill 1 hole about 3 inches in from either end and 2 more evenly spaced in between. It’s critical that you make sure the rail stays lined up with the track outline, and each of the holes stay lined up as you drill. Repeat this for the other 3 rails. Sand the holes smooth.

11) Keeping all the rails C side up, hammer a tee nut into each hole until flush.

12) Keep the rails C side up and lay each of them out on top of the cushion foam. If you use diagonally opposite rails you can use the same double-J technique used before. Trace their shape onto the foam 1 inch wider than the actual wood, being sure to mark each tracing with the corresponding rail letter or number. You should easily get 2 rail pads traced per roll of foam. Use the utility knife to cut out the foam and put it aside.

13) Spray the C side of each of rail with spray adhesive. Flip its corresponding piece of foam over so it’s facing the opposite direction and carefully flip the rail over and place onto the foam (sticky side down) ensuring that there is still 1 inch of foam overhang on all sides. Press firmly and allow to set.

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14) Place the marine vinyl face down and place the padded rails on top with foam side down. Use a pencil to trace an outline onto the vinyl backing at least 3 inches wider than the foam on all sides. Lay out all the rails to make sure you can fit them all on the vinyl before cutting.

15) Now the tricky part… wrap the vinyl up and over the edge and staple in place while keeping tension on it so it wraps the foam over the edge of the wood. This is pretty critical as not only will make the edge of the rail more comfortable, but it’s needed to add the extra width to the rail do it overlaps the mat once assembled. I found it easiest to start on the straight end, doing a few staples first on one side, then switching to the opposite side. I continued alternating sides all the way down, but found the curved sections easier to do if I first did a small bit of the inner curve before doing the matching outer curve. NOTE: you’ll have to notch the vinyl every few inches on both sides of the curve. The notch on the inner curve allows the vinyl to fan out, while on the outer curve it allows you to overlap and gather edges. Check the other side often for folds and wrinkles and be prepared to remove and redo staples as needed to keep the tension tight and vinyl smooth. Work on the ends of the rails last, tucking and folding the edges over and onto the bottom to staple in place. When done, trim off the excess vinyl with the utility knife. Picture below is before trimming.
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16) Place both halves of the main table together, face down and aligned. Center the continuous hinge over the center cut and attach using the 1/4 inch screws. NOTE: the screws that come with the hinge are likely too long and will come out the other side (the table top). Use the shorter screws listed. Flip the table over so it’s face up.

17) Final assembly: Use the Sharpie to darken the Triton mat outline on the table and lay the mat in position on top. Also darken your rail and corresponding location labels. Lay the rails on the table in their proper spots—the extra foam padding and vinyl of the rail pads should cover the mat about a 1/2 inch all the way around and hold it in place. Secure each rail from the bottom with 1 thumbscrew and 2 washers at each hole (I found the washers needed to be double thick to prevent the end of the bolt from coming up through the rail bottom and into the pad). The rail pad fits snug enough to the mat that cards can’t get underneath.

18) Call your pals and play some poker!
 
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PokerDogDoc

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Specific details on my parts if interested…

Triton Poker Mat
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Foam and vinyl from Joann Fabrics… sign up online for big coupon discounts first!
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Tee nuts, thumbscrews, fender washers, and spray adhesive from Home Depot
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zshearin

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Hi thanks for the info! I have a quick question for you - how exactly is the rail attached to the existing surface? I see what you described in step 17 and the pictures of the tee nuts, thumbscrews and fender washers, but I'm not exactly piecing together how you attach and detach.

To provide a little context, I am upgrading an existing table's playing surface (felt and foam) while trying to keep pretty much everything else. Its rails were nailed to the playing surface, but I want to make them detachable (2 halves, table folds in the middle).

A few additional pictures would be great :)
 

PokerDogDoc

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@zshearin… Great question. Not quite sure if it’s the rail and table alignment step in the prep vs. final assembly you’re asking about, so I’ll cover both.

In step 10, the blank rail boards are laid out and clamped in place on the table, each in their respective position around the edge, to encircle the table, ensuring they line up within the table’s inner and outer tracings you’ve made (what I’m calling the “track” because it looks like an oval racetrack).

A 3/8” bit is used to drill 4 holes (spaced out as described) all the way through each rail AND THROUGH THE TABLE UNDERNEATH. This creates a tunnel that passes through both the rail and table, and is done to ensure that the holes of each rail line up exactly with the holes in its own respective table position.

Complete construction of each rail section as described.

In step 17, with the mat in place, the rail sections are then put in place overlapping the edge of the mat, being sure to realign the holes in the rails (now filled with the tee nuts) with the matching holes in the table. Put 2 washers on a thumbscrew AND FROM THE UNDERSIDE OF THE TABLE, push it up and through the hole until it engages the tee nut of the rail. Turn until just barely snug, then get the other 3 thumbscrews of that rail threaded and engaged before tightening all 4 down. This will hold the rail firmly on the table and “sandwich” the mat between the two keeping it in place.

I’ll post this now and go take a few clarifying pics of the final assembly step and upload those below.
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-Align rail holes (with installed tee nuts) with the matching holes in the table, overlapping the mat.
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-Attach rails to the table from underneath using the thumbscrews and washers.
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I like to get all 4 rails loosely set in position before tightening any of them down just in case I need to adjust them for best alignment.

NOTE: your table will need to be less wide and shorter than your topper to allow room for the thumbscrews (I use a folding table)… or you can lift the topper up on a few strips of wood to make room for the thumbscrew heads underneath.

Hope this helps!
 
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RedRider52

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Wow! Thanks for the detail. I personally don’t have a dedicated man cave, so a topper it is. Think a well done topper is a great step in between as long as you have adequate storage space. This one looks pretty flexible for just that.
 

PokerDogDoc

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My thoughts, exactly.
My main issue with pre-made toppers is the poor felt quality and I didn’t want a seam.

I may try removing the hinge and mount the top to a folding (bifold) resin table to make it a true portable table.
 

Taghkanic

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Very nicely done. Something I’ve pondered endlessly, but never pulled the trigger on…

Got just one question/thought (and I’m sure your thumbscrew method works better overall). This is really just a small variation on your system…

Rather than a removable rail, one could fix the rail down then cut the topper to fit very exactly inside the rail.

Ideally, the rail would be designed with a very slightly inset 1/4” riser, so that topper would scrunch into the gap, leaving no exposed edge to pull up or fray.

This is essentially the same as your concept, except that the rail would not get screwed down.

Getting the topper to fit neatly in the gap each time could be a bit of a chore. Also removing it, which could be aided with some discreet pull tabs.

Another related idea I was toying with was using draw hasps to pull the two halves of a topper together so that screws would not be needed. I was going to have semi-circular rail pieces on each end, with a 3-4’ straight rail on the sides to help keep the two under pieces tied together. That is, each straight rail would overlap where the two halves meet on each side.
 

PokerDogDoc

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Nice options that I also considered but decided against in my situation… Your idea to “tuck under” a fixed rail should work and is basically what Triton appears to do on their folding rollaway table… you can find a video of the set up on their website.

For me…
I didn’t want to trim the sewn edge of the mat so I could continue to use it on its own if I wanted.

I didn’t want the rails to be permanently attached or they would get scuffed or torn when the table was folded and stored since they’d be resting on the ground.

I tried keeping the 2 table halves unconnected (no hinge) and using draw latches (like what’s on my dining room table leaf) but couldn’t get it stable enough without using interlocking pegs & sockets on the 2 opposing edges or some sort of overlapping plate support on the underside of the seam. The “bridging rail” you describe would seem to solve that problem, though… nice concept!

Let me know what you go with and how it turns out.
 

zshearin

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My situation is a little different. I'm currently modifying and existing table that I got as a gift: https://www.amazon.com/Giantex-Fold...1&keywords=poker+table&qid=1629908948&sr=8-47

I love the rails on it (with my mod to add deeper/more functional cupholders), but the playing surface was like the Barrington poker tables but worse - no cushion (felt almost directly on a plywood-like material). I took it apart and am yet to resurface with foam and speed cloth, and I wanted to get a rough idea of what the rails are going to look like. I attached the current state.

I'm definitely going to try out this concept with how the rails attach once I get the foam/speedcloth figured out! I want to do the resurfacing then see if I need to raise the rail or not - and if so how much.

I also really like the idea of detachable rails - particularly for being able to transport and store more easily without letting it get damaged
 

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Taghkanic

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I didn’t want the rails to be permanently attached or they would get scuffed or torn when the table was folded and stored since they’d be resting on the ground.

Not sure I understand... I think this could be done without requiring the rails to rest on the ground. Trying to visualize it.

I tried keeping the 2 table halves unconnected (no hinge) and using draw latches (like what’s on my dining room table leaf) but couldn’t get it stable enough without using interlocking pegs & sockets on the 2 opposing edges or some sort of overlapping plate support on the underside of the seam. The “bridging rail” you describe would seem to solve that problem, though… nice concept!

I haven't tried it out yet, but hope to in the next year or so. Right now I’m not actively hosting games due to continued COVID concerns. About 20% of my regs unfortunately are still unvaccinated.

The only downside to the bridging rail that I can see is it means two more seams.

Let me know what you go with and how it turns out.

Will do!

FWIW, I have one semi-elliptical custom table which I built with folding legs, which is a beast to move around, but turned out pretty nice... and then my rectangular dining table. It’s the dining table I’ve been contemplating various options for.

I have a closed-cell topper for it which we play on without rails, with my fabric just hanging over the edge like a tablecloth. It has worked well, but I’d like to add rails since when we have two tables going, invariably some players grumble when they are at the non-custom table.

My hope has been to come up with a clamping system which would allow the topper to just sit on the table as before, without the tablecloth effect, with the rails clamping around the edge and over the top. The table has a rounded lip around it, with a flat ~4" board underneath.

To prevent the rails from rocking, I was going to try (a) using really strong hasps to pull them together with a lot of tension, (b) drilling some holes in the flat part of the table edge, into which pegs from the under-rail could be inserted, and then (c) probably also using furniture pegs between the rail sections.

However, in thinking over your (much less kludgey) system I am less confident that my plan would be sturdy enough. I suspect the rail might do a lot of lifting up from the felt side if people leaned weight backward on it. Then again, most players seem to spend a lot of their time doing the opposite—leaning weight onto the rail toward the center of the table.

Probably just going to have to experiment with it and be willing to waste some materials in the process. TBC
 

PokerDogDoc

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Not sure I understand... I think this could be done without requiring the rails to rest on the ground. Trying to visualize it.
The rails overhang in both directions laterally—both over the mat towards the inside and the edge of the table on the outside. If they were permanently attached and the table folded in half and stored on its side, the outside edge of the rails would be resting in the ground. Drag the table at all and you risk damaging the vinyl cover of the rails.

The only downside to the bridging rail that I can see is it means two more seams.

Same as me… 4 sections of rail… turned out nice in my case.

Good luck.
 
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