Chesapeake Bay Coffee Table





Introduction: Chesapeake Bay Coffee Table

Tables and Desks Contest 2016

First Prize in the
Tables and Desks Contest 2016

Being from the Chesapeake Bay area and a fan of maps, I made a to scale, topographic map of the Chesapeake Bay, and then made it into a coffee table.

With cad software you can scale this down or up to engrave onto almost anything. You could also do another region.

Materials used

Lumber- I used 2x12 Pine, it would be better to use Oak or Walnut or anything other than Pine.

Wood Glue


Bar Clamps

Rhino (or any other drafting software)

CNC machine

Sand Paper



1" Black Pipe

1" Pipe Flanges


Tempered Glass

Step 1: Build Your Table

So I used 2x12 Pine I got from Lowe's. Now, if I were to do this again, I would go to a lumber yard and pick out Oak or Cherry or a nicer lumber. But alas, it worked and was easy to obtain, it's just not as pretty.

Cut your lumber to size and sand it down. Next biscuit it together using biscuits and a biscuit joiner and of course wood glue.

Bar clamp it across the top and bottom for two hours until the glue is cured.

I used a glass top on my table and purchased it first and cut my table top to match. I suggest doing this. Otherwise it will be harder to get a piece of glass to match your custom table top.

Step 2: Draft Your Map

Here's that hard part.

I used satellite images and Coast Guard maps to draft my map as accurately as possible. Everything's online, especially google maps.

Depending on your thickness, decide how many layers you need.

My table was 1 1/2" thick and had 5 different layers. My Z scale was for every 3/16" of an inch depth cut into the table equalled 10' in the Bay.

My X,Y scale ended up being 1":22,000'

I made it so anywhere in the table that was 80' deep or deeper, was cut through all the way and you can see to the floor below.

Depending on your software for your CNC machine, you may need to alter how you draft your topographic map. I used Rhino and Torchmate.

Step 3: Milling the Map

Plug and play!

Send your cad file into your CNC software and make all adjustments as needed depending on your table thickness, layer depths, and your router.

Then watch it cut. It's always smart to stay in the room and watch the entire cut in case the program faults or the bit slips. My cut took 7 hours.

After it's done, take it out and sand down any rough places.

Step 4: Stain and Seal

Choose a stain you like and apply a few coats.

Do the same with a sealant.

You may want to mess around with painting the inside to look like water or fill it with resin.

Step 5: Add Some Legs, and Enjoy

You can choose whatever style leg you want. For my apartment I liked the black pipe style. It's easy to get from Lowe's or Home Depot.

You can get one long piece of pipe and have the employees at the store cut it to length and even thread it. Don't forget to get four flanges to match.

Simply screw the flanges into the underside where you want the legs, then thread the pipe into the flange.

Put the glass back on top, now enjoy your sweet new table. Invite some friends over and have them start picking out where they live or vacation on your table.



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    Congratulations on the win in the Tables and Desks contest! Your table was my wife's favorite entry.

    So beautiful! We are from Glen Burnie, MD and my father-in-law had a small boat and he would often take the kids and hubby when we were visiting (we were Army so didn't get to spend as much time up home as we would like) and go out on the Chesapeake Bay. I am not much of a boater, but we did visit the area often as well. Love it and good luck!

    This idea could be really cool if you take a thin layer of darker wood and laminate it on top before doing the routing (even just a 1/8" veneer). This would give a more dynamic range to the land vs the bay.

    Good work. What scene shop are you working out of?

    Read what you said and got the thought that this would look great if done in plywood.

    Like a bunch of laminates.

    Anyhow. GREAT idea here. Love the way it turned out :)

    Thanks, Right now I'm a graduate student at Ohio Unviersity.

    Ahhhh, tell Dan-Mike and Vince hello.

    Nice art piece. Great use for the cnc.

    Can you explain how you got vector files from the maps? Do you find vector elevation maps on the web, delete the vectors you don"t need?,

    You are sure right about staying around to watch the cut "just in case" .

    You can download images form online and import them into a cad program. Then re-scale and alter. You can try to rasterize the image, or just trace over it with the line tool in whichever program you have.

    So I drew the actual vector files. Both from importing images and tracing, and referencing on a different screen as I drew them.