The tabletop on our for the I Can Do That project in our February 2010 issue, appeared a bit blasé. So to pep up the look, I thought inlay. Knowing I didn’t have the time to create, or the desire to purchase wood inlay, I turned to trompe l’oeil. Trompe l’oeil is French for “fool the eye.” You create an optical illusion that’s sometimes very involved, or it can be very basic. For this project I chose very basic, a 1/4″ wide line of paint that surrounds the tabletop. Or maybe it’s strips of ebony?
To add this visual interest to a project, you need three tools and paint. The tools are a probably laying around your shop, within easy reach. A combination square, pencil and blue painter’s tape is all that’s needed.
Layout work begins the process of deception. Set your combination square to 1-1/4″, then make a few marks along each side of the tabletop. Place enough lines to allow easy alignment of the tape. Pull off a section of tape, carefully place it at your lines and press the tape to complete the seal. If the tape is not in contact with the table surface, you’ll get a fuzzy edge in your finished faux inlay.
With the outside line established, move inward a 1/4″ and repeat the steps to position the second line of tape. When placing the tape, don’t worry about stopping exactly a 1/4″ from your outside line, lap right over the first run of tape. Work all four sides as shown in the above photo.
To trim those corners, grab your 3/4″ chisel. Align the chisel at the lap , it’s easy to see due to the two layers of tape , then press firmly and rip the tape off. There should be a perfect, straight tapeline left.
With the tape positioned and trimmed, stir your paint and cover the 1/4″ area between the two lines of tape. A couple light coats are better than one heavy layer and you’ll find that filling in the wide grain of oak (as in our project) takes a bit more work than if you’re painting on maple of poplar.
After the paint dries , you can force dry water-base paint with your hairdryer , peel the tape from the tabletop and admire your artistic abilities.