When we built our new home, I had always envisioned a special game room and table – one that would somehow capture my diverse gaming background. Moreover, I wanted the game room to be an experience for my players/visitors; the kind of place they wanted to come and play at. The game room would open to the lower patio, what we have come to call ‘The Biergarten.’ That way, during good weather, we could take our breaks (or games) outside, and drink some beer.
I’m all about the gaming experience.
The door was part of the design of our house from day one. A normal door to the game room would not suffice. I wanted an industrial “blast door” between my office and game room. I was going to use a door from a cargo container but those doors are narrow and tall, taller than the ceiling. Cutting it to fit was going to be problematic. Ultimately our carpenter simulated the effect for us.
The decals on the door I got from several online sources – the big ones from Fathead which does custom printed ones. The door leading to the back of the basement (our airlock) needed a wrap as well, which was only $30 on Amazon. I was going to get their “Armory” one, a rack of weapons, but I was worried if my neighbor looked in he would think I’m a little too in favor of gun rights…as if there is such a thing. My favorite is the “Wolverines!” one on the back of the door near the floor. I got that on eBay because, well, Wolverines! That and I was writing my upcoming novel, Blue Dawn.
A great deal of time was spent in setting the stage for the game room. It went through a lot of iterations. It took a while for me to settle on a theme – namely a ship in orbit. A designer friend of ours, Erika Bonnell suggested a floor to ceiling mural for the far wall and I ran with it. She is a genius. I found several wall murals on Etsy and picked one that I liked. Then came the floor. I was shooting for the effect of visitors standing on a glass floor of a ship in orbit. I went with the blues because it was neat and blended with the mural. It is an epoxy floor covering and it changes with light and angles which is incredibly cool.
I was partial to industrial furniture so I started to look at the pricing of that stuff, and it was incredible. I sketched out the design I wanted and just for the steel frame, companies were bidding $2995 and up, significantly up. And those estimates didn’t including shipping, the epoxy, etc. That was nuts. Not only that, I wanted some other industrial furniture for the office and game room down the road. I decided that if I was going to get what I wanted, I was going to have to build it. So, in the middle of COVID, during the peak of summer, I decided to take a welding course. I was going to make this happen on my own.
Table size had to be tackled. I wanted around a four by eight foot table. That was big enough for some good size mini battles as well as some of my more ‘monster’ board games. Go big or go home.
I knew I wanted to do some sort of epoxy pour over some neat gaming relics I had, so the design of the table used angle iron on the edges to support the table edge surface.
I have never done metal work in my life, but I knew what I wanted to build, I had a vision of the end product. There were no plans, just a view I had. It was hot, sometimes frustrating, and very rewarding. Welding is plain fun. My first personal project was to make the handle for the game room blast door. The real challenge I had to overcome on that and the table was welding different thicknesses of steel. We didn’t do a lot of that in class, so I had to figure it out. Sometimes I burned through, but that was all part of the learning curve. My grinder and I became very close by the end of the project.
I ordered a plasma cutter and a welder from Eastwood. My instructor recommended them as reliable and easy to use. He was right. Eastwood’s products are fantastic to work with. Of course, I needed a welding table and cart too. You might be thinking, “Hey, this is all going to cost you more than if you paid someone to do it.” Actually, I saved money, a LOT of money, even with the material and equipment costs, mostly because I was doing the work myself. And now I can make other stuff (including a miniatures storage cabinet.)
I never used a plasma cutter in my life, but Eastwood’s videos and others on YouTube were a big help. I came up with a template for the side rails, ordered up some steel, and got to work. I cut the side rails and was pleased with the look. There was a lot of trial and error, but eventually I got the hang of large scale cutting. In retrospect, I should have probably started on a smaller furniture piece.
Industrial furniture is about shapes and textures. I wanted rivets along the edge. You can’t just buy rivet tops, so I ordered 58 carriage bolts steel (not galvanized). I needed to grind down the raised parts of the bolts, so I put them in a drill and used it to spin them while I used a grinding wheel. Then I had to cut them off, and drill a LOT of holes in the side rails for them. Each had to be welded into place, hopefully enough so they wouldn’t leak when the epoxy pour took place. The table has imperfections, which is common with industrial furniture. The ones that remain, I left intentionally.
Assembling all of the sides and legs was a challenge as my wife was out of town and alignment needed to be exact. I performed a few minor engineering miracles, propping things up, and got the table welded together. I welded in braces but the heat of the welding pulled the side rails inward. No one else would have noticed, but I did. So I cut them out, added some additional metal, and re-welded them. Then came the removal of a lot of mill-scale, no small task. Everything got coated with two coats of flat lacquer. Skilled welders will see my bad welds and acknowledge that some were decent.
With one inch angle iron for the edges, I went with a quarter inch piece of plywood for the base. In retrospect, I should have used something heavier, but it would have limited what I used on the table top for the epoxy pour in terms of depth. I struggled for what to do with the wood surface. One night the film Alien came on the TV and I saw the tracker grid. That was perfect. To simulate this, I used a bright green sprayed on the surface, then pinstripe taped. I then painted over it with gloss black. The result is that the grid looks like it is lit up from underneath.
I did toy with installing LED’s but with the epoxy pour, if there was an issue, replacement would have been a nightmare. And while I tackled welding, electrician work may be a bit beyond me. I opted for simplicity and function.
I glued and used caulking to seal the tabletop into place. I caulked the hell out of the rivet holes out of fear that the epoxy would leak if I missed a spot. Epoxy finds holes and cracks instinctively. Thankfully, I had no real issues with leaking.
Cyndi, my wife, helped me pick what to put on the table and where to place the items. I have a lot of BattleTech artifacts that I have gathered over the years. Everything was glued into place, the artwork was Modge-Podged down. Cyndi suggested putting some artifacts together, like all of my Dragoons relics.
Thus began the pouring. I never poured epoxy before. It is easy to do, but challenging to do three gallons at a time. You have to pop air bubbles with a heat gun every few hours or so.
There was an ever-so-slight dip in the middle of the table. The epoxy tended to settle there the most and contracted as it set with each layer. The result was that the middle of the table was getting thicker, despite the steel cross supports under the table. So we propped up the center of the table with books and boxes and poured more, almost double what I had originally planned. We had some weird wrinkling on the top layer of one pour, so I had to sand that down, which generated a LOT of fine dust, which required considerable cleaning before the next pour. In the end it all worked out. I do see some weird haze deep down in a few small spots deep down that I can’t figure out – they weren’t there until well after the pouring had hardened.
Some of the patches got strangely dark after the pour, but if you hit them with a light, they look fine. I can’t explain that. I almost put a map of the Inner Sphere down in lieu of the Vulture, but I thought visitors would enjoy the OmniMech more. The paper material on the blueprint was cheap, and despite the sealer, got some soaked-through splotches that oddly seem to work. Cyndi put a coffee stain and burned the edges of the Vulture poster which came out fine. There are bits of games that I have played over the years, making the table very personal. Honestly I think it still looks great. Thanks to Robert Ash, Matt Behrens, Andrew Krull, and Ronald Baker and other fans for some of the stuff that went into the table surface.
I ended up assembling a center support leg to make sure the table’s weight didn’t crack under the weight.
My favorite parts of the table? I love the Leviathan’s destroyer out in the middle of the table. I really love writing for Leviathans and this was a homage to that. There’s a couple of BattleMech minis out there too that were fun to paint then permanently entomb. Of course, the Black Watch badge is cool because, well, it’s the Goddamned Black Watch! Some old school SPI dice are there too, just for grins. I have a Gray Death die and one from the Northwind Highlanders.
On the wall is some BattleTech art, including an Anthony Scoggins’s signed print from Forever Faithful, some original concept sketches from the cover of Impetus of War, and a print of my favorite tank (Fratricide) from an upcoming sourcebook. Chill out CGL, I took the photo far enough away to not ruin the surprise. I’m going to be adding some art from An Eagle Among Falcons as well because it is the coolest Elemental art I have seen in a long time.
About the chair – I’ve had it for over two decades. It is a B-52 ejection seat (downward firing). I have used it as a writing chair for years. Parts of some of the novels I wrote were done from that seat, a wonderful stand-in for a BattleMech ejection seat. Now it has a home where it fits in.
I ended up pretty pleased with the end result. Not bad for my second welding project ever. I learned a lot about designing furniture that will come in useful in the future. More importantly, I have a custom table that looks exactly like I wanted it to, that I built.
The game room is really an extension of my office, in fact I am taken some podcasts and conference calls from there for the whole vibe. I have my Rhonda Snord piece hanging in the main office area https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2019/10/24/battletech-nose-art-project/ , so you can say I am immersed in creativity and inspiration.
I hope you enjoyed this little arts and crafts project. I have a lot of welding projects lined up including a new base for the ejection seat.