Building Your Own Foosball Table
Brian Frenkel


So, you've decided that old band saw hasn't seen enough action lately and you think you ought to build you own foosball table. Well, you may be getting yourself into more than you are bargaining for, because this won't be so easy – or cheap. Just for your information, a used Tornado coin-op (the elite of foosball tables) can be purchased for $500 - $1000 depending on the shape of the table and on your bargaining skills. Check the local classifieds as well as your local amusement device distributors to locate a table.

But maybe you have yourself a New Yankee Workshop out back and want to take on the challenge, well kudos to you. Let's just break down the costs of the essential table parts:

 Unit Price
Total Price
8 rods $30.00 $240.00
8 handles $3.00 $24.00
26 men $3.75 $97.50
1 ball $2.75 $2.75
Please note that these prices are for Tornado table parts (if you're going to spend the time and money, you might as well make this thing as much like a Tornado as you can). As you can see, the cost of the rods is a huge chunk of the cost. I will discuss a way to get the cost down a little later, read on!

These costs obviously do not cover everything, but they are all the table parts you will need. You will still have to spend money on the cabinet, playing surface, nuts, bolts, screws, and if you're one of those players who likes to smoke while you play, you'll have to shell out another $3.75 for some ash trays.


The First Step.

Your first step to building a table is to grab a hand full of quarters and go play on a Tornado. There are some things you should notice:

1. The playing surface. I'm not exactly sure what it's made out of, but notice how smooth it is.

2. The location of the ball drops -- notice they are not centered.

3. Look inside the ball drops and see the groove where the ball can rest.

4. How close the men come to the surface and how close they come to one and other.

5. The goals are rounded at the top corners.

6. The bumpers.


Of course you don't have to incorporate any of the Tornado's attributes, but take them all into account when building your table. Below is a picture of the Tornado Time Play table:


The Specs.

Well, here are all the specs I got from my Tornado table. I think this is all one needs to build the table:

(O.C. means off center)

MEN: 6" apart from one and other O.C.

GOALIE: 3" from back wall O.C.

ROD: 3 1/8" up from playing surface O.C.

WALLS: 4 1/4" high (measured from playing surface), 1 9/16" thick

PLAYING SURFACE: 48" long, 27" wide

GOALS: 8 3/16" wide, 3" high

DROP HOLE: 1 1/2" diameter

BUMPER: 1" wide


The Rods.

You have a little room to work with when it comes to buying the rods. You can get them from a parts distributor for right around $30 a rod, or you can have them made by a local machine shop. Having a whole set of rods made (8 rods) can get the cost down around to $150. Here are the specs for Tornado rods:


The Cabinet.

This part of the table is up to you. All you need to keep in mind is the weight of the cabinet. A Tornado coin-op weighs in somewhere around 350 lbs., and although your table doesn't need to weigh this much, it ought to have a decent amount of sturdiness. Tornado cabinets are made out of wood, with a formica layer on the outside. I've seen some sights on the web where they sell Tornados with oak/cherry/maple/walnut cabinets. If you're really looking to make this thing nice, you might want to consider making the cabinet out of a nice wood. As far as the ball returns go, you're on you own here. Obviously the easiest thing to do would be to have the balls returns be on the end, but a single return in the center is much nicer.



You do have a few options when building your table, some may save you money and others may add quite a bit to the cost.


Take a look at any foosball table and you'll see the rod bearings. If you don't know what I'm talking about, look at a table or the table drawing above. The rods do not just sit in holes drilled in the side of the play field walls, they rest in bearings. The bearings allow for a nice, true place for the rods to slide in and out with ease. Before you go order 16 bearings, be aware of the cost:
Unit Price
Total Price
16 bearing nuts $2.75 $44.00
16 bearing bolts $2.75 $44.00
I'm not sure why you couldn't be creative here and save yourself some money. Maybe just lining the holes with something will do the trick -- I'm not sure. You just want to make sure the rods turn true and smooth. If anyone comes up with something good for bearings, please let me know and I'll put it in this file.



The rods do encompass a large part of the table's cost -- even when you get the rods custom built. You can lower the cost even more by getting a weaker rod. The entry level Tornado tables take advantage of this by putting a lighter rod on the table. Now before you say "steel is steel" and go do this, just know that even the heavier rods bend over time, so if you're planning to play hard on this table, you probably don't want to skimp on the rod quality.



You should have a way to level the table. This is done on the Tornado buy means of a screw-in foot, but I find them to be a bit difficult to maneuver when you have 350 lbs.. of table to lift. Regardless of what you have, you probably should have something.


Playing Surface:

Like I previously mentioned, I have no idea what the playing surface of the Tornado is made out of, but it is smooth. It should be easier to recreate this type of surface than it would to recreate the dimpled surface on other type of tables. You can order a Tornado playing surface for under $100, and I think it would look pretty cool on a homemade table.



Well, I've never built a table and I don't think I would. But if this is your cup of tea, then have fun doing this. I don't see any reason a home-built table couldn't be as good as any manufactured table. If you're going to remember one thing, remember this: playing on a un-level table is no fun -- and this won't be cheap :-)


p.s. I'd love to see a picture of a table if anyone builds one.