The Clubhouse Part 6: Lighting

Now that the drywall is done and painted by my thoroughly awesome friends. The next step was to look at lighting and sound. In my mind, a D&D room has got to be a great place for immersion. I knew that I wanted to have some form of “smart” lights and right now it seems like Philips Hue is really the market leader in this space with new products coming out all the time.

The Hue system is wireless. It requires you to plug your Hue hub into your router and then from a mobile device you’ll be able to control not only the power on/off, but dim as well as change colours! That being said, the standard Hue application is not quite that great and I would suggest one of these other third party applications to truly make full use of your (quite) expensive system. The entire system, starter set plus one extra bulb ended up being about $300. These Philips Hue bulbs were then installed into a recessed pot light that allowed your standard A16 bulbs to be screwed in. Perfect. One on each corner of the table.

The other piece of lighting that was most critical is of course the central light. It needed to both double as a tavern style light (Edison bulbs) as well as a homage to the purpose of this room. After a LONG search and a number of botches, my wife suggested this cool geometric light. The conversation went something like this,

“Hey look at this cool light, it’s made out of steel, and its black so it will match your décor. And its quite well priced … ”

“It’s a D20!”

“A what?”

“A D20! That’s amazing where did you find that?”

Clearly she stumbled on something awesome on a whole other level and did not even realize it. Anyways this light was a no brainer for a D&D person like me! I thought it looked quite snazzy installed! The low, almost orange light it gives off is pretty “taverny” to me!

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Next step, sound!

 

 

 

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The Clubhouse Part 5: Drywall

The table was a nice distraction but ultimately you need a space to house it all! Pulling up my very hastily drawn plans I knew I had to get to work. The space we had to work with is 13′ x 22′. Which is a sizable room for its function. As excited as I was to get started, there were a few things I needed to ensure I had,

  1. Four recessed fixtures for Philips Hue lighting system (future blog post!);
  2. Two speaker templates connected to a CAT-6 and flexible audio cables (that can do PC audio for instance); and,
  3. Two outlets for sconces on the eventual feature wall behind the DM chair.

12033191_10156201638580596_8072210229200431164_nYou will also see that we’ve installed Roxul insulation in the ceiling. That was due to the request from the wife (aka the Boss). She did not want to hear me play D&D in the basement. I can’t imagine why.

The funny thing is that this actually turned out to be pragmatic for another reason. Ceiling speakers function significantly better when there is a soundproof cavity. In the end, the Roxul in the ceiling actually served two purposes. I like that. The whole thing was pretty darn expensive though I have to admit. I spent around $300 in Roxul just in the D&D room itself. But today as we use the room, it was worth every penny. Not to mention it really keeps all my players and myself warm in the winter months! We also had drywall delivered to the basement at $1 a sheet delivery service, it was worth every penny. I went with a specialist drywall service here in Canada and I will absolutely recommend them to anyone looking for drywall.  They were super friendly and helpful and the delivery team was professional and very good.

Suddenly the drywall was all up. Okay it wasn’t quite so quick. But let me tell you about “Adam” or little drywall lifter. If you’re planning to do drywall. These rental machines are worth their weight in gold. I estimate that production was tripled with this little yellow machine.

Adam was awesome. We miss Adam. A quick note, any professional dry wall installer will tell you we really messed up the ceiling. Dry wall is NOT supposed to go adjacent like that. They are actually suppose to be installed staggered. We’re going to need to find superb tapers and mudders to fix this amateur mistake!

The Clubhouse Part 4: Stains & Poly-what?

Now that the table has been finalized, designed and put together the next step is to stain it. Having never done any staining myself, lots of research went into the how and the products that I needed. Pretty much when it comes to staining wood, the “go to” is going to be MinWax. They’ve been around for so long I almost feel that they are the default option.

Basically there are two options when staining – water based and oil based. Now I’m not a professional so the following is just my own opinion on the matter. After some testing it seemed to be that if you wanted a “white washed” look on your furniture, then water-based is a reasonable product. But if you want a richer and deeper colour then there is no option but to go oil-based.  What’s the difference? Oil based takes much longer to dry and of course it seriously smells. But in my opinion for a gaming table, this is a expected and reasonable cost for a great finish. In the end, I went with an oil-based stain with the colour “Jacobean”. Before the stain, the wood must be ABSOLUTELY clean. Trust me on this. Sweep it, vacuum it, blow on it, whatever it takes. Not having the surface clean is just going to cause tons of problems – mostly picking away at debris while trying to stain, not good for an even stain.

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After the first coat it looked something like this. (You can see some spots still drying.) You can always make the wood darker but not lighter! So go super light on the stain and work it darker if you need to. Make sure when you stain you go even throughout. Now I experimented a bit and tried to emphasize certain areas over others by “over staining” some spots and I thought it worked out well, but it was pretty gutsy as there’s no going back.

One stain was all it took for me and soon it was time for protection. I wanted a good “ember” on the grain and so again it was a no brainer but to use an oil-based polyurethane. MinWax has a bunch of different types of coats, gloss, semi-gloss etc. I wanted the table to be more tavern like so I opted for semi-gloss to give it a traditional but modern look. Now you’re SUPPOSED to do three coats, with very light sanding via a 220 grit paper in between coats but I opted for a more grainy finish and only did one. *Gasp*. I have to say it worked out well for me and the grains definitely embered!

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This was super awesome and I was very excited to see it “finished”. Remember to do all of this with great ventilation. I did this project in my garage in cold weather (7 degrees Celsius) so it took almost 5 days to totally dry. I’m sure it would be less in warmer temperatures. Now all that was left is to put it on its legs…

 

The Clubhouse Part 3: Putting the Table Together

With a plan firmly in my head, I finally made the plunge. I laid down the 8 planks of lumber in an order that would minimize the gaps on the table. The one thing I had going for me was that the final table would be “rustic”, which meant in my mind – did not have to be perfect. It was either following the vision or rationalizing my lack of skill. Either case I had spent only $100 so far in lumber and about $150 in pipes, for a total of $250 so far.

IMG_1770The next step was to lay down the 2×6’s and this sounds silly but I had no idea that lumber was never the same length. And for that matter that 2″ lumber was probably more like 1 3/4″ in reality. In either case, I had to make sure everything was perfect in order to hold the underlying pipe structure. I gave about 6″ from either end and cut the 2×6’s down from 8′ to 7′ to accommodate.

Prior to laying down the lumber, I had purchased 2.5″ wood construction screws. These were the same golden screws I had used for my basement framing and felt that they were super strong. I left the lumber alone while I started to put the pipes together. Now this was pretty fun and I needed to know where these supporting 2×6’s needed to lie before I could screw them down. As for the pipes the trick here is to not screw all the parts super tight, because each connection is going to depend how good the threads are and how deep you can go. With the pipes all put together, I laid it down on the planks to see how it would all fit. Pretty darn good. (The picture below shows a test run of how things would fit together – at this point I still had to cut the 2×6’s down.)

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With electric drill in hand, I started to put down two screws per plank to tie down the 2×6’s to the lumber itself. Of course now I had wished I used pilot holes. That would be the smart thing. But I didn’t which I’m sure is a terrible thing. Again… rustic. Yeah that’s it.

Next time … staining the wood.

 

The Clubhouse Part 2: Parts for the Table

So having blown the budget elsewhere in the basement, I was forced to be creative unless I wanted to spend a few thousand dollars on a table. Not at all, trust me! Taking some advice I started to look around the net for some ideas. Fortunately, there seems to be a big interest in reclaimed wood furniture lately and especially furniture made with pipe legs. Yes, those same steel pipes in your walls.

IMG_1717Again looking at my current skill set – of which I had none. Whatever table I wanted to build had to be simple to put together. I spent a few days living at the Home Depot before I realized that they sold 2″ thick lumber that was a foot wide and 12′ long … or as I now call it, 2 for 1. Cutting that lumber in half would yield a perfect 1′ x 6′ strip. Seeing as I needed a 6′ x 8′ table, the option was clear. I would get 8 strips and strap them together with 2×4’s. Which later became 2×6’s because I’m the paranoid type and then two more 2×4’s when I realized how heavy this damn thing was. (Yeah, I added more weight to make it support more weight?)

Next was a hour or so in the pipe aisle. After many strange looks from other shoppers, I did manage to draft in my brain what the structural support would look like. Then I proceeded to search for the pieces I needed. My only advice, wear gloves. These things are super greasy. Any spark nearby and I would have casted Flaming Hands.

I was a bit more confident in building the structure than the table itself seeing as how I LOVE Lego. It can’t be that hard right? With about 50 lbs of steel in my shopping cart I happily made my way to the cashier. Which she promptly asked, “Plumbing problem?” Not wanting to open up a long conversation on Dungeons & Dragons I said, “Yes. BIG plumbing problem.” Relieved not to be sucked into a never ending conversation with a non-gamer I went home and dumped all the parts on the floor (on a mat that was on the floor, you really don’t want to dump steel on hardwood). Assembly time! To my surprise, this was SUPER easy. The hardest part – taking off the damn price tags which someone decided was a great idea to tape on twice over. Looking at my skinny table legs, I was a bit fearful they weren’t going to hold up two hundred pounds of lumber. Oh well. Only one way to find out!

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The Clubhouse Part 1: The Vision

Everything worth doing starts with a vision. In this case, it was the lifelong dream of building a dedicated Dungeons & Dragons room. Finally I had my chance. A basement renovation was on the way and I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip. The overall gaming room design had to serve a number of key purposes. While overall look and interior design was important, the room must also be pragmatic for roleplaying games. Therefore it was decided that the key ingredients for the room were;

  1. The room must be large enough to accommodate 8 to 10 players (plus 1 Dungeon Master);
  2. It must feel like a tavern or place where adventurers would meet while being flexible enough for me to resell my home (eventually);
  3. It must have the ability to play music and tracks via a PC or iPhone; and;
  4. The ability to house a customized lighting solution.

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Number 1 on the list soon resulted in a problem in itself. If the room were to fit 8 to 10 players, then it needed a table that could do the same. If one estimates that a person requires about 2 feet of table space, this means that table needed to be at least 6′ x 4′. This method of estimating table size is really meant for eating, but as we know D&D requires quite a bit more space. In addition, the table also needed to fit a 4′ x 6′ Chessex grid map. This in turn dictated that the table should be about  6′ x 8′ to accommodate the table and allow players to have some space in front of them. After a few weeks of searching for a table that size, I came to the realization that the task was impossible. No one makes tables that big and if they did, it would be more than $3000. Not a price I wanted to pay by any stretch of the imagination. Even the infamous Sultan Gaming Table by Geek Chic doesn’t get that big and I certainly wasn’t going to pay $20,000 for a table!

So basically it dawned on me that I had to make my own table. I have never done anything like this before … but whatever it was, I had to get the table done for at most $500.