Jim's Blog: Observations and Perspectives

Home-made Table Tennis Table

Making a Table Tennis Table

It’s summer—and what do you do with your kids that they will enjoy, and how do you do it on a nil budget? Had you thought about … table tennis!

We viewed a short “how to” video on YouTube (that was fun and gave us inspiration and ideas)—here is the link. I liked the way the whole family got involved in the project and thought maybe I could replicate the approach with my son, Matthew, aged twelve.

Budget and Basics

We had to start from scratch, so we figured out some measurements and decided we could make a frame that would be sturdy and stable enough to hold an 8’ x 4’ fiber particle board. Off to Home Depot we drove, purchased some 8’ length studs (lumber in the USA is relatively inexpensive) which we could cut down and screw and glue together into a frame—cost, under $10.00 for the studs, and a bit under $30 for the board.

Matthew table tennis poseMatthew chose the color for the paint and was fascinated as the attendant mixed it to the exact code. Meanwhile, another attendant had cut the board to a smaller size so that we could fit it in our Volvo. It’s amazing what you can fit into our Volvo when you put the back seat down. This car really is quite a workhorse!

Applied Science

Measuring, cutting, and drilling came next. This is applied science. All those things that had been learned in sixth grade began to find direct and practical application (like, Would there be enough paint in the can to cover nearly 50 square feet? How important are right angles and perpendiculars when it comes to getting legs to be fitted to a frame? How can we avoid wobbles?) The painting was fun, too. We ended up with temporarily green fingers.

We are blessed to have an enclosed deck—called a screen porch in the USA—so that makes a great place to put our table. Construction was fairly straightforward, but then we had to think of paddles and a net. We started with some pieces of plywood and a plastic ball about as large as a marble, but that was too challenging. A thrift store yielded six real table tennis balls for a total of 49 cents (hey, it was really nice to hear the proper sound of a ping-pong ball on the table!); then we checked out the dimensions and exact shape of paddles online (it’s amazing what you can find on the Internet), worked out a template to cut some plywood off-cuts we had, reinforcing them with a more robust handle made from some old dowel that had been left over from another project. The game really got going then, even using an imaginary net. Then I found what I thought I had—a small piece of netting from when I had repaired an insect screen.  Joined together, there was just enough of it to make a six-inch-high net that would reach over the width of the table, held in place with a couple of home-made brackets and with the net tightly secured with bulldog clips.

Jim table tennis poseHours of Sweat and Fun

How many hours have we enjoyed playing table tennis so far? I’ve lost count. And I’ve also learned that I have relatively little chance of beating my son, whose eye-to-hand coordination seems much better than mine. We can even play at night when the evenings are cooler, as there is a light and overhead fan—and the air currents from the fan certainly add an interesting dynamic to whichever way the ball is influenced when it is hit.

Enjoy the three-minute video of Matthew and me below. And if you come and visit us, expect to be offered—and challenged to—a game of table tennis!


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