How To Build a Puzzle and Game Table

Last Updated:  June 28, 2021

Click above to watch the video

Credit to the original designer – get their plan:

People who enjoy a good puzzle, or who like to play long-running games, generally run into an issue with commandeering a table in the house for several days. Even if there is space, pets and kids can make maintaining your progress almost impossible.

Enter, the puzzle and game table! Play a game or work on a puzzle and, when you’re done, close the top and keep it preserved.

I used more affordable materials and some very straight-forward and easy techniques. This was both to keep the table affordable for the client and to follow the plans and give them what they wanted.

Mill all of the boards by flattening one face and one edge on the jointer, cutting the opposite edge flat and parallel on the table saw, and cutting the opposite face parallel on the planer. This results in flat and square workpieces that are easy to work with. If you buy dimensional lumber from one of the large home centers, you can get away with not doing this. Pick the straightest pieces and use them the same day you bring them home. You would normally let lumber acclimatize to your shop environment, but in the absence of milling machines, this is the best compromise.

Use the compound feature of the miter saw to cut a 45 degree bevel with the board laying flat. This results in a 45 degree miter when the board is turned on its edge.

Cut a slot in each board for the table top panel to fit into. Start slightly undersized and creep up on the fit widening the slot in small increments, testing in between each cut.

The drawer opening is measured and marked with a combination square.

Raise the table saw blade to get a straight, defined drawer opening on the top and bottom. Make sure to hold the piece down firmly with a pushblock.

Using the jigsaw, I cut out the rest of the opening being careful to stay well inside the lines.

cutting a bevel
cutting a drawer opening with the jigsaw

Make a quick jig with an opening that matches the drawer opening and tape it to the board. Use a straight bit with a bearing in the router and this makes quick work of the rest of the opening.

Rip 1/4” plywood to width at the table saw to make the top.

The main body gets glue and brad nails on the miter joints. Clamp it all in place with a band clamp.

I’m using a pre-laminated board from Lowe’s that is about 3/4” thick, for the table cover. I’m cutting it down so that each side is flush with the sides of the table and there’s a 1/8” gap in between the two sides.

Mark the positioning and then secure the strap hinges to the top pieces with the supplied screws.

using a template to cut a drawer opening
assembling a table

The legs were purchased from Lowe’s and I attach them with glue and brad nails.

NOTE: This is not a traditional way to build a table, but it is very DIY and beginner friendly. This table should never have much weight placed on it, but using it as a game table will be perfectly fine.

Simple 2x4s are used as braces and attached with glue and brad nails. The drawer slides will also be attached to these.

To build the drawers, cut a rabbet joint into each end of the side pieces and a slot in the bottom of every piece.

The drawer pieces are assembled with glue and brad nails. The drawer bottom is make from 1/4 plywood and slides into the slots before attaching the last drawer piece. I glue a small area in the middle of each end of the plywood bottom.

attaching 2x4 braces to the table top
cutting rabbets on the table saw

Use spacers to position the drawer face and, once it’s in place, put hot glue on the drawer to temporarily attach the drawer face.

Remove the drawer and drill a screw on each side of the back of the drawer face. Remove the screws and drawer face, scrape the hot glue off and then re-attach.

The entire table gets sanded with the random orbit sander starting with 100 grit and ending with 220 grit.

Stain the table with Minwax Dark Walnut. It’s important to stain the top and bottom (even if it won’t be seen) so that the wood expands evenly. If the wood is sealed on the top and not the bottom, the bottom will dry out much quicker and the wood will cup.

After the stain dries, spray on the first coat of polyurethane. Spray a thin, even coat and avoid runs by not staying in one place too long.

Generally, you only need to sand before the final coat of finish, but I prefer to sand between every coat.

This table gets 4 coats of polyurethane. I let the final coat cure for 48 hours before delivering the table. The finish will likely not be completely cured for a week or so, even in the warm weather during this build. But, it’s fine to deliver after a couple of days.

The final assembly involves putting the drawer slides and hardware on. By drilling the holes before stain and finish, this step is stress-free.

And, the finished product in the client’s home!

assembling drawers on the coffee table
wooden puzzle coffee table

I generally don’t like using “shortcuts”, especially when building furniture. But, the fact is that this table will last as long as the client wants it to – and, most importantly, it’s the design they wanted.

So, even if I prefer to hide hinges and use mortis and tenon joinery anytime I build a table, that doesn’t mean other, simpler techniques aren’t perfectly valid. It’s about getting out in the garage/shop and making stuff – adding value and a bit of joy to a family’s life!

Don't Waste Your Money on Tools You Don't Need

Get My Free Download that lists the exact tools & materials you need to create amazing projects