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Oddball Projects #407

© Copyright 2012, Andrew Bartmess 

The Slide-O-Matic Table

      I’ve got a pool table (a rickety classic 1914 3/4-scale portable!) and no place to play it. I’ve a kid’s train set, a huge domino game, jigsaw puzzles, and endless other projects that would benefit from a large, flat workspace. I got to thinking about this problem, and came up with a cool weekend project that fits the bill!

      Living in a small Cape Cod style house, we have a finished attic with that funny u-shaped area where the stairs come up. I started by thinking that it would be a great spot for a work-table. The only problem was that if  I covered the U-shaped base with workspace, only dwarves would be able to come up the stairs! The simple answer was to make the tabletop so that it could be slid back and forth as needed. Three feet or so of movement would get the job done. Here’s how I did it!

      I began with a ¾” thick, 4’ by 8’ slab of Oak plywood, about $35 at your local lumberyard. (Fortunately, it just fit up my stairs!) I planned to paint the underside center a light blue in the areas that would be exposed to the stairwell to match our attic’s blue-sky motif, and finish it with in a nice cherrywood stain on the left and right sections that hang over the edges of the stairwell base. But how to make it move?

       I considered a ball-bearing track of some kind, but the cost was insane… it would take either several kitchen-drawer sliders, or some kind of bathroom shower-door track. Both were too expensive, bulky and inelegant, and would leave exposed bearings when the table was retracted. Marbles laid in a routed wooden track was another idea, but it would probably damage the base. Hummm…

        To find a working answer, I began by walking the aisles at my local Home Depot, and pondering. Finally, I settled using 16 of those special plastic “slide your furniture” disks, mounted on the bottom of the table; they would carry the weight of the thing when it had to be moved across the base. Some long, wooden guides were added under the center of the table to make it fit the inside top of the U-shape, and a thin layer of sky blue felt was glued to the outside edges of these runners where they would rest against the base. I also two stop-blocks on the base, and a large, comfortable handle under the slab so that it could be pulled and pushed into place when needed.

        I finished the top with the same cherrywood stain, and gave it three coats of satin varnish. (I liked the end result of the glossy, but as this is going to be used to support a variety of projects when it is finished, I really needed more “grip” and less “gloss”!) Some simple ¾” “L”-shaped pine molding, stained and fitted into place along the outside edges of the table finished the piece. Total cost was probably about $100, but a lot of that was stain and primer that I can use again. The sky-blue paint was left over from painting the attic, so no cost there.

      The Slide-o-matic Table is perfect for any project where you have to see many papers at once, and for laying out fabric. (I won’t be using it for heavy computer equipment, tho!) It has the added benefit of making it less dangerous that small children may fall over into the stairwell, but I suppose you could argue that it makes it more dangerous because kids may try to walk on it. With a net, it will make an excellent standard ping-pong table. 

DISCLAIMER:   This cool idea is mine. If you take it and use it, you assume all responsibility for problems if your kids walk on it, if you drop it on your foot during construction, if you injure yourself with a nailgun, etc. Tools are Toys for Big Boys and are dangerous. They should command respect; don’t misuse them. Your mileage may vary. Don’t do drugs! Wash your hands before returning to work. Close cover before striking. Drink eight glasses of water a day. And for gosh sake, don't make the mistakes I made...get eight hours of sleep!


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© 2012, Andrew Bartmess
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