Tessellated Optical Illusion Coffee Table!!




Introduction: Tessellated Optical Illusion Coffee Table!!

So, we got tired of a cookie cutter, nice, coffee table. At the same time were given an interior door from my wifes great-grandmothers(Maw-Maw Walker house.

I looked on the line for ideas.

OMG!!! It's been done a billion times over...Can I put my own spin on it?

I started looking on instructables and saw a coffee table that is based on geometry:


Ok, origami.

I piddled with this a little when I was little and could remember folding up some funky stuff. Later on in the Google age. I liked trying to do some geometric origami. Tessellations. Google that.

Yep pretty awesome!!!

This is my What & Why...The rest is the How

Step 1: Can I Make a Small Scale?

I figured that I have one door and one chance. So to make sure that I don't screw my door up, I made a mock up. And I am glad that I did.

The door started out 80"x30". My finish table top will be 24"x48". To get the ends to be right, I had to cut the middle six out. I did not realize this until my mock up.

I labelled all of them from the bottom up. Started with L1&R1. The Angles that I used is 13degrees.


It just looked right. I couldn't find my pics. But I mocked up a 2x4 12, 13,14, degrees. I thought they all looked the same. So I chose 13 because it sounded cool. Plus, I went to get a tattoo, yeah, gettin' ink done. Asked for a 13 but they drew a 31!!!!

The flip flopping of angles was hard to do. It was a lot of turning around on a chop saw. I started out with eight feet by four feet of three/quarter plywood. It was not enough. Between the missed cuts and "dangit" wrong angles. I ended up using about sixteen feet.

Step 2: Cutting Up the Door!

The things I used most was a Compound Mitre saw and a table saw.

Start off with the table. I wanted to save as much as possible in case I needed some uh'oh material. I ran it on the cross cut down to thirty(wide)x48(tall). Making sure to keep the mortise for the knob.

The know would be a big selling point to keeping the door theme.

Next, Split it down the middle. then I had two pieces 15x48.

Now to the Chop saw?

Being 12" square, the hypotenuse is longer than my chop saw. This makes my cutting a little more precarious.

Either way, I stick to the plan. I use my mock to check all my angles. No room for missed cuts. If each panel is to line up. No pressure????

Whatever!! It worked.

Step 3: Biscuits, NO Gravy?

Joinery and Glue.

The first pic is my biscuit jig. It keeps allof the angles and facing lined up.

I always thought the cutting of the door would be the hard part.

The second pic are the boards with 13 degree angles cut on them. This will serve to mount and screw the door up while the glue hardens. Clamp jigs that I made up sucked!!!

The best thing was to line up the left and right first. then glue up to the big mast.

There was a few gaps and offsets along the way. Nothing that a little wood glue and saw dust couldn't fix.

another thing that was part of the original concept is; we wanted a rough patina. Learned that from Lara Spencer on Flea Market Flip.

Step 4: Making the Table

The Table needs to be topped out at 19 inches. the door is 3 inches in girth. This gives a rough table of sixteen by 48 ish. It also had to have a bottom shelf.

I won't bore you thru all the details. The top part is made of white pine. The legs are doubled yellow pine one by four on a 13 degree angle. I thought this would accentuate the top a little. The shelf is yellow pine also with plywood in the middle.

The hard part of this was getting the apron to fit tight under the crooked part. The best jig I could come up with was a two inch offset marking scribe. This set off all the angles. Then I cut on a bandsaw at a thirteen degree angle all the way. It didn't hve to be, but it can't be seen and makes it all tight with no problems.

Step 5: Sand and Paint

Before I could sand I backed out all of the screws. Filled with a wood putty made from titebond glue and saw dust.

I used a random orbital Ryobi and a mouse sander for the corners. 80,120,220 grit.

The trick of the matter is to sand smooth but leave some bumps and imperfections. To purposely leave these imperfections is a little disheartening.

I then sprayed the table, and brushed the top.

Step 6: More Glory Shots!!

Hey! It took me two months. Let me show off my hard work. Thanks for looking, and sharing, if you did.

Step 7: Kick Back

Kick Back, Chill, and vote for me in the laser contest.


Step 8: Write an Instructable

This part is fun. Go thru all the pictures and just think about the whole process.

When I was thinking of the title, I just hit the wall. All I could really come up with was lame pun ideas. Or non exciting titles.

Another old door coffee table?

So I shot a message to a very respected, creative, helpful member for help.


He came up with this crazy title and I love it! So, big thanks to him and the whole instructable community for such a great site.

Is this a tessellation?

A lot of discussion on the comments suggest it isn't. Here is websters definition:

a covering of an infinite geometric plane without gaps or overlaps by congruent plane figures of one type or a few types

Math is fun:

A pattern made of identical shapes:
• the shapes must fit together without any gaps
• the shapes should not overlap

The table has six exact same trapezoids with contrasting side angles.
And four halves of the same trapezoid. Confused? A Tessellation? Seems like it to me.

Also, is it an optical illusion? I took a lot of pics of the table. I intentionally used the ones in this ible that distinctly showed all of the shape and angles.



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    41 Discussions

    "Kick Back, Chill, and vote for me in the laser contest."

    - I like that :)

    Amazing project, great result. Congratulations!

    Is this suppose to be ironic because you can't put coffee on it?

    I had to stop and appreciate that classic '98 Offspring tune tossed in there B-]

    "Now he's gettin' a tattoo yeah, he's gettin' ink done. He asked for a 13, but they drew a 31. They say he's tryin' too hard, but he's not quite hip. But in his own mind, he's the, he's the dopest trick!"

    Oh, nice coffee table too haha.

    Really, and you made a fantastic 'ible for it. Keep that left-hemispheric geometry mingling with that right-hemisphere's creativity and all will be well in the world.

    Great piece, the world needs more art. What a talking point!

    this is cool, but like others confused about the name...it is not an optical illusion

    Optical illusion or not this is one bad @$$ table
    End tables are for coffee cups coffee tables are for feet
    Rock on brother


    2 years ago

    I can only add that I find the naming confusing and misleading in that there is no optical illusion involved whatsoever...

    your table is not exactly a tesselation but is still super cool and i am totally voting for you.


    2 years ago

    This is the best. Great job.......but a point of clarity...this is neither a Tesselation or and optical illusion. It is a real thing and outstanding. I can not see a side profile, would putting the door handle on a down slope allow room for a glass top?

    1 reply

    I love the resin block idea! Could even "float" some weird stuff in there, plastic gold fish, so it would be a weird optical illusion of a fish tank... ha!

    Looks cool. And I love projects that cause more problems than they solve, so here is an idea for your next project..... make cups / plates / magazine racks / beer coozies / wine glasses that have specific spots on the table where they can sit straight.... inadvertent problem solved, you'll know which drink is yours at a party, because it will always be at the same spot on the table! BAM! Winning!

    1 reply

    Don't let the trash-talkers bother you; this was a cool idea and build whether or not it provides a flat top convenient for putting coffee cups on. They probably learned something about how to build, even if they don't realize it.

    An easy way to quell the dissenters and maintain the top as intended by the builder, would be to make a couple of removable surfaces with flat tops and angled bottoms to place firmly and securely onto particular sections of the door, to be held in place by the edges of the contour and gravity. But it's still pretty awesome without them.

    Hello, I love tessellations, optical illusions, geometric visuals, etc. so your instructable really caught my eye. I just love the project. Well done! Beautifully skilled artistry.

    And your choice of medium really got me thinking... could this style of door be hung and actually open and close? I'm sure the frame would look pretty far out awesome too. And this begs the next question: what would the room on the other side of this door look like?!!!

    I'm in. Someday, I will build my own tessellated room.

    Looks great and I love the idea, but how would this work with coffee cups on top? with it being angular and all that

    3 replies

    I agree with you. Looks great, but I'm a little confused how you keep full glasses on it. I thought the optical illusion was going to be that it was actually flat, just looked wonky.

    I was expecting the end result to be flat too, and that it only looked angled. That said, what an awesome looking table!

    Yeah, i can't see how it's an optical illusion...

    but awesome instructable, still great result congratulations on all your hard work and thanks for sharing!!