Making the Fold-open Top
The hinged top of this project really provides a “wow factor,” and not just because it rotates and opens. When opened up for play, the top shows a mitered mahogany frame with quarter-round corner blocks surrounding a felt playing surface.
As mentioned earlier, select the stock for these parts with an eye to matching grain and attractive figure. Start by milling the frame parts to thickness and width, but go ahead and crosscut them a little over-long.
Miter the four frame parts to size, testing their fit. Next, glue and clamp them together. While the glue is drying, make the corner blocks. Their grain runs diagonally into the corners. To achieve this, I made an MDF template with a trued-up curve. The corner blocks are cut square, and then the curve was rough-cut on the band saw.
To make them identical, I pattern-routed the corner blocks using the MDF template. The problem was, these parts are too small to safely flushtrim on the router table. My solution was to do the task with a handheld router instead. I mounted the template to a block with glue and a screw, then clamped it into my bench vise. Next, I attached the corner blocks to the template with double-sided carpet tape and trimmed the blocks with a hand router and a pattern-routing bit — to ensure uniform size, fair curves and square corners. The corner blocks are clamped in place (with glue) using notched scraps to protect the frame corners. When the glue had cured, I took it out of the clamps and sanded it smooth. As shown in the Drawings, the frame gets a 1/2″-deep, 3/8″- wide rabbet milled all around the underside to accept the field base.
When completed, the top frame will capture two layers of plywood (or MDF) that combine to support and form the playing surface. One is a 1/2″ thick layer that forms the base, and the other is a 1/4″ sheet that is the substrate for the felt playing surface.
Use the frame opening to mark their shapes by tracing right onto the sheetstock. Carefully cut the felt substrate shape, using a table saw and band saw: it must fit the opening very closely, so it will likely require some sanding or rasp-work to fit it properly. After you are done fitting it, go ahead and set it aside until later. Next, trace the base layer shape (onto your 1/2″-thick sheetstock) using the frame opening as a guide. You will need to add 3/8″ all around so it fits inside the frame rabbet. Cut out the piece on your band saw and then sand the edges smooth so the base fits snugly, and pocket-screw in place. While your pride may drive you to shape this piece with precision, a perfect fit is not necessary, as it will not be seen by anyone but you. Lastly, measure and mark the exact center of the subassembly and drill a 5/16″ hole and counterbore for the carriage bolt pivot.
Creating the Triangular Leaves
After building and assembling all of those parts, you’d think that you should be done about now. Well, not quite….
The four leaves that form the top of the table need to be quite accurately made, so once again I decided to use a template routing technique to ensure the required uniformity. Because it is inexpensive and exceptionally stable, I used plywood as the template material.
To create the leaf shape, first cut a perfectly straight edge onto an appropriately sized piece of plywood and mark a 22″ line on the prepared edge. Then, find the exact center of that line and extend a vertical center line at 90° that is 11″ long. Connect the ends of the lines to form the triangle as shown in the photo above, right. This layout must be exceedingly accurate. If the template is not symmetrical, the leaves will not fit well when the table is folded. Take care when cutting out the template and, when you have finished, lay out and cut a circular hole where indicated for the chip pocket.
With template in hand, use it to lay out the leaves. Ideally, all four should be cut from the same board, but if not, take care to keep the color and grain consistent.
Rough-cut the parts slightly oversized with a band saw or jigsaw. Then, once again taking advantage of double-sided carpet tape, secure the pieces to the template you just made and flush trim them to final size on the router table.
Before you take the template off the leaf, set up a handheld router with a dish-carving bit or core box bit to mill out the shallow depression in the underside of the leaf for the chip pocket. As you can see in the photo at right, I mounted a small piece of plywood to the base of my router, to add stability and control during this cut. When you are done with that step, it is time to flip the leaves over and start to add some classic decorative touches.