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Last Updated: 14th Aug 2019

By Gareth Evans


About eleven years ago I embarked on an adventure to create a Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements made from real elements. I wanted to create something special – in a word; unique. This requirement meant I would have to build it myself. First, I had to acquire a few basic hands-on skills – carpentry, metal work, glass blowing and graphic arts.

It was not easy. I had my fair share of critics. Regrettably many were fellow scientists and some Museum Curators who thought I was a bit ‘nutty’ for even thinking about building a Periodic Table of the Chemical Elements made from real chemical elements at home.

At standard temperature and pressure (0° Celsius and 1 atmosphere) the Periodic table of the Chemical Elements is dominated by metals. The metals include the alkali and alkaline earth metals, the lanthanide and actinide metals and the transition metals. Shown below are my completed tables of the transition metals also known as the d-block elements and the s-block elements also known as the alkali and alkaline earth metals. The s- and d- designations refer to the quantum mechanical state of the outer shell or valence electrons. A full discussion of valence electrons and quantum mechanical descriptions can be found on Wikipedia. Note that each block is 100 mm x 100 mm x 40 mm and each was created using simple equipment and at room temperature. The blocks are made of a material that is UV-hard, chemical resistant and it can withstand compressional forces exceeding 6000 PSI


On the left-hand side of a typical table we have a group of elements called the p-block. This group contains some metals, some semi-metals and a small group of non-metals. The non-metals are dominated by gases – nitrogen, oxygen, fluorine, chlorine and a group known as the Noble gases. The Noble gases comprise He, Ne, Ar, Kr, Xe and Rn.

The variability of the nature of the p-block elements meant the gases, the non-metals, the semi-metals and the metals of this section of the periodic table would need to be displayed as groups rather than be incorporated into a single table as was done with the s-block and d-block elements.

To give the gases a visual appeal I would need to get them to glow. Below is an example of both oxygen (right) and argon being energized by a circuit I designed.


The p-block also contains a very interesting group of elements called the halogens. This group comprises Fluorine, Chlorine, Bromine, Iodine and the highly radioactive element, Astatine.

From a pure aesthetics, the halogens are visually seductive and as such make great eye-catching displays.


For the halogens, and the other non-gaseous members of the p-block I decided to use a picture frame format. And shown below are the picture frames for the three most visually appealing halogens – Chlorine, Bromine and Iodine.

Every project begins with something and this adventure began with Tasmanian oak. It is in fact a species of Eucalyptus, and it is available in many lengths and widths from the local hardware store.

Here the bases are being routed on my 2HP vertical milling machine.

More routing on the milling machine - this time the ends of the stands.

The bases (plinths) are finished. Shown are the router bits I used - one of my many imports from China. Suffice to say that China has been very good to this old retired chemist!

Here the sides of the 'picture' frame are being routed to size with the aid of a carbide milling cutter. The cutter is for metal but it produces a very nice surface finish on the Tasmanian Oak.

The picture frame supports are complete.

The 'picture' frames are complete and now ready for staining and varnishing.

Frames on the end of the desk

The picture frames are almost complete. I am still musing over the style of the label. Inlaid with gold leaf, etched on brass or printed on acrylic - I just do not know. There are a few other artistic touches I would like to include. As Da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” So true!

The Halogens - labelled

I decided to use a similar labelling technique as I used with the large d-block chemical element table. In the top right-hand corner is the atomic symbol and chemical element name. In the bottom left is the atomic number, and in the lower right is the currently accepted atomic weight. I feel that this will not look too cumbersome, and the displays will still retain their ‘antique’ look.

There are a few other artistic features I would like to include, but now I can proceed with making similar stands for some of the other p-block elements.

The oxygen group comprising Sulphur, Selenium and Tellurium should make a visually appealing group.

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