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The project I'm working on is creating a (roughly) 4'x4' table topper that breaks down into two 4'x2' pieces. This topper will be placed on top of my 3'x3' dining table for things like board game nights. A 4'x4' table is too big for day to day purposes in my small apartment.

Currently, I have two pieces of 2'x4'x5/8" particle board for this purpose. A layer of grip mat will go between the topper and the table to protect the table and keep the topper from sliding. A play mat will be placed on top of the topper. As is, it's functional by simply placing the two pieces of particle board side by side on the table. My main concern is someone leaning on the edge of one and flipping it up. So I'd like to come up with an inexpensive option for locking them together on the underside when in use. Preferably without wearing out the particle board (like constantly installing/removing screws).

Right now the best option I've come up with is to counter sink some bolts in the top and try to get them lined up with holes in metal strips. The metal strip can then be used on the bottom and held in place with some nuts. I've also considered trying piano hinges to make it a folding topper. Before committing to anything, are there any better alternatives people can think of that only requires basic tools?enter image description here

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  • If this is to be repeatedly disassembled and reassembled, you may want to consider using a more durable material (or add a more durable veneer) and/or using thicker material better able to support the weight of someone leaning on it. As you noted, people will inevitably bump or lean on the topper, so any sort of topper would ideally also securely fasten to the table underneath (possibly via one or more clamps). Perhaps the two halves don't need to fasten to each other, but could both clamp to the table below. You could use dowels for alignment, similar to a removable-leaf table.
    – rob
    Jul 26 at 3:08
  • Hi, welcome to StackExchange. You can actually do this with regular nuts and bolts, working somewhat like cam-lock hardware, and quite a bit more solidly (they really pull the two pieces together) and much cheaper too. However installation is more difficult, you still have to buy a Forstner/similar drill bit, and set up and take down will be slower and more tedious every time. This was actually my second thought however..... literally the first thing that popped into my head was a soft hinge, and that was before I'd read the full Q and seen you'd already thought of a hinge yourself. [contd]
    – Graphus
    Jul 26 at 7:41
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    A soft hinge would simply be made from duct tape or something similarly tough, and it would last a surprisingly long time in service if you're careful. But obviously a piano hinge would be a lot stronger and more durable. Personally I think one or other of these is the ideal solution in a lot of ways, since it makes setting up and take-down soooo fast, and of course it ties the two boards together which has lots of advantages.
    – Graphus
    Jul 26 at 7:43
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You may discover that cam lock furniture hardware will do as you require. Amazon is one of many sources for this type of hardware. The linked item requires a 13 mm hole on one part of the assembly and a 6 mm hole on the other. Those sizes in drill bits are not particularly expensive.

Cam Lock Hardware

The hole has to be 0.4" deep which isn't excessive, considering you have 0.625" thick wood, but you'd want to be precise with your drilling. Use a hand drill jig to keep the bit perpendicular to the surface and a similar jig to limit the depth. A spade bit may tear out and also cut through, while a Forstner bit is going to be less problematic, but slightly more expensive.

Of course, the advantage of this hardware is the ease of disassembly. A quarter turn of the locking drum and the joint is free. Some risk is involved in the protruding pins being broken off, but they extend, in this example, only slightly more than 3/4" of an inch.

The Amazon link provides 30 pieces for US$8.99, which leaves plenty to use on a protective strip if you so desire.

Images courtesy of linked site.

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My initial thought was a couple of regular leaf hinges, but your piano hinge idea would work as well.

You want this to lay flat on the table and not have anything that could damage the table underneath. To that end, you'd want to recess the hinge into the surface of the topper so that it sits flush.

Which you would choose would depend on what tools you have or have access to.

If you have to do this with only hand tools, cutting 2 or 3 recesses for individual hinges would be much easier than cutting one looong recess for the piano hinge. On the other hand, a table saw will make simple, quick work of cutting one long, shallow rabbet along the mating edges of the topper pieces in which the piano hinge would sit.

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