Do It Yourself: Wood Dungeon Master Screen

Greetings Readers of the Page!!  Rip’s wife here.  

So, Rip told me that someone was interested in a sort of “how to” on the screen I made for him for Christmas.  I didn’t think about someone wanting a tutorial on it, and unfortunately I didn’t take pictures as I went.  I can, however, tell you more or less how I did it and just hope that it makes enough sense to whoever might want to make one of their own.

Rip using old screen
 As Rip pointed out in his post his well-used copy of the DM screen for 2e has seen better days.  The seams are totally overworked from the years of opening and closing.  One seam is about halfway ripped out, and as he also mentioned, if you want to buy a new one they’re astronomical!  The cheapest I could find a used one for (and honestly no telling what kind of condition it’s really in) was around $35, and for a new one I was looking at $75.  Now, I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but that’s a little steep for a screen made out of something that’s about the same weight as poster board.  Yes, we love the game, but for the love of all the lost gods, that is way too freakin’ much for a DM screen.  To the internet I went to try and find an Instructable or even Etsy to see if someone had already made one.  Well, I found lots of wood ones, none with the tables inside, and while they’re gorgeous to look at, I didn’t want to shell out nearly $200 for something that I could make myself.  I’m crafty, so why the hell not?

I tried looking for craft wood at Hobby Lobby that would work for my project.  No dice.  Either the pieces weren’t thick enough, or were too thick, or weren’t big enough to hold a regular size sheet of paper.  I did find the brass hinges I used there.  They’re about two inches long and work perfect.  They cost me all of $2 a package.  My next stop was Menard’s.  I went to where they have the rows of wood to find what I wanted.  Honestly, you could use whatever type of wood suits you.  You want to pay out for Oak, then by all means buy Oak but to duplicate what I did, you need it to be 12 inches long, 10 inches wide, and 1 inch thick.  I looked at the ½ inch stuff, but to be brutally honest, I wanted something that was going to be stout enough to put up with the table getting bumped and jiggled, papers hanging off of it, or the DM knocking into it and not knock the poor thing over.  They had a section with what looked like wood for craft type projects.  One side had Pine and the other side had Aspen.  I did look at the Pine, but like my oldest son who was with me pointed out; the Pine was kind of soft and maybe wouldn’t put up with much abuse.  The Aspen felt nice, would take stain well, and price wise wasn’t too shabby.  I spent $18 on the piece I purchased. I bought a piece that was 4’x12”x1”.  Perfect!  They have a saw there at the store and if you ask they’ll cut it for you.  Each panel is 12”x10”x1” and as you can see in the picture, you’ll need four panels. 

The next step was the stain.  You can use whatever stain you like.  I bought mine at Walmart for $3.99.  It was just one of those small cans of stain.  Gunstock is the color I used.  The pictures Rip posted up really don’t do that stain justice.  It turned out with a very warm sort of reddish tone.  However, if you prefer something darker or lighter, or would just like to leave it natural, do what works for you.  The Aspen only needed one coat.  It soaks up stain like nobody’s business and I didn’t want to overdo it.  Just make sure you do it somewhere well ventilated and put something down to protect your surfaces.  I accidentally got a little overspray on my kitchen table due to being a little overzealous while brushing it on.  Whoops!  Leave it to dry for at least 24 hours before moving on to the next step or you might end up with a mess on your hands.

The second night of work was applying the tables and pictures to it.  We have a combo printer so I was able to make copies of Rip’s original screen.  I did try to find pdf’s of his screen, but either I’m not smart enough to find them on the internet, they don’t exist, or I’m not smart enough to find them on the internet. Ha ha. In the end, it works out that I used his original screen anyway.  If the rest of y’all are anything like my favorite DM, your screen has spots and stains on it too, and you can tell a story about each one of those stains.  In other words, it means something specifically to you and it’s sentimental.  Those stains and spots carried over to the copies, and I was okay with that.   

My first panel (these are going left to right) has these tables-Morale ratings, calculated THAC0S, saving throws, visibility ranges. Second panel-Turning undead, thief average ability table, encounter reactions, armor class ratings, standard modifiers, and surprise modifiers. Third panel-Weapon damage and missile weapon ranges. Fourth panel-Missile weapon ranges, calculated THAC0s, turning undead, Punching and wrestling results, Armor modifiers for wrestling, and standard exchange rates for money. They’re exact copies of his original screen, so they’re laid out just the same.  However, a person could make their own tables, make a copy of their own screen, whatever would work in your world can be put onto your screen.   But remember this, once you’ve decoupaged them on, they’re on there, so make sure it’s what you really want. For the pictures I used the dragons fighting off of his original cover, and since we also play a Gothic Earth/Ravenloft setting, I printed off a picture of Strahd and his brides for the other center panel.  

 Once my tables and pictures were printed off I used a lighter and singed around all of the edges to give them an old beat up look.  Be careful while singeing though.  You can lose control of your fire quick and burn up your page before you know it.  

 Next was the decoupage.  I used the outdoor formula of Mod Podge.  The jar I bought cost around $8. If you have a really small budget you can use Elmer’s glue and a touch of water and do the same thing.  I wanted the heavy duty outdoor stuff because there’s always the potential for something wet to get spilled at the table and I wanted it to be able to withstand just about anything.  Figure out how you want your pages put on each panel before you start so you can get an idea for lay out before you’re stuck with it. Then, remove the picture/sheet, lay down a thin layer of Mod Podge over the whole surface, place the paper down on the glue making sure you smooth it out well as you go and get rid of any bubbles.  You can even use a credit card to smooth it down if necessary.  I also roll my pages “backwards” before laying them down so I know the edges won’t roll up on me.  Once the page is down good, cover it with a thin layer and cover the whole side of the panel.  Allow to dry for a good 15-20 minutes before adding another layer to it.  I only did a couple of layers and mine is sealed pretty damn well.  Allow your panels to dry in a warm, dry place before continuing.  I had a short time frame for mine, and once my middle two were just barely tacky to the touch I put the pictures on the backs of those panels.  This proved to be slightly problematic during the curing process, but luckily with the panels being thick enough I was able to stand them up so they could cure.

Lastly, was putting on the hinges.  I wanted the whole thing to be able to fold in on itself when not in use.  The idea I had in my head looked something like a “W” when slightly folded up.   If the hinges are put on right, all of the decoupaged surfaces are protected and the only thing showing is wood. So with the middle two panels I laid them on the table with the picture sides showing towards me.  I lined up the panels and had them to where they were touching.  The hinges are each placed about an inch and a half in from the top and bottom and screwed into place.  Next, I flipped them over to tables side up and starting with the left panel I repeated what I did on the other side, and then finished with the far right hand panel.  When folded up, the pictures end up touching each other, and then the tables are all touching each other, leaving just the plain wood showing.    Total cost thus far-$30.

Final thoughts-I do have some more ideas for it to make it better.  My oldest made the suggestion of adding brass corners to the panels.  With the warmth of the wood stain, brass looks amazing against it.  I did find some decorative brass corners online for about $2.99 for a pack of 4.  They screw into place, and I think they would totally set off the whole thing.  I also have a couple of magnet strips to add to the tops of a couple of the panels.  On one of the Instructables I found ages ago, a guy had done that to one he’d built and I think it’s brilliant.  Rip’s always trying to find ways of getting his stuff a little better organized at the table and out of the way.  With the magnet strips he could put paper clips on the top of a map/character sheet/NPC card/etc. and then tack it to the panel.  Easy peasy.  The last and final thing I’d like to do I have to wait until the weather gets warmer, and that’s to spray a clear coat over the whole thing to completely and totally seal it in.  I want to make sure this thing is close to indestructible. 

Anyway, I hope I didn’t ramble too much and you found this to be useful.  This was a fun project to work on and I’m so glad he loves it.  I have to take care of my favorite DM ya know. ;)


Anonymous said...

Could you potentially post your pdf/copy of the sheets? I'd like to make one with the same sheets as the original.
Thanks, and good post

RipperX said...

That would be naughty, Anonymous.

Euphemnion said...

Awesome. I've always wanted to go totally oriental and add peirced brass parts, maybe even glass gems and an incense burner. :D You can also find nice brass parts at picture frame shops, or I'm guessing, places like Hobby Lobby.

Brandi said...

You weren't kidding when you said you're crafty. That's very nice! I started doing something like this for my husband, but for a different game. When I was working on it though, it fell off the table and it landed in a way that the hinges over-extended and it bent the metal! What type of metal were the hinges you used?

Unknown said...

Hi Brandi! I used brass hinges that I found at Hobby Lobby. I'm wanting to say they were back in the section that has the woodcraft stuff in it. Mine would probably bend too if it fell off of the table. This bad boy is hefty! When you get your hinges fixed, I wouldn't mind seeing pictures of it. I like seeing what other people do with theirs. :)

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