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The Ultimate RetroPie Play Table

That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.

— Walt Disney.

When I design things, I usially think not only how to make them work for my case, I want them to be the most original and beyond the standard the people know. They all have multi purposes or hidden features, trying to solve a problem in the most WOW way possible. Hopeflly I will share some of them in the future, since they gave me the skills and tools I needed to make this project possible within 3 hours.

The Idea

Let’s start with the idea. As a serious DIY-er and recent Raspberry PI enthusiast, I came across the RPi image called Retropie. Once I saw it for the first time I knew I will be building something with it. There is a serious amount of Retropie projects on the internet, so I took probably a month to go over some of the best. One thing I didn’t like in the majority of them is the single purpose of playing retropie games that they serve. In the rest of the time they only collect dust and cannot serve even as a cup holder, because of the many buttons and sticks that are hard to be covered and can be damaged. This was a part that I had to improve.

The other part that didn’t go well in my mind was the screen. In order to have my kid playing with me I had to think of a way to build the project without a huge screen – inches away from his face. Using an old 17 or 19 inch monitor also was an option, but still this is what everyone does. The solution came to me as an portable LED DLP Projector that I found online for as little as 90 Euros. 19 inch old ugly monitor? How about 150 inch screen projected on the wall?

So, I had a vision for hiding the controllers, a solution for the screen, I had to figure out the table base itself. Since I have some experience in building tables, I know that this is not such an easy task if you want to make it sturdy and light in the same time. In this case I would like to move the table around the house with a glance, or even why not bring it to a camping, or over to a friend’s house. This is why I got straight to IKEA – their LACK tables have been know for their sturdiness, low cost and low weight, proven to work well for Retropie projects.

The Build

Shopping list:

  • 2x Ikea LACK coffee tables – link (40€)
  • 1x Controller set for two players with 10 buttons each – link (25€)
  • 1x Raspberry Pi 3B + Official Power supply – link (50€)
  • 1x Lift Up Coffee Table Mechanism – link (20-30€)
  • 1x JBL GO 2 Bluetooth speaker – link (27€)
  • 1x Mini LED DLP Projector – link (160€)
  • 1x RGB LED strip 5m (optional)
  • 1x RGB LED controller + power supply(optional)
  • HDMI, AUX, Micro USB Cables

Base Table preparation

Electronics

The table hinge

I have used this lift-top mechanism in my coffee table project, but soon I found out that it was not meant to lift heavy load and it made my table shaky and hard to lift. I found an replacement that is using gas absorbers instead of springs and makes the lifting and lowering the table top much easier, so I replaced the original hige with the new one. In this case the cover table is really light and since I had it laying around, I decided to use it.

The hinge itself was screwed to the upper table with a few screws, and since I had access to the bottom part of the base table, I added reinforcments from some scrap wood that were screwed to the hinge for better stability.

Cover Table preparation

As you can see below I was aiming to hide all components in the height of the collapsed hinge. I almost made it – the only poblem was the controllers sticks. Luckily those tables are made out of cardboard, so a I easiy made holes in the spots where the sticks are located.

All other components were either screwed to the table, or taped with double-sided super-tape. I also used some cable channels to make the build clean-looking.

Projector

At first I wanted to incorporate the projector inside the cover table, so that it cannot be seen from anywhere. But since I want the table to look incognito (and boring) when collapsed; and still wanted to use the projector by itself from time to time, I decided to mount it using a bracket and something that is easy to attatch and detach – the velcro round stickers did the job perfectly well. The projector is self-adjusting when table is lift, to bring the screen above the table top, and in the same time it can be easily detached.

The bracket is designed for the exact dimentions of the projector and the available space between the tables, and then 3D Printed – you can find the model at the end of the project. The same goes for the remote control stand

Sound

No Retropie table is finished without a good set of speakers. The JBL GO 2 bluetooth speaker is great for the job – all I had to do is to fugure out how to attach-detach it easily, so I can use it when traveling, etc. I placed it at the center edge, so I can access the buttons and use it even when the table is closed.

The enclosure is remixed from existing 3D model, so I can slide the speaker out. Once I printed the model, I screwed it to the table:

Lights

I am a big fan of LED lights. I use them wherever I can. For this project they were mandatory 🙂 I use RGB LED Strip + Sound Reactive LED Controller with IR Remote. It is powered from the power outlet in the base table and glued to the bottom of the cover table, so that it cannot be seen directly when playing. Sometimes I use the sound-reactive modes that make it even more entertainig to play, or listen to some music when the table is closed.

As a future improvement I will try to control the light based on the image shown on the RPi – something like Ambilight for Retropie.

Power supply

As you can see, the table is powered by a standard power coupler with three plugs – one for the RPi, one for the LED Projector, and one for the LED Strip Power supply (cannot be seen in the image since I added it later). The very cool option that I have here is that I can use the table with no power supply whatsoever for about 2 hours. This is possible thanks to the built-in li-ion battery in the LED Projector, and the oportunity to power the RPi from a powerbank. When the table is plugged in the wall, both the powerbank and the LED Projector are charging.

In order to turn the RPi on, the sequence is as follows:

  1. Open up the table
  2. Turn the LED Projector ON via the remote, or by using the power button and switch the source to HDMI – since it has internal battery, it can be turned on before the table is connected to power.
  3. Switch the power coupler ON using the button on it. This boots RPi and turns on the LED strip to the last used mode.
  4. Turn ON the Bluetooth speaker

I am still looking for a solution that will make this list shorter – ideally a single button.

Finished Table

Summary

I really enjoyed working on this project. It turned out to be both practical and fun to use. We use it not only to play Mario Cart on it, but also to watch movies in a movie night, or play any other games or toys while it is closed. Other cool aspect is when the table is stacked with toys (as it usually is) you don’t need to move them in order to play – just open the table and leave them ontop.

3D Prints

You can download and print all models used in this project from this link: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1OG0WhNsh4keVByxGEhlDujnSny34uJYm

Lift-top coffee table

Choosing a table for you livingroom is a widely underestimated task. This table becomes the center of your apratment. In there you drink you coffee in the mornings, have some snacks with wine in the evenings, your kid is using it to draw, play and what not. For sure a regular coffee table from IKEA for $15 does the job for most of this, but I think every self-respecting DIY-er has his own signature coffee table.

This is mine!

Everything started from some left-over 30cm wide countertop wood that was left from the build of my TV wall. I hate wasting such things, so I thought I could reuse if for my coffee table, at the same time the styling would match the TV wall since its made from the same material.

So the build has started:

I began with some drawings on the many combinations I had in order to get a rectangular table with separating part that can be lift. I choose the 45 degrees cuts beacause they provide additional space to the lifting part, while you can still access the storage area.

I made a 3D model on Autocad, and extracted all sizes. Once I had this, I ordered some natural MDF to be cut to size, bought wooden legs and puchased the first lift-top mechanism from the hardware store.

2 years later, I had this laying in my garage:

Once the main assembly was done, I added a wooden frame with white plexiglass for the middle hole. This provides shatterproof strenght so I can leave my kid playing without any worries, and provides “light access” from the bottom part.

In order to match the oak wood/white styling of the livingroom, I painted the table legs with some acrylic paint and added some gloss finish.

Table with painted legs

And voilà! The table was mostly done. A few touches I added later were the LED light strip, some equalizer sound reactive lights I bought from AliExpress, powerbank for cell phone charging, and at some point wireless charger that can be used from the lift-top part.

I hope you enjoyed this build. I am still amazed by the many different use cases we find for the table. It’s the most favorite place for my son when having breakfast, watching a movie, playing with wooden trains, painting and any other activity you can think of.

Who the heck am I?

A few words about the author.

What happens when you mix up Electronics education at high-school, with Electrical Engineering Bachelor degree, and work career as a Test Automation Software Developer? Well, if that is not enough put ontop of that a hobby of woodworking and DIY and you will probably get part of the picture of who am I.

Why do this?

  • Sharing is caring
  • I love helping people with stuff I had to deal with
  • I have collected enough projects that got great reactions from whoever has seen them

Hopefully the time taken to note these posts will inspire someone and will generate new ideas. My goal has always been efficiency, being original, different, making something out of nothing.

Enough said. Let’s get to the business.

– Nikolay Avramov

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