Timothy Armes' blog

Life as I experience it…


Designing the perfect still life table

wpid533-img-0344.jpgI’ve been asked to do a location shoot next week that requires the use of a still life table. I’ve been thinking about investing in a table like this for a while, so this was a good reason to take the opportunity.

After doing some research I was disappointed by the lack of models that are available. I needed a table that would meet several criteria:

  • It either had to fit in my car, or be quickly and easily collapsable, so that I could take it on location.
  • It needed to be relatively big – 1 meter wide plexiglass.
  • It needed to hold reasonably heavy objects
  • It needed to be in stock somewhere!

I couldn’t find any table that met all these requirements.  My research was leading me to choose between the Manfrotto 320 (too small), the Manfrotto 220 (too big) or the Elinchrom Multi-Table (too expensive).  Since the 220 and the Multi-Table were too big for the car once assembled, the time that’s needed to take them apart and put them back together would probably prove to be annoying.  This was all irrelevant in any case because I couldn’t find any French suppliers that had either of these two tables in stock.

The Multi-Table is made from Aluminium profiling, so it seemed reasonable that I could design my own made to measure table, and that’s exactly what I ended up doing.

Table design using Google SketchUp

I used the Elinchrom table as a basis (although I felt that one articulation was sufficient), using thick 8mm transparent Plexiglass for strength which supports a 2mm white Plexiglass sheet for the surface/background.  I bought the white Plexiglass from the local DIY store – the 1m x 2m size was absolutely perfect.

I designed the table using Google’s excellent SketchUp, and passed it to a local company that specialises in Aluminium profiling.  They then supplied me with everything cut to length and I just had to put it together.

The result is a table that fits perfectly in the car without having to take it apart (it’s just light enough to be lifted in by one person), and it fit’s comfortably in my garage studio (which suffers from a low ceiling). Thus, for me, it’s the perfect still life table, and it cost me about half that of the Elinchrom.  I could probably have saved money using wood, but aluminium profiling has several advantages:

  • It’s light.
  • It’s modular and there are lots of accessories available.  For example, I may add a rack and pinion system to allow for easier height adjustment.
  • It’s can be easily reconfigured to meet different needs.  I’ll probably add a second transparent shelf soon, so the ability to move parts about without adding holes is appreciated.
  • It’s very sturdy.

Here are a few more details…

With the back folded down it’s just off the ground so it can be moved easily:

With the back folded down it's just off the ground....

The Citroën Berlingo may not be the most stylish car money can buy, but it’s incredibly practical. We wouldn’t be without it now….

A perfect for the car...

In the car the front edge of the Plexiglass is held up using the shelf above the driver:


I’ll post some photos once I’ve used it properly…

7 Responses to “Designing the perfect still life table”

  1. Xavier says:

    Good afternoon,

    Just wandering which brand & model of light stand are you using to support your big softbox for overhead shot?
    Are you happy with it?
    Thank you.



  2. Joe says:


    Great post! We are dealing with alot of the same problems with trying to find a still life table that fits our needs and your post is really helpful. I was curious how money you invested in the entire project? Plexi, aluminum profiling, hardware etc… Thanks again!


  3. Katarina says:

    Sounds realy interesting. I am looking for an affordable solution also.
    Hope you will do the necessary adjustments with a second shelf soon. I will
    be looking forward to it.

    Best wishes


  4. chris says:

    Hey timothy great post. Im making a still life table myself and was wondering what kind of plexiglass you are using? how much light transmittance percentage is it?

  5. chris says:

    like if you under light it.

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