Well, I think I was ready to start finishing. I wanted to finish the case before gluing in the board, since I was counting on the finish protecting the wood from the glue and grout. I started with poly, but the sanding in between coats was a bit aggressive and started leaving big splotches in the finish. No good.
So I sanded everything back to wood and went with an alternative. i had to leave for a week, so I soaked everything good in Danish oil and let that cure while I was away. Next I came back and hit it with a lacquer using an hvlp gun. This left a nice, glossy finish over a deep color that I really like.
Then I trimmed the playing field to size and glued it into the rabbet from the bottom using whatever I could find for weight to clamp until the glue dried.
After that, I measured and built the drawers. Plenty of blogs on that, so I will just say I used box joints and a piece of cherry I had left from another project. The rails and slides I also made from this cherry piece. One thing I did that I thought was novel/clever was to put screws into the center divider that could be adjusted as depth stops. I mortised rare earth magnets into the backs of te drawers to “catch” the screws and line up the carvings on the front.
Once everything fit well enough for my tastes, I cut a bottom from ply, marked out where all of the runners were underneath it, ran a stripe of glue to all of them, and tacked it on with brads. Until the glue dries, I am making use of my weighting system once again.
I suspect I will paint the plywood black, or cover it with black felt if I really feel like working. Then add some felt pads around the edges to protect whatever this beast sits on (I bet it weighs all of 15 pounds, the tiles are heavvvvvy).
Once I have it grouted and waxed, I’ll post it as a finished project. Just in time for his upcoming birthday; I think he’ll love it.