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Last Updated: 7th 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.


No doubt you are all aware of my passionate interest in the chemical elements – even the nasty ones! It is hard to put into words the profound significance and importance of the chemical elements. A pious person would have to conclude that the periodic table of the chemical elements is a window into the mind of God. Everything that was (living and inanimate), is and will be is contained in the periodic table of the chemical elements. Reality is truly profound!

The creation of the elements is just as profound. Some formed in the belly of a star long dead. Some elements created from supernova explosions, and other elements created by the collision of neutron stars.

Too often when we collect minerals, and I too am guilty of this, we focus on just how pretty they are, without thinking about what makes them so pretty.

How to

In this how-to I will outline a few steps I took to create one of my very first tables. This table shows the s-block elements (excluding hydrogen) also known as the alkali and alkaline earth metals. I built this table at a time when I had access to some cheap and basic tools. In hindsight I would have preferred to make it out of stained and polished Tasmanian oak – something I might do in the coming months, now that I have some really first-class machine tools.


The photos above show the basic table, made from inexpensive pine bought from the local hardware store. I used a lot of wood screws, too many some might say, but I am a cautious man and I always wear both suspenders and a belt! The table must be structurally sound and very strong.


The photo above shows the decorations being added to the table – architraves – to give it a picture frame appearance.


The above photos show the table sanded with holes filled with wood putty ready for painting, and the painted picture frame. Also included is a photo of the rear of the table which also shows some of the very basic hand tools needed to make it.


Above is a photo of the spacers or shims. These were fabricated from a length of black acrylic from the local plastic supply shop and each shim was cut to size to match the height of the blocks.


Above is a photo of the material I used to make the labels. They were fabricated from acrylic (white) also from the local plastic shop. To make the labels I used inkjet compatible transparency film which had a sticky side. Once the ink was dry I careful covered the label with a sticky clear plastic sheet – the sort used to protect book covers. Support holes for wood screws were drilled in the white acrylic and the corners rounded.


The above photo shows the completed table (ca. 2013) minus blocks for Potassium and Calcium. Cesium and Rubidium were the only s-block elements I bought that were already sealed in ampoules. I had to fabricate all the other ampoules, and they were made from borosilicate glass test tubes sealed under high vacuum. The blocks are all 100 mm x 10mm x 40 mm in size.

Shown above are the sealed tubes for Lithium, Strontium and Barium respectively. The elements have a distinct metallic luster devoid of any oxidation.

Article has been viewed at least 981 times.

Discuss this Article

8th Aug 2019 17:07 BSTJeff Weissman Expert

Gareth - great background, story and project. I find that there is a certain tactile satisfaction when working with hand tools that is not apparent from power tools, and the resulting slight irregularities in the final project make it that much more interesting.  I am amazed at the clever solutions for each aspect of the work. How far along are you? And, what happened to Francium and Radium?

12th Aug 2019 22:56 BSTGareth Evans

Dear Jeff

I have completed the s-block, d-block elements, and most of the p-block elements as far as encapsulating most of the p-block elements in plastic or in the case of the gases plasma tubes. At the moment I am concentrating on the lanthanide metals, they are a very interesting group of metals, and now of great technological and strategic importance.

I think Sir William Crookes (February 16, 1887) said it all when he said of the lanthanide elements and I quote; 

‘These elements perplex us in our researches, baffle us in our speculations, and haunt us in our very dreams. They stretch like an unknown sea before us – mocking, mystifying and murmuring strange revelations and possibilities.’

At the time he had no idea on just how technologically important some of these elements would become.For the lanthanide elements I will be using two approaches for their display. For the elements La, Ce, Pr, Nd, Sm and Eu I will seal them in large apothecary style bottles under argon. Each will be sealed in its own bottle, and I am in the process of machining the gas-tight stoppers. 

I will make a display stand for each out of Tasmanian oak. I have posted a few pictures of this style of bottle on my Mindat homepage. For the elements Gd, Tb, Dy, Ho, Er, Tm and Yb they will be displayed in the borosilicate glass tubes with Tasmanian Oak end caps. 

I have also posted pictures of these on my mindat homepage, but they will not be sealed under argon. The only element in the group that needs special attention is Europium, but it is no more difficult to work with than lithium. The quantities of the lanthanide elements I have on hand vary from 500 grams to 1.2 kilogram.

I am also thinking about making a much larger display for the halogens. I would like to display a borosilicate glass tube containing at least 50 ml of liquid chlorine, and the tube would, for obvious reasons, be encapsulated in plastic. 

Kind Regards,

14th Aug 2019 13:02 BSTRalph Bottrill Manager

Excellent work Gareth!

14th Aug 2019 21:46 BSTGareth Evans

Hello Ralph:Many thanks for your kind words.When I started this adventure with the chemical elements I had a lot of critics. The usual remarks such as, not even a chemist could build such a table at home. It would cost too much, and who would be willing to sell you materials. Well suffice it to say that the Chinese have been good to me. The Chinese will sell you anything, and I repeat absolutely anything – and at bargain prices. All my lanthanide metals come from China. The local hardware stores have also been good to me – again you can get just about anything you need in the paint, garden and home improvement sections of the local hardware store. My sulphur (99.9%) is a product from the garden section, and you can buy it in 500 gram or 1 kg amounts for very little cost. It is used to lower the pH of alkaline soils. You can buy gold, silver, platinum, palladium and rhodium from any bullion supplier and in any amount you need. Most other things are available on EBay.Once you have the materials the next part is working out the best way to display them so they will be eye catching. The techniques I used to encapsulate the elements required some experimentation to get a first-rate product. The usual way to encapsulate just about anything is the acrylic method. It requires mixing two components and then subjecting the mixture to a pressure of 80 PSI and a temperature in the range of 120 to 160 degrees C for about two hours. It is not a method that can be easily done at home, and some elements, even those contained within borosilicate glass tubes, are not happy being treated in such a way. The method I used was labour intensive but was done at room temperature without the application of elevated pressures.I still have a lot of ideas for additional display formats.Best RegardsGareth

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