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  • My DIY Gaming Lapboard, Project Bräda

    Posted on July 29th, 2018 Andreas Linder No comments

    Background
    I’ve been saving up for years and I finally got me a sweet rig, a gaming PC worthy of the name. I also got my first ever mechanical gaming keyboard and a good gaming mouse. However there was still a “small” problem. My house got very limited space so the only place for me to set up my gaming PC is in the living room using our TV as the screen. At first I was playing with the keyboard on my lap, and the mouse on the sofa, but it was uncomfortable and I couldn’t play for long without getting shoulder pain and a stiff wrist. This is why I started looking into how other people set up their PCs for couch gaming. 

    I was disappointed to learn that there is not much out there. The products that do exist are either too expensive, is not available in Malaysia or is quite frankly not up to my high standards. Most people who don’t have a big wallet will just DIY their own set up.

    So, I decided to build one myself without breaking my wallet and create exactly what I want. 

    The idea
    First, I wanted to use the keyboard I already had. It’s a Razer Blackwidow Ultimate 2016 Stealth so a medium sized keyboard I suppose. Secondly, I never want to be without my Logitech G502 gaming mouse, it’s the one mouse that works best for me, so the lapboard had to be able to work with wired peripherals. I hate cables (at least when they are visible), so I had to make sure that there was good cable management as well.
    It needed to be light and easy to store away (since my house is quite small). My idea was that everything should be attached to the board so it would not require any assembly. It should be fast to set up and convenient to use, so that when I had time to game, I could just take out the board and start playing.

    It needed to be comfortable for long periods of gaming. A board on the lap is not really stable (unless it’s heavy) and lacks support for elbows. I needed the board to be ergonomically correct and at the same time be as small and compact as possible.

    Since I don’t want to make a new board every time I upgrade my peripherals it also needed to be able to accommodate shifting keyboard/mouse/mouse pad to different ones.

    Planning and acquiring materials
    I spent hours and hours designing the board and making drawings. Each time I made a new drawing the board design would improve. I also spoke to nearly all my gamer friends who are far (deeper? lol) more into gaming than me to get their input and see what was important to them. Every time I made an improvement I ran it through them until they (including myself) had nothing to complain or comment on.

    The base of the board is the most important part. I was thinking a long time and carefully weighing pros and cons before choosing the right material. Wood is by far the cheapest and easiest material to work with. So I started out with a lightweight plywood. When the first version was ready the weight of the board was surprisingly light. I was worried that wood would be too heavy, but it turns out it is not. I will call this the alpha board. Due to mistakes in measurements, the keyboard cable routing hole was misaligned. Also the cable groove for storing excess mouse cable was too short.

    I used the alpha board for over a month just testing out the feeling and I was pleasantly surprised. It was extremely comfortable and I still had precision control while gaming, on par with gaming at a desk.

    This gave me the motivation to set the alpha board aside and start all over with the beta board. For the beta board I made sure not to repeat my mistakes with the first one. I also added an extra cable groove plus a simple slot for keeping my mobile phone handy while gaming. 

     

    Unfortunately the plywood used for the beta board was not so high quality. The board had lots of splinters and gaps in the ply. 

     

    To make sure it was comfortable I did a furious round of sanding the whole board and any corners by hand. After about 3 hours I was finally happy, the board was smooth and nice to the touch. I could have stopped here, but I was curious how I could make it good looking.

    Finishing
    The board was smooth but it was still a natural wood colour. My gaming board has to be black! Preferably a premium texture or a rubberized surface like those you find on some gaming mice. Plywood is not easy to paint, but painting it is the cheapest and easiest option. Then I remembered I had a can of a rubber spray paint from before, and I knew I had to try it. The original is called Plastidip but I found a cheaper option that is still of high quality. The spray paint is not really cheap, but affordable and long lasting. I’ve been using it on my car for the last year, and it’s still good as new. I know from before that plywood is really porous and will absorb paint like crazy, so it’s a bad idea to start spray painting with the Plastidip directly. 

    To give the board a base coat I used normal black spray paint which I had left over from my last car upgrade project. It’s a decent brand of paint so I painted two layers and let it dry. I thought it was going to be enough. 

    However when I painted with the Plastidip, I used up the full can on only the top of the board and I could still see how the plywood was sucking up the paint. 

    I was kind of disappointed but let the board dry after the 6 layers of Plastidip. After drying the surface was rough and not at all what I expected. At least the colour was very even and from a distance the board looks really good. Not so nice to the touch though. 

     

    All my hard work sanding the board was gone. So I took a fine sandpaper and gave it a light sanding to try to get some of the smooth feeling back. I succeeded but only after quite a bit of the Plastidip peeled off. On top of that, ALL of the board imperfections, such as the dents, splinter gaps and unclean cuts is now standing out when examining the board closely, which is very eyesore. 

    I guess to make this work I would have to use a wood filler + a good primer before painting. Not really a good solution. I’m still thinking about what to use to make the finish of the board feel premium, but still durable and long lasting. I guess I will have to make another board, lol.

    Detailing
    OK, so even if the finish of the board is far from optimal, I still needed to make sure that the cable management would work and that I had thought of everything for convenience and storage. 

     

    Industrial grade Velcro is the way to go for the keyboard. It’s so strong that I have to forcefully pry off my 2kg heavy Razer Keyboard off of the board. It’s really secure, which is awesome for storage. 

    I also found some really neat looking silicon cable organizers. These fit perfectly to the groove where I store the excess mouse cable. To route the mouse cable to the mouse bungee hole I used special slim cable clips that I found at a hardware store. I thought of nailing/screwing them down, but it seems that industrial grade double sided acrylic tape is enough to hold it. For the huge keyboard cable I stapled a cable tube inside the cable groove that holds the cable and keeps it from dangling and hitting my knees. It is flush with the board and make it virtually invisible.

    To top it off, I added an additional cable organizer to keep my headset cable secure to the board. This is awesome because it keeps the cable from tangling up with the peripherals and makes the headset feel as comfortable as if it was wireless. It also helps to hold on to the cable for easy storage.

    Finally, storage… everything is held into place except the headset (that I always disconnect anyway  since my wife got me a sweet looking headset stand) and the Logitech mouse. The mouse I didn’t want to disconnect due to the cable routing so it had to stay with the board while storing it. 

    I solved it by stapling a Razer pouch that I got with my former Deathadder 2013 gaming mouse. The mouse is long gone, but I kept the pouch. It has a neat drawstring to lock it down and prevent the mouse from falling out which makes it perfect for storing the mouse while I put the board away. The simple groove/slot that I added to keep my handphone on the board works great. But it needs some kind of anti slip treatment so that the phone stays secure even if I move the board around. I’m thinking of adding a thin strip of rubber to one side of the groove so that the phone won’t be able to move as easily. 

    The only issue left that need to be solved is the groove that acts as a mouse cable bungee. The cable keep popping off the groove edge and is really annoying when it pops back, because it disturbs the mouse movement. I need to find some kind of half ring or something to keep the wire in the groove. Will have to get back to you on that for a future update. 

    The last thing I did was to upgrade the mouse pad to a gaming grade Steelseries QCK mouse pad.

    Ergonomics
    OK, so now, the board is complete, but it is still resting on my lap. I tried using sofa pillows as support to keep it from resting on my legs. Problem was that the pillows didn’t provide any elbow support and would still feel wobbly when I shifted position. So, I went hunting for a better solution. I found EVA foam pads that was perfect in length to act as support “legs” for the board. It kept the board high enough that I would feel 0 pressure on my lap. 

    I bought 2 pairs and glued 2 and 2 of them together to make them much longer. Since they are now much longer, I have elbow support (YAY!) and with this setup I can now game for hours without any problems whatsoever. Under the board I put Velcro to be able to secure the pads to the board. However when I tested my solution I found that the Velcro was not really needed. The pure weight of the board + peripherals made it still quite stable. An added advantage was that I could move the pads around to make the shape I felt most comfortable with. Both the board and the EVA pads are easy to store away and out of sight. Mission accomplished!

     

    Final words
    I know exactly how this board would look like if I had more money and/or access to skilled craftsmen and the right tools. However this is absolutely perfect for me. Sure it could definitely look better and I already have ideas for visual enhancements, but most importantly, it works exactly how I imagined! Might want to add a can holder, but I have a mini fridge next to the sofa, so not really necessary, haha. (Picture below is before I upgraded the mousepad)

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