Home #Makerspace: DIY Air Hockey Table for Under $40

This is a scaled down, fun-filled air hockey table is a perfect summer project.

DIY Air Hockey

Two employees of Brunswick Billiards Co invented Air Hockey in the 1960s.  The game field consists of a low-friction (usually by means of an air blower creating an air cushion under the puck) playing field with two goals.  Each player has a striker, and smashes a puck at the opposing player’s goal.  First player to a set number of goals wins.  Air hockey tables are staples of entertainment in billiard halls, arcades, boardwalks, rec rooms and other places of ill-repute.  Which is why I just had to make one.

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I utilize a 5-gal shop vac as a blower, marker board, 1/4 plywood, one 10’ 1”x6” and some pin nails.  A 3D printed part certainly helped with the fitting, but isn’t essential by any means.  I also utilize 45 degree miters for a very clean look, but butt joints and screws might make a stronger, stiffer system.

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Let’s play some air hockey!

DIY Air Hockey Table

 

Materials:

  • 2’x4’ White Marker Board, 3/16” thick.
  • 10’ 1”x6” Common Pine Board, clear, with no knots.
  • 2’x4’ 1/4” Plywood.
  • A small amount of scrap wood, 3/4” thick.
  • 5-Gal Shop Vac
  • #4 3/4” Wood Screws
  • Pin Nails
  • Wood Glue
  • Paint and Finishes as desired.  Check out my guide to finishing here & here!

 

Tools

  • Table Saw
  • Dado Stack
  • Miter Saw
  • Dry erase marker
  • Tape Measure & Square
  • Compass
  • Drill with a very small (1/16” or smaller) diameter drill bit.
  • Countersink bit.
  • Pin Nailer & Air Compressor
  • Jig Saw
  • Hot Glue Gun

 

Milling and Dimensioning:

  1. Rip the 1”x6” to 2 1/2” width on the table saw. DSC_5531
  2. With dado stack set to a 1/4”, set the fence to 1/2” from the dado stack.  Run two grooves a 1/2” from each side.  Check the fit with both panels. DSC_5543
  3. Use the table saw to trim the 2’x4’ panels square and to the same size.  Home centers often rip these panels in house, which means they don’t have square edges nor are they the same size.
  4. With the miter saw set to a 45 degree miter, cut the  2 1/2” wide stock to size.  Nominally, outer dimension of the long side rail should be 48 3/4”, while the short end rails are 24 3/4” long.
  5. Test fit frame and panels  Trim if necessary.

 

Prepare the Surface:

  1. Draw a 1” grid with a dry erase marker on the marker board.  Use the drill with a small bit to drill air holes at each intersection.  Alternatively, you can buy a small section of pegboard and use it as a template.DSC_5779
  2. Draw a 2” diameter circle in the center of the plywood panel.  Drill a pilot hole, then cut out the circle with a jigsaw.
  3. Clamp the two panels together.  Drilling from the top into the marker board, drill 4 small holes as shown in the diagram below.scan
  4. Countersink all holes with the countersink bit & drill.DSC_5795

 

Prepare the Blower Coupling:

  1. 3D Print the blower coupling with supports.  Once printed, remove the supports.
  2. Cut a 2” diameter hole from a 4”x4” piece of scrap wood using a jigsaw or scroll saw.
  3. Hot glue the coupling to the scrap wood.
  4. Hot glue the blower coupling over the circle in the plywood panel.

 

Prepare the Spacers:

  1. From the scrap wood, rip a 1” long strip of wood on the table saw.
  2. At the miter saw, cut 4 blocks at 2” long.

 

Prepare the Goals:

  1. Rip the scrap 1×6 into 1/2” strips.
  2. Cut 4 strips at 7” long to be the goals.

 

Assembly:

  1. Sandwich the spacers between the marker board and plywood layers.  Attach the spacers to the maker board with #2 screws.  Leave the plywood layer loose for minor adjustments.

  2. Begin assembling the frame.  Slide on one end rail.  Place glue on a side rail, slide tight against a end rail and attach with pin nails.  Repeat for all four corners.DSC_5719
  3. Attach the spacers to the bottom plywood wood layer with #4 screws.
  4. Hot glue Blower Coupling Assembly in place.DSC_5808
  5. Place the goals on the assembled board.DSC_5858
  6. Drill pilot holes, countersink and attach with #4 3/4” wood screws.

 

Build Puck & Strikers:

  1. Cut two 2 1/2” lengths of 1 1/4” dowels.  Round over ends with sandpaper, by hand or belt sander.DSC_5828
  2. Cut two 4” diameter circles and one 3” diameter circle from 1/4” MDF.DSC_5819
  3. Attach the 4” diameter circles to dowels with countersunk #4 screws.DSC_5841

 

Sand and Finish:

Sand and finish as desired.

 

To achieve this look:

  • Round over exposed edges with a router & 1/8” round over bit.
  • Sand to 120 grit.
  • Paint with 2 coats of  high gloss acrylic latex enamel white paint + primer.
  • Design arena sign and print out with printer paper.
  • Attach with spray adhesive.
  • Paint strikers and pucks with spray paint.

 

Use:

Prop the Air Hockey table on two saw horses.  Switch your shop vac hose from the vacuum port to the exhaust port.  Hook the hose up to the blower coupling.  If the coupling loose, you can wrap the coupling with layers of blue tape until it’s tight.  Turn the vacuum on and play!

 

Improvements & Extensions:

To improve gameplay, the sides of the table must be stiffer.  Stiffer sides should give a better bounce.  Maybe a rubber bumper, similar to the bumpers on pool tables would also help with the bounce.  Pucks and strikers must be perfect circles to work well, so a builder could use a circle cutting jig to improve results.

 

This project offers more than just gameplay.  This project is a walking, talking example of a great learning device.  The board creates a cushion of air through the holes which reduces friction and allows the puck to move.  Students can see the effects of friction in a physical, demonstrable, way.  They can design hovercraft to skate on the surface, increase and decrease surface area of the pucks, study the effect of the puck on its motion.  Students can simulate the effect of light and sound waves bouncing off objects, as well as study how air pressure changes depending on the shape of an object.  A really versatile platform for learning and play.

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Thank you for your continued support.

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