Building My Own Board Game Table

Thou shalt not covet. When it comes to board game tables, I am almost willing to break a commandment. Very fancy board game tables have popped up at conventions, Kickstarter, and Etsy. I want it.

Board Game Table on Etsy

In most cases, a game table is just a dedicated surface for playing all manor of tabletop games. They usually include a spongy surface for being able to pick up cards and tokens easily, a wide frame to place your cards or area to write, and cup holders.

I decided to make my own gaming table.

The decision to make my own versus buying was helped by the fact that I had an attic filled with two-by-four pieces of wood and a giant 6’x3′ sheet of sub flooring. The previous home owner was in the middle of some unfinished woodworking projects. Since the sub flooring sheet was 6’x3′, I made that my dimensions for the table. This also means that many gaming mats will fit perfectly. Gaming mats are like giant mouse pads with a print and made of a spongy backing.

Design

My design was simple. Build a 6’x’3 frame out of the two-by-fours. Add table legs. Put 6’x3′ sub flooring panel on top. And, finally frame the whole thing to give the table a small ledge. I used 6″ oak panels from Lowes to build the ledge. The ledge is a seperate piece so I can swap out the gaming mat if needed or clean up spills without ruining the whole thing.

Tools and Things

I didn’t have any woodworking tools. So, I assembled a short list of tools and things needed to build this table…

  1. Snacks
  2. Beverages
  3. Friend with tools
    1. Miter saw
    2. Power drill and screwdriver
    3. Power sander
  4. Screws
  5. Corner brackets
  6. Sandpaper
  7. Pre-stain
  8. Stain
  9. Polycrylic sealer

To keep the costs down, I bribed a friend to help me. They get a lifetime pass for gaming action on a cool DIY game table… and, snacks and beverages. The main tool needed was a miter saw. This was used to make nice straight cuts. Other tools needed: power drill to drill holes for screws and a screwdriver to screw the screws into the holes.

Table Frame

I was only trying to make sure that the outside dimensions were 6’x3′. I made up the configuration on the spot.

Table Ledge

The ledge acts like a frame around the sub flooring panel. This gives you a nice place to hold cards or write notes. I used corner brackets to square up the ledge and used the sub flooring panel as my guide.

Table Assembly

The table is three separate parts: frame, sub flooring surface, and ledge. Obligatory selfie. First Game = Arkham Horror: The Card Game.

Finishing

For awhile, I tried to talk myself out of sanding and staining the wood. The wood had sharp edges and rough spots. It took some convincing, but I decided to finish this off and it made a huge difference. The finishing process took way longer than the assembly.

My Process

  • Sanding – so much sanding – this creates a lot of dust – wear a mask – be prepared to clean up dust for months – use 80 grit first, 120 second, and 220 third – be patient
  • Pre-staining – apply pre-stain to the wood and let dry – this really helps with staining or so YouTube says
  • Staining – apply stain within 2 hours of the pre-stain and repeat
  • Sealing – use a water-based polycrylic sealer to seal the ledge – this will help with spills and cup rings and protect the wood or so YouTube says – let dry for 30 minutes – lightly sand with 220 grit and repeat two more times – it’s worth doing this as many times as you can fit into a weekend

Going Next Level

Deep-Cut Studio creates custom gaming mats for any size surface. I uploaded a custom piece of art to enhance my Arkham Horror: The Card Game campaign. Deep-Cut is based in England and it took less than two weeks to get my custom gaming mat. More on that on a later date.

Real-time Colors on CheerLights

CheerLights now supports the MQTT protocol. This means that devices and apps can receive real-time updates to changes in the CheerLights color without polling for the latest color.

How to use MQTT

Connect your device to mqtt.cheerlights.com:1883 and subscribe to the “cheerlights” topic. When the CheerLights color changes, the color name will be streamed to your device. You no longer have to poll for the latest CheerLights color on the ThingSpeak API.

Here are the valid color names:

  • red (#FF0000)
  • green (#008000)
  • blue (#0000FF)
  • cyan (#00FFFF)
  • white (#FFFFFF)
  • oldlace / warmwhite (#FDF5E6)
  • purple (#800080)
  • magenta (#FF00FF)
  • yellow (#FFFF00)
  • orange (#FFA500)
  • pink (#FFC0CB)

Check out the CheerLights API documentation for more detail.

Star Wars R2D2 Lamp on Twitch

This news is just in time for an R2D2 Lamp live streaming on Twitch.

Your Physical Interface with Uber!

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Want to see/hear how far the closest Uber is from you? All you have to do is press a button on an AWS IoT connected device. I created this project to allow anyone to have access to Uber even without a smartphone and for those with different capabilities.

I used the Arduino Yun and the Grove Starter Kit for Arduino to build a physical interface with Uber services. The full project details are available on Hackster.io and GitHub.

The Fiverr Project Jingle

Here’s an update to The Fiverr Project. We now have a jingle produced by Soulriter. In this Fiverr Gig, I consulted with Soulriter to record a jingle for The Fiverr Project. I will be using Fiverr to produce a short film. This project will take awhile to create, but it will be fun. I will share the results along the way.

Here are the lyrics to the jingle:

I wrote this jingle for The Fiverr Project
5 bucks gets gets you a song from a guy like me
Happy to be on The Fiverr Project
20 seconds is all your gonna get you see

Experimenting with Fiverr: The Fiverr Project

My new experiment is with a website called Fiverr. I call it, “The Fiverr Project”.

Fiverr is a service that links users to producers. Many producers will do anything for a minimum of $5. Sometimes they will hold a sign for you, write a blog post, or draw a cartoon. It is interesting on what people will do for $5 and what people are requesting. A lot of producers will offer add-ons that speed up the order or add enhancements that are not included in the base price of $5.

The Fiverr Project will try out Fiverr and I will only choose the minimum of $5 per thing I get produced. Then, I will share the results.

My dream has always been to see myself as a Simpsons cartoon. When I first started to browse Fiverr, I noticed a producer named Aldodel that offers such a service. He was advertising, “I will draw your full body as a tv cartoon for $5”. I took him up on the offer and for $5 and a photo, he produced me as a cartoon.

The Fiverr Project

 

Pour-over Coffee Making with Hario

My family, my fiancée, and her family went together this past Christmas and got me coffee related gifts. Everything from fresh, small-batch coffee from Pour Richard’s Coffee Co. in Devon, PA to a pour-over coffee maker by Hario.

I watched a number of videos on how to make coffee using a pour-over coffee maker. It seems rather simple. But, I the devil is in the details along with a much better cup of coffee. I recommend watching a view videos and then trying it out.

Here are some notes that might help you get to a better cup of coffee quicker:

  • Choose a ceramic pour-over coffee brewer
  • Use a burr coffee grinder
  • Use fresh roasted coffee if you can
  • Use a gooseneck water pot to control the water pouring over the coffee grounds
  • Use a little water to heat up the brewer and cup before starting the brewing – this helps keep the coffee hot throughout the process
  • When you start the pour-over brewing process, pour water over and allow the coffee to bloom – you will see a “foam” of bubbling up from the grounds – stop pouring water and let it foam up a bit – the fresher the coffee the more bloom you will see
  • Have fun trying things out

I am still learning and want to keep taking this further. The one thing I keep seeing people doing is weighing everything out on a scale – including the water. As I experiment more, I might have to try that so I can control the quality, but in general I have been making some very good, full-flavor cups of coffee without precise measurement.

EL Pumpkin is Spanish for Electroluminescent Pumpkin

EL Wire is a flexible wire that glows when you apply electricity to it. I am seeing more and more things trimmed with EL Wire and it makes for interesting effect. If you watched America’s Got Talent you might have seen a finalist called Team iLuminate. The iLuminate team used EL Wire to create animations and lighting effects on top of group dancing.

My nephews and niece were in town for Halloween and I was struck with the idea of adding a little animation to our Halloween Pumpkin. I wanted to make a pumpkin that changed expression. We made a basic smiley face and angry face by carving grooves into the face of the pumpkin. Then, we laced the EL Wire in and out of the grooves. We used red for the mad expression and blue and green for the smile expression. It was pretty easy to do and I had fun sharing my bits knowledge with the kids. It was rewarding to hear them come up with their own ideas – “We could hook an MP3 player up to this and scare people” or, “What if we added motion detection?”. It was also fun to hear my 5-year-old niece Zoey say, “Electroluminescent”.

Parts:

Notes:

I think the Blue EL Wire worked the best and looked the best. The red looks a little orange. The Green EL Wire sometimes didn’t illuminate. You can only illuminate 2 strands of EL Wire at a time with the stuff I had from SparkFun. I need to experiment more with EL Wire and get an EL Wire controller to do some more intricate animations. I will post future projects if I come up with anything interesting.

Always start with sketches when you start your project. It’s important to have a plan to allow yourself to stray knowingly.

EL Pumpkin Sketches
EL Pumpkin Sketches

EL Wire is LED of the future if you ask me…

$10 Mont Blanc Rollerball Hack

My dad gave me a Mont Blanc pen as a gift a while back. I love the pen – it writes amazingly smooth, it’s rather expensive, and I also don’t want to lose it.

On the site Instructables.com, I found a pen hack tutorial. Someone figured out that the refill for the Mont Blanc rollerball pen is the same as the refill for the Pilot G2 pen. The Mont Blanc is so nice because of the tip and the refill has the nib right on it. I picked up some office supplies and recreated the project. I bought a Pilot G2 for $3 and a Mont Blanc rollerball refill for $7 at Staples. My Pilot G2 / Mont Blanc rollerball pen turned out great. I feel much more comfortable carrying the hacked version around.

The Pilot G2 Mont Blanc

Here are some tips:

    • You can get blue or black Mont Blanc refills.
    • The Pilot G2 is the “0.7 Fine Point” version of the pen.
    • The Mont Blanc rollerball refill is slightly larger than the ink cartridge of the Pilot G2.

All you have to do is trim down the Mont Blanc refill and match the size. I took some sand paper and smoothed down the plastic endcap to match the size of the Pilot G2 rollerball cartridge.

Here is the tutorial that I found that inspired me to create my own $10 Mont Blanc Rollerball.

Death Tag – Spitball with Tic Tacs

You’re It!

Death Tag is a full contact game using a McDonald’s straw and various projectiles – the most lethal of which is the Tic Tac – 1.5 calories of pain. This is Death Tag’s story… Pass on the fun, er, the mayhem…You’re it!

I invented the game as a kid when I discovered that a Tic Tac and a McDonald’s straw had roughly the same diameter. A fresh Tic Tac fits almost perfectly into the straw. This principle makes the combination nearly lethal. Over the years, I have expanded on the design and have tested straws from every fast food chain in the United States and projectiles of all sorts.

The Straw

The McDonald’s straw has one of the largest diameters, with a straw from Starbucks a close second, and an In and Out Burger straw third (West coast glocking). Always have multiple straws on hand – you never know if you need back up muzzleloaders. Tic Tacs become sticky, so avoid copious spit.

The Projectile

The Tic Tac fits perfectly inside the McDonald’s straw. My independent testing proves that this combination is the most fierce with the highest muzzle velocity. The Tic Tac is the most accurate and longest shooting projectile I have used. It also leaves a white mark on your targets. There are two drawbacks though – stickiness and cost. Saliva + Tic Tac equals jammed barrel on occasion. I have recently switched to un-popped popcorn. This projectile is cheap and somewhat pointed to being your enemy to a swift submission. Popcorn also allows for some advanced techniques like “The Rain Maker”.

Techniques

Load the projectile, use your tongue to stop up one end of the straw. Build up some pressure and move your tongue. You can gets some serious distance and accurate shots this way.
“The Machine Gun” or “The Rain Maker” technique requires a cheek full of popcorn. Load up some popcorn and shuffle the kernels into the barrel while blowing. Make it rain destruction on your opponent.

Origin of the Name

Death Tag started picking up steam in the early 2000’s. I was on the road a lot and drove solo across the country many times. On a drive from Columbia, SC to Melbourne, FL, my friend Dale and I stopped at a truck stop. The trucker’s paradise had everything, a Micky D’s and convenient snacks. I bought up a supply of Tic Tacs and grabbed a handful of straws. I explained the premise to Dale and it soon involved us shooting cars out of the window. We assigned point values to certain objects that you hit. For example, the side a truck was 1,000 points, but a minivan is 5,000 points. A car window had the point value of 10,000 points and a road sign was 15,000 (since you could shot out and arc it – we called it the golden arch). The ultimate thing we shot was a Target sign on the side of a tractor trailer – 50,000 points. The “freshmint” or white Tic Tacs also leaving a little white mark to be proof positive of a successful hit. We started calling it, “Death Tag” because we were paying more attention to hitting our targets than driving safely.

A Word of Caution

It’s called Death Tag for a reason. Be careful, you could die, lose an eye, or leave a welt. I know it sounds fun, but I am a trained professional. I recommend discussing the side effects with a doctor and always wear proper eye protection.

iTurn – iPhone and iPod Touch Hack

Since my toaster has been on the Internet Twittering my toasting habits, I have been flooded with email asking what I was going to do next. To be fair, most of the email suggested that I had too much time on my hands. My mom got me an iPod Touch for Christmas (she gave it to me a few days early). I have not had the thing out of my sight since she surprised me with a wonderful gift. She also gave me Batman which I transferred to the iPod. I turned the screen about 44 times a minute while watching The Joker and The Dark Knight try to out smart each other. This got me thinking, “Could I control a motor with the movement of the iPod?” I had my next hack.

The iPhone or iPod Touch has an accelerometer that detects how the device is oriented. As the devices moves off axis (from straight up and down) the screen rotates. I want to use that feedback to control the position of a motor or servo or cause specific events to happen depending on the device’s position.

Taking the ioBridge IO-204 module, I connected the servo controller and a servo to one of the channels. On the servo I taped a Best Western hotel pen to show the movement of the servo. I found from hours of testing that the Best Western worked the “Best” and Hampton Inn worked slightly worse.

iTurn Setup
On the ioBridge website, I created 3 widgets that corresponded with the orientation of the iPod. “Left” for when tilted towards the left, “Right” when I turned right, and “Forward” when I was holding the iPod normally (straight up and down).

Warning: The next part involves some light programming. I made a quick HTML file with some JavaScript that detected the orientation of the iPod and called the appropriate widget. The orientation code is below for those of you that are interested in trying this for yourself:

function updateOrientation() {
switch(window.orientation){
case 0: widgetExecute(“Upright Widget ID”);
break;

case -90: widgetExecute(“Right Widget ID”);
break;

case 90: widgetExecute(“Left Widget ID”);
break;
}
}

Load up the completed HTML file on your iPhone or iPod Touch and now you can control a servo with the turning of your iPhone. I call it “iTurn” (didn’t see that one coming, did you?).

Here is a YouTube video of the iTurn project: