How to build a folding train table

Written by david b. ryan
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There are many techniques for designing and building a fixed supporting structure for your model train layout table. Many modelers, however, need to be able to fold up and put away the layout due to space concerns. An easy way to create a folding train table is to utilise the metal support assembly from a standard rectangular folding table of about 3 by 8 feet. A used table can often be obtained very cheaply at a garage sale, flea market or auction. Before beginning work, adequate floor space must be cleared in which to lay out a 4 by 8-foot piece of plywood and work around it.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Rectangular folding table no longer than 96 inches
  • 4 by 8-foot sheet of ¾-inch plywood
  • Screwdriver (regular or Phillips)
  • Electric drill
  • Yardstick
  • Pencil

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  1. 1

    Remove the tabletop from the folding support assembly using the screwdriver. The type of screws that hold the top to the frame will determine whether you need to use a regular or Phillips screwdriver. Save the screws and carry the tabletop away (it will not be used for this project and may be recycled, stored or discarded). Do not disassemble the support assembly beyond removing the screws attaching it to the tabletop. Collapsing the folding legs is optional at this point.

  2. 2

    Lay the sheet of plywood on the floor. Turn the folding support assembly upside down and lay it on the plywood. Using the yardstick, centre the support assembly exactly on the plywood sheet. Stick the pencil through the holes from which the screws were removed and mark each screw-hole on the plywood. Pick up the support assembly and move it to one side.

  3. 3

    Select a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the screws that were removed and secure it to the drill with a chuck. Drill a shallow hole (no deeper than 1/4 inch) in the plywood at each pencil mark to serve as a starter hole for the screw. Unplug the drill and put it away, as it will no longer be needed.

  4. 4

    Pick up the support assembly (still upside down) and re-centre it over the screw holes. Place a screw in each drilled hole and rotate clockwise by hand until it becomes too tight to continue. Use the screwdriver to tighten each screw snugly.

  5. 5

    Pick up the table, flip it over, and set it down. The table is now complete and ready to be built into a train layout.

Tips and warnings

  • It may be helpful to have a hose-type vacuum cleaner nearby to remove sawdust from the drilled holes.
  • If a movable table is desired, casters or wheels can be added to the legs after building the table.
  • Both the original folding table and the assembled train table will be extremely heavy and awkward to lift. To protect the lower back, flex at the knees rather than bending at the waist when picking up the table. It is best to have help lifting the table.

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