Table Skittles


Table Skittles:
Colwin Way continues his turnings with a set of table skittles

Colwin Way continues his turnings with a set of table skittles

This project sprang to mind a couple of weeks ago when I was sat watching TV with my family just browsing my emails on my phone. At the same time when I looked up to see my wife and both sons all on their TECH! All of us heads down with no conversation and I felt a little disappointed that we were wasting our precious family time uninterested in each other looking into these little metal boxes. I voiced my observations to my wife who immediately said yes, jumped up and grabbed a pack of cards, pulled over the coffee table and said: “right boys, tech down, let’s play cards!” After a little huffing and puffing we started playing and before long out came the board games. This started something of a little debate through the week as to what we are going to play on the weekend, which have now largely become tech-free zones!
I wanted to surprise them and come up with a game we could all play together that would be a little rowdier than a board game and thought that actually this would make a great Christmas project for the family to enjoy. This one’s quite a sizeable project, but great fun to make and once again using some carpentry skills along the way.
Table skittles is a great family game and in my area on the Devon/Dorset border of southwest England it is still played in the local pubs, being taken very seriously and divided into different leagues depending on the individuals’ skill level. I’ve scaled our table down slightly from the full size pub tables you would see in your local, but just as much fun to play. The rules are fairly simple; just hit more pins down than your opponent! But, if you have a really competitive family there are more complex rules out there, just search online. As with all my projects I honestly believe anyone can make them even though initially some may seem a bit daunting. You may not have the tools or machinery I’m using, so I will suggest some alternatives along the way.
Let’s make a start, my table’s made from offcuts of English oak (Quercus robur) for the main components, lignum vitae (Guaiacum sanctum) for the ball and 10mm MDF for the table base. We can divide the list of components up into seven pieces as as listed in the drawings.

Plans and equipment
Equipment and materials used
• Router table
• Rebate cutter
• Decorative moulding cutter sash clamps
• PVA glue
• 6mm, 8mm, 28mm drill bits
• One pair of airline connectors
• Spindle roughing gouge
• Skew chisel
• Parting tool
• 10mm spindle gouge
• G clamps
• Skirt
• Base
• Platform
• Nine skittles
• Two piece column
• Two piece column clamp
• Ball and chain

Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.

1. With a table base size of 615 x 405mm I machined my oak down with this in mind. First surface plane one face and one edge, and then thickness to clean and true surfaces. I use a large planer/thicknessing machine, but if you don’t have one use a hand plane, or if this is hard work then you could buy your timber already prepared

2. To make the skirt use a router fixed to a router table (I used a rebate cutter). Make several passes to create the rebate to take the 10mm MDF. Cut 10mm wide to give a good surface to screw the base onto. The second cutter is a decorative moulding to the top of your skirt rail. If you have no router, screw or glue a second piece of timber to the main skirt to create a rebate, meaning you can still screw the table base to the skirt. The top moulding could be simplified to a chamfer with a hand plane or just simply leave the top edge square

3. Use a mitre saw to create corner mitres, but the saw can also be accurately set to give a tight joint. To make sure you get the correct lengths on the skirt rails, cut the mitre on one end of the rail, then hold them up to the base board and mark off with pencil before lining up to the saw. This can be tricky at first, but if you cut the rails a couple of millimetres bigger than you need you can still fit the board and your mitre will butt up nicely. If you don’t have a mitre saw you could make your own mitre block and hand cut your mitres or don’t do a mitre at all and butt joint your corners leaving the end rails slightly longer, just protruding past the sides of your side rails

4. Now the rails are ready, it’s on to the base. Because we’re going to be screwing into oak and you want the board to be pulled down tightly into the rails, drill a series of holes for the screws to pass through. These holes need to be countersunk for the screw head to sink below the surface of your MDF base. Space the screws approximately 60mm apart, giving a secure base and ensuring the base gets pulled up evenly to the rails. Drill the holes 5mm in from the edge of the board and use 25mm long screws with a 3mm pilot hole. I’m using a pillar drill, but if you don’t have one, a cordless or hand drill will work

5. Now onto the platform. It’s important that the skittles are elevated, so you have several options here. The obvious one is to keep the table square, but as I wanted to try something different, I’ve taken some oak and machined it into 40mm square lengths, then cut them into 250mm long pieces before gluing them together

6. Once the glue dries, square one of the edges across the glued lengths before cutting across the lengths to, once again, create 40mm square lengths. Turn the end grain up and re-glue them back. To keep the pattern irregular, turn every other piece around so you don’t have the same piece of grain next to each other

When turning glued sections, make sure you are protected in case the glue gives while turning. This is very rare but possible, for instance when using old glue, glue that’s been subjected to very low temperature, oily or waxy timbers not adhering or simply poorly applied to surfaces. Be safe, wear a good visor and don’t turn glued section at high speed. Don’t stand directly in front of the project and always know your escape route.

7. Once the glue has had 24 hours to dry, mark your disc with a set of dividers or plywood template before cutting to shape. Clean up one side of your disc before you do this, either with a plain or electric belt sander as this face will be used to fix a faceplate to and eventually be the face to sit flat onto the baseboard. If you don’t have a bandsaw, use a jigsaw or hand saw the corners to give an eight-sided piece to turn round

8. Attach the disc to a faceplate and turn the edge until round before turning the toolrest to flatten the face of the disc. Use a large skew chisel flat as a scraper, to flatten the face. Periodically check with a steel rule or straight edge to make sure you get the surface completely flat, or your skittles may not stand properly

9. Once the platform is flat mark out the centre with a pencil, then using the diagram and measurements supplied mark out the skittle placings. Drill these points out with a 8mm drill bit, ready for the inlays to be placed in. I did no sanding until these pieces were added

10. I’m using ebony to turn my inlays, but any contrasting timber will do such as walnut (Juglans regia). Hold the sections in a chuck, and with the help of a set of callipers and a parting tool, turn your inlays to 9mm then taper down to fit the 8mm hole. Once all nine are made, dab them with glue and tap into the drilled holes. Let the glue dry before putting back on the lathe and gently scrape down to the surface of the oak. Now you can sand the platform to a finish before sealing and waxing

11. The skittles are simple turnings, which I’m driving here with a ring centre friction drive. Leave waste wood to clean off, towards the top of the pin. Make sure you turn and slightly undercut the base of the skittle so they sit square on the table. Sand, seal and wax each skittle as you go, making nine in total. To ensure you get the skittles the same size start by measuring and marking each length with a set of dividers and each diameter with a set of callipers

12. Remove the waste wood with a disc sander attached to the lathe before hand sanding, sealing and waxing

Two piece column

13. Now the business end of the table and the column the ball will swing from and mow your skittles over with. Making the arm in two pieces makes it easier to pack away after play, and saves having to buy expensive parts to join these together. Use and couple of airline fittings. These are brass joiners and once glued in with epoxy will look perfect against the oak columns

14. The columns themselves can be turned as elaborately as you want them, but I’ve kept my fairly plain opting to gently taper the upper section to a nearly pointed top, however the bottom section needs to be parallel ready to be fixed into the column clamp

15. When both the sections have been turned, seal and wax before gluing the brass joiners in. Push the brass joiners in enough to make sure that the columns butt up against each other tightly, instead of leaving a gap, then set aside to dry

16. To make sure that the columns stand nice and straight, and without moving when playing, you need to make a clamping system of some sort. My clamps consist of two pieces of oak with a hole drilled through them both while clamped together and fractional smaller than the column itself. Here you can see the two pieces clamped and the start of the 28mm hole being drilled. Note the orientation of the pieces and the scrap wood in place so you can drill straight through

17. The large hole drilled, plus a second set of holes to take two bolts, which will be the clamping mechanism

18. Now onto the ball, which I’ve made from a piece of lignum vitae (Guiacum officinale). I chose this timber because of its weight, but if you don’t have a piece then just use another piece of oak. Lignum is an extremely oily timber so I had to sand with wax to stop the timber clogging up the abrasive. I’ve already drilled a hole through the ball to thread the chain through, but alternatively you could screw in a brass eye and attach the chain this way

19. So, that’s all the pieces made and it is time to start assembly. However before you go too far, check the base and the skirt rails line up nicely before permanently fixing. Also drill four pilot holes with countersinks to fix the raised skittle platform with

20. Disassemble the base and choose your desired table covering. I ended up going for blue crushed velvet, but I was also torn between red and green. Peel off the backing and stick to the upper side of the table top, then trim the waste away with a knife or pair of scissors

21. Now we can start adding the various components starting with the skirt and the raised skittle platform, which can now be screwed in position

22. Here’s a closer look at the column clamp. Drill and countersink one piece to be screwed to the skirt as well as two more holes which you can pass through two 5mm bolts. Glue the bolt heads in place with epoxy to stop them turning

23. I tightened the nut with a spanner, however it would be much better to use wing nuts that can be hand tightened easily, as you don’t want to be hunting for a spanner in the heat of a tournament!

24. There we are, everything is in place and ready to play. As usual my family has been my inspiration for this project and I can already see the fun we’re going to have this Christmas and beyond. I hope you give this one a go and add your own touches to it

Skittle storage

I’ve made the table so it can be easily stored away and my intention in the future is to make a top cover for it also. Everything fits in the table neatly ready to be brought out on those family game nights.


1 Comment

  1. Hi I’m impressed with the skittle table design, and want to have a go myself. Is there a link to full plans/dimensions available including for instance height of the pole, length of chain and method of fixing to the top, also positioning of the skittle platform on the base.

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