Build Your Own Foosball Table
We had really been punishing our old, rickety Sportcraft table for a while at work when we realized we needed a new table. A real foosball table. We wanted the Cyclone II from Tornado, but when we saw the $1000 price tag, we were all a bit despondent. We played on a Cyclone II at a local venue and just had to have one, though. What to do?
The parts can be ordered. The cabinet is just solid, simple wood construction. Hmmm.. So we started the research and realized we could have our own Tornado-like table for around $300. If you have a woodshop, the know-how and the desire to play foosball (combined with a little hint of perfectionism), keep reading.
STEP 1: Recon
I played on a Tornado table and was amazed. I noticed some specifics that make it a great table, such as:
- Off-center serving holes
- Thick side walls
- Center ball return
- Textured surface
- Light, fast balls
- Specially-shaped foosball men
It is also very sturdy. In fact, some Tornado tables weighs in at around 350 pounds. So, for maximum sturdiness, I need to make a table that is hefty and well-constructed. 3/4" plywood doubled-up in parts should do the trick, along with liberal use of wood glue and wood screws. We don't want this thing to be able to move during the course of a fast-paced game, nor do we want warping or creaking over time.
STEP 2: Research
I started gathering pictures and really studied the table. I measured all the dimensions. This page came in handy for that, too. For a real Tornado table, the following list will help:
- Table length: 55.5"
- Table width: 30"
- Table height: 36"
- Playfield size: 48" x 27"
- Playfield depth: 4.25"
- Side walls: 1.5" thick
- Back walls: 3.75" thick
- Goals: 8.375" x 3" (0.5" radius rounded top corners)
- Rods: 6" apart from center, 3.125" up from surface
- Goalie rod: 3" from back wall
Here are some useful pictures of Tornado tables: [one] [two] [three]
STEP 3: Design
So then comes the actual design of the table. Given the dimensions above, it was straight forward enough. Notice the thick side walls and the center ball return. I wanted our table to return the ball to either side (whoever got scored on gets the ball) and not just one side as in the Tornado.
Design sketch [12K PNG format]
Exterior view [4K PNG format]
Also, I needed to figure out the playfield surface. In order to closely reproduce the surface of a Tornado (which is non-smooth), our playfield is made of a base 3/4" inch particle board, a paper playfield, and then 1/8" Plexiglas roughed with 60-grit sandpaper, all sandwiched with a clear artists' spray mount adhesive. This gives it a nice, translucent look while giving the right texture for ball pinning. I drew our playfield using the Gimp. You can download the file here [780K XCF]. So, our playfield cost $29 instead of the $250 for a real Tornado top. It's all about the budget.
STEP 4: Gather Materials
Here is the material list. The total cost for the following parts was around $300. Notice there are two major items missing: the rods and handles. These cost an additional $288 (8 rods and 8 wood handles), but we salvaged old rods from our existing table, so that cost wasn't factored into our table.
The Home Depot or Lowe's:
- 1 x 4' x 8' x 0.75" birch plywood (main cabinet)
- 1 x 4' x 4' x 0.75" birch plywood (legs)
- 1 x 4' x 8' x 0.75" particle board (playfield)
- 1 x 4' x 8' x 0.25" laun plywood (ball return system)
- 1 x box of 2" wood screws
- 16 x 5.5" x 3/8" bolts and nuts (attach the legs)
- 4 x 1" adjustable table feet (bottom of legs)
- 1 x 60" x 30" x 0.125" Plexiglas (playfield surface)
- 13 x black Tornado foosball men ($39)
- 13 x yellow Tornado foosball men ($39)
- 16 x 1.5" snap one-piece bearing ($48)
- 1 x genuine Tornado ball ($3)
- 3 x playfield trim strips ($27)
STEP 5: Construction
A. First I cut out all the pieces. All the external cabinet pieces came from the 3/4" birch plywood. We chose to alter the design to allow for the cabinet to split in half and open, attached with hinges. Therefore, the large 16" side walls were split into a 6" top piece and a 10" bottom piece. The parts for the bottom 3/4" pieces were therefore:
- 2 x 10" x 55.5" (sides)
- 2 x 10" x 28.5" (ends)
- 16 x 3.25" x 29" (legs)
- 8 x 2.5" x 2.5" (leg end insert caps)
And the 3/4" parts for the top half:
- 2 x 6" x 55.5" (sides)
- 2 x 6" x 28.5" (ends)
- 2 x 4.25" x 48" (inside sides)
- 2 x 4.25" x 28.5" (inside ends)
- 2 x 2.25" x 28.5" (end top caps)
- 8 x 2.25" x 3.5" (end top cap supports)
- 1 x 54" x 28.5" (playfield surface)
B. Next I cut out the six "notches" from the two inside backs, two bottom sides, and the playfield. This was done by first drilling the rounded corners, then cutting the straight connecting cuts with a band saw or scroll saw. See the first picture here for the first of my cuts (this piece is an inside back goal end).
This image shows the cutouts required in six places on various parts of the table. They are all similar; 8.375" across, 3" high, with rounded corners. The one pictured here is the back goal. The cuts were done using a drill press with 1" Forsner bits (for the rounded corners), then a scroll saw with spiral blade for the sides and tops. A bench spindle sander was then used to clean up the edges.
C. Next I assembled and painted the legs. The legs were assembled as four strips of the 3/4" birch plywood 29" high and 3.25" wide. I used offset butt-joints all around so when you look top-down you have a 4" x 4" square with a spiral pattern. I also cut 8 small 2.5" square blocks for the two end caps. They were assembled with heavy use of wood glue and clamps, working one joint at a time. I sanded, applied two coats of primer, sanded lightly, and applied a flat black enamel. I then had four black 4" x 4" x 29" rectangular prisms.
Here are the four legs; they are now ready for priming and painting (flat black). The will be attached to the lower half of the cabinet (previous picture) with four 5.5" long 3/8" bolts to allow for removal for transport. Note the holes in the bottoms of two so far for the adjustable feet attachment.
D. Ahh, the playfield. The most delicate part of the entire operation. Now that I had the notches cut out of the two ends (inside the goal area to allow the ball to drop down into the ball-return system), I was ready to apply the playfield image. I printed the image using 18 sheets of paper, and cut each very carefully so they would tile perfectly. I started by marking the middle line in both directions on the playfield particle board, and used an artists' spray mount to spray on the back of the paper and then adhere it to the surface. I started in the center and worked out to the end pieces. I let it dry overnight.
I placed the plexiglas sheet over the playfield to trace out the end notches. I cut the notches out of the Plexiglas so it perfectly covered the playfield surface. I then took 60-grit sandpaper on a random orbital sander and sanded one side of the Plexiglas until I could see absolutely no glare (using a point light in the room to look for specular reflections). The sanding process took about ten minutes of constantly moving the sander around randomly (did not want an uneven surface if I were to use a regular pattern and "dig in" some parts more than others). Then I placed it on the playfield and taped around the edges to keep it secure temporarily. I drilled 1/8" holes about 4" apart all around the outer edge (3/8" from the edge) that were to be used to secure the playfield to the sides from the bottom later on.
E. The cabinet lower half. This next image features the assembled lower half of the cabinet. Since the cabinet is split in two halves (upper and lower) to allow for it to open, I started on the bottom half first. The bottom half contains the legs and the ball-return system. Note the cutouts on the sides for the ball return. In the photo it is upside down. Below are some pictures of the legs attached to the base. I had to work on some smaller details to finish the lower half; such as the ball-return system and covering the bottom. I put 3/4" x 3/4" strips along the bottom sides 3/4" from the bottom edge on the inside, then set in particle board to cover the entire bottom; attaching it to the aforementioned strips for support.
F. The cabinet upper half. In order to create the side rails (which should end up 1.5" thick), I used wood glue to adhere a 48"x4.25" piece to a 55.5"x6" piece, with the smaller piece centered left-right and flush with the top (click here for a detail image). I drilled all the holes in the side rails for the rods (1" diameter), and the ball serving hole (1.5"). After the playfield had the image applied, and the Plexiglas cut and roughed, I fit all the upper half parts together and used woodscrews to attach the sides (54"x6") to the ends (30"x6"). I then attached the playfield surface to the sides using the holes I drilled earlier all around the 3/4" edge and wood screws up from the bottom of the surface. I placed the inside backs (with the goal cutout) using wood glue attached to the side rails. Click here for a close-up top-view schematic of the end joints.
I finished it by attaching a thin veneer to the top surface of the back and side rails. Note: this was the most work-intensive part because of the precision required when working with veneers. See the finished photos to see the black veneer I used and how it looks in the finished form.
G. Final assembly and finishing touches. This picture shows the upper half placed on the lower half with all the legs attached to give a rough feel for the finished product. When it is lined up like the picture, I attached the two hinges to one side. I chose to attach them to a smaller side (30") instead of the longer (55.5") so it opens more like a car hood. I added veneer trim to the corners for effect. I used a rub-in wood finish for a nice, protective covering. I then placed the plastic bushings in the 1" diameter holes for the rods. I adhered the side trim strips to the inside edges of the playfield (they come with a double-sided tape). I inserted rods and guys, and was done. See the following pictures of the completed project.
STEP 6: Play
Well, here it is $261.08 and 50 man-hours later. The finished table installed in the company game room. We're really enjoying the new table and find it forcing us to improve basic foosball skills, which is why we wanted it in the first place. On our old table we couldn't even pin the ball, so you can imagine the night-and-day difference we're experiencing.