Redecorating? Consider A Periodic Table Table

You won't find this table at Ikea. . . or anywhere else. This one-of-a-kind table houses samples of almost every chemical element. Each sample is nested in a square cubby with a wooden lid that is carved with the element symbol, name and number.

Who is the master craftsman behind the table? Theodore W. Gray, winner of The American Chemical Society (ACS) 2011 James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public.

In 2002 he started working on the table after reading the book "Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood" by Oliver Sacks. He misread what the book stated about a Periodic Table table (it was just a normal wall display of the table but he thought it was an actual table.) He took it upon himself to create the cool cubby-holed representation of the Periodic Table of Elements.

A video of Gray, author of several books and a column in Popular Science, shows him opening little doors on the compartments to reveal all his treasures.

He rarely takes out the Mercury sample for fear of dropping it, stating that OSHA would have opinions about spilled Mercury in the workplace. And he had to practice removing his Tungsten sample with just his forefinger and thumb -- the sample weighs about 11 pounds. He keeps the more valuable samples in a safe – niobium, gold, platinum, he even has a silver bullet to combat werewolves if need be.

All said, he has thousands of samples of elements in his workshop – not all in the table. His display cases are filled with vials and bottles that look like they should be on display in a traveling snake oil show or in an evidence room in a crime lab. In fact, Gray won't even touch the bottle of Radithor he has because the cork is radioactive.

To view the video of the Periodic Table Table, visit To check out several cool chemistry/science-related videos, go to

Traci Purdum
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