Plans for Building Your Own Ping-Pong Table

Two business colleagues playing table tennis at creative office

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Americans being the kind of "can-do" people that they are, the idea of building your own ping-pong table is something I get asked about fairly regularly. Here's my advice on the subject.

Don't do it.

Oh, you wanted a bit more explanation than that? Alright then, here's a summary of the pros and cons of building your own table tennis table.

Building Your Own Ping-Pong Table - Pros

  • Satisfaction of a job well done (provided you are a competent enough woodworker to do the job well, of course).
  • It's possible to save some money in the cost of raw materials vs a completed table.
  • Bragging rights among your friends.

Building Your Own Ping-Pong Table - Cons

  • The frustration of a job poorly done - if you are like the majority of the population and are only a mediocre woodworker.
  • Difficulty in sourcing materials. High-Density Fiber Board (HDF) is expensive, while Medium Density Fiber Board (MDF) is cheaper but not as durable. Plus it is apparently difficult and expensive to get hold of sheets large enough to make up 9 feet by 5 feet table half since most HDF and MDF sheets are 8 feet by 4 feet. Unless you are willing to pay more (which kind of defeats the purpose of building a cheap ping-pong table), you'll end up having a table smaller than regulation size, or a regulation size table with joins and a lot of wasted offcuts. Plus cutting a large sheet of HDF or MDF precisely can be pretty tricky as well unless you have lots of bench space to support the sheet.
  • Building a solid, movable, and foldable undercarriage is far from simple. Building a fixed undercarriage is easier, but then you are stuck with a table that's difficult to shift.
  • Trying to get a bounce that is similar to a competition table may be harder than you think, even if you do use table tennis paint.
  • Getting an even paint job on such large areas may be difficult as well.
  • The time you spend in trying to put your table together could be better spent elsewhere - such as in playing table tennis!

Conclusion

In my own opinion, it is likely that the cheapest of any decent brand name table (such as Stiga, Butterfly, Donic, DHS, Kettler etc) will still be an order of magnitude better than anything you can construct unless you are a master craftsman. So if you would like to build your own table just for the fun of the experience, go ahead. If you are hoping to build a competition quality table and save a few bucks along the way, think again, and then buy a cheap brand name table and save yourself the frustration. You can check out my guide to choosing a ping-pong table.