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Art Deco Table With Hidden Trompe L'oeil Interior

Listing #3993   Listed on: 11/03/2012

Company Name: CT Fine Furniture

Contact Name:   CraigThibodeau

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This Art Deco table was my first exploration into Trompe L’oeil marquetry imagery. The table commission itself began as just a nice Deco style table without any of the extra details. To that base we added the two pop out drink trays in Maple and Ebony with polished Stainless Steel inserts. The client and I then began discussing what to do with the interior space of the central column. A variety of ideas were tossed about until the client settled on a Trompe L’oeil image hidden behind a secret door with a couple more secret areas hidden in the image. My website creator Chad Thompson of Monkey C Media volunteered to shoot some nice video of the piece in action so all the secret areas could be seen moving.

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Art Deco Table Video

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The table is made with Pau Ferro veneer layed up in a waterfall fashion so it flows down and over each of the levels of the table. The top is quilted Maple surrounded by a thin Ebony inlay.

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This photo shows the table with all of its misc. hidden areas open, including the two drink trays, the primary secret door, the secondary small door, and the hidden drawer in the Trompe L'oeil floor tiles. There is one more secret area that holds the magnetic key used to open all the hidden areas but it's not visible in this picture.

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The small door in the image leads to a small space with a polished quilted Bubinga floor and arched ceiling. The veneer for the walls and ceiling gradually change to darker colors as they go deeper into the cavity to increase the sense of depth, sort of worked but sort of not. It does look cool though when you look up to the ceiling and see the detailing, unfortunately I didn't get any good pictures of that. SOSS hinges were the only hinges that would allow the main door to function properly and keep the gaps to a minimum from the outside.

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We worked out a system of imbedded rare earth magnets that would hold pieces in place but also allow them to be opened with a special magnetic key. The main secret door is held closed by four magnets and there are additional magnets buried inside the hidden drawer and the outside face of the secret door.

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We decided the special magnetic key should be hidden somewhere on the outside of the table so it could be accessed easily but not seen. The key itself has been veneered to match the surrounding wood and is spring loaded so a gentle push makes it pop out. It can then be used to open the main secret door and also to pull out the hidden drawer. The magnetic key is solid Ebony with Mother of Pearl inlays on both sides. You can see a quick glimpse of where the magnetic key is hidden in the video.

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The drink trays (one on each side of the table) are spring loaded so a gentle push pops them open until they hit a padded stop. They both have polished stainless steel inserts that can be removed for cleaning if necessary. It took some time to work out a mechanism that would allow the trays to open and close consistently while also allowing for and minimizing any wood movement issues that could cause problems in the future. The feet are also polished stainless steel which I have found to be quite expensive to have machined and polished, I'm not sure what alternative material would give the same look for less cost though.

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For anyone that's interested I drew the Trompe L'oeil image by hand then had it scanned and laser cut in a variety of veneers. What I got back from my laser cutter was a whole bunch of little baggies of parts that needed to be sorted into color and size and assembled into the background pieces. This proved to be quite time consuming because I mistakenly made many of the parts similar in size and shape which prolonged the assembly process unnecessarily. Live and learn, next time the pieces will be reshaped to not be so interchangeable.

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Here is the image partly assembled. I had enough parts cut to make two different images, one is still partly assembled and I haven't decided what I'll be doing with it yet.

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Here's another image of the pictures being roughly assembled on a copy of the drawing. At this point I'm just getting things together enough to see all the colors and switch out the ones that don't look correct. Thanks for looking and as always any comments or questions are welcome.

Viewer Comments:

Posted By: James McGrew     [11/04/2012]
Very nice work!

Posted By: steve     [11/05/2012]
Most impressed.

Posted By: Johnny     [11/07/2012]
Truly fine furniture as usual.

Posted By: Craig Thibodeau     [11/09/2012]
Thanks for the comments, glad you like the work.

Posted By: Bryan Frymire     [11/12/2012]
Most awesome table ever. Those stainless steel feet do look great, don't they? Superb work.

Posted By: Mickey Singer     [11/13/2012]
Awesome - as usual! Love the use of magnets, and flawless marquetry as always. Could you use polished aluminum as a substitute, or is it too soft?

Posted By: Craig Thibodeau     [11/13/2012]
Hi Mickey and Bryan, thanks for the compliments. Mickey, I have used polished aluminum in the past which worked ok except for light corrosion/oxidation that appears not long after polishing. That can be held back a bit with a clear lacquer topcoat but any holes and it starts to corrode a bit. Another option is silver plated polished aluminum which has a better color but it also has oxidation issues and is quite expensive to get done well. So the long and short is that SS is probably the best but not least expensive choice, at least for me.

Posted By: Terry Pullen     [11/15/2012]
Inspiring work. Thank you for taking the time to show us pictures.
For the feet look into Luminore, they might be able to help.

Posted By: Howard Lobb     [11/16/2012]
Wow. So impressed with the work and skill level in the Art Deco Table. You have a new fan here.

Posted By: vernon russell     [11/17/2012]
I love it! I painted one of these on an lod building in Grand Rapids Michigan and I had to go back and make it not so real. People were walking into a wall.

Posted By: Craig Thibodeau     [11/17/2012]
Howard and Vernon, thanks for the nice comments.

Posted By: Kevin     [11/27/2012]
A wonderful display of talent, patience, and vision. Thanks for taking the time to post this. Where do you find a market for such a fine work of art?

Posted By: Mike G     [11/27/2012]
Beautiful piece Craig. Do you care to explain how you springload the key and drink trays?

Posted By: Craig Thibodeau     [11/27/2012]
Thanks again for all the nice comments. Mike, the spring loading is not really very complicated; the really time consuming part is fitting the trays and key to the openings with just enough gap to allow them to move but no more so they stay mostly hidden. The springloaded part is actually done with Blum Tip-On door openers mounted behind the tray/key parts. I went through a number of more complicated design possibilities before settling on those. They are ideal because of the minimal footprint and the reliable operation. They are also replaceable if by chance they get damaged. The tray stop point is adjusted with a screw-in metal part behind the tray and is preset before the trays are semi-permanently mounted in place. They can be removed if necessary but the table would come back to the shop for that. Hope that helps.

Kevin, my work sells primarily through word of mouth so each sale builds groundwork for the next. Lately I have been trying to push the boundaries of my work (complexity wise) and that seems to garner some additional attention which always helps generate interest.

Posted By: Mike G.     [11/28/2012]
Genius use of stock hardware! I just love the idea of "hidden" compartments in plain sight. I have admired your work and your Fine Woodworking articles for quite some time. Keep up the amazing work and thanks so much for sharing a few of your tricks!

Posted By: Craig Thibodeau     [11/28/2012]
Thanks Mike. I could see general opinion of using stock hardware going two ways; genius or lazy. No need to reinvent the wheel with my own personal mechanism when a good one already exists in my opinion.

Posted By: Susan Kiely     [11/30/2012]
A beautiful piece of furniture/art.

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