the Hippo Table By Derek Pearce: Woodworking Technique and Whimsy (Plus Video)

This is the renowned Hippo Table by artist Derek Pearce, a functional piece of furniture that seamlessly blends sculptural artistry with everyday utility.

Sculptural Base Design:

Pearce’s approach to creating the base of the Hippo Table is an exemplary display of wood sculpting.

Starting with a solid log, typically Limewood, known for its workability, the initial shape is rough-hewn using a chainsaw.

This allows for the primary form of the hippopotamus to take shape, including the bulk of the body and the positioning of the head and legs.

Hollowing and Drying:

After the rough outline is achieved, the log is hollowed out.

This process is not only essential for reducing the weight of the piece but also for preparing it for the drying phase.

Drying the wood properly is crucial; it can take several months but is necessary to prevent cracking and to ensure the longevity of the sculpture.

Detailing and Finishing:

Once dried, the intricate details of the hippopotamus are carved.

This stage requires precision and a deep understanding of the wood’s grain and character.

The final touches include a polyurethane polish to enhance durability and sheen, and the piece is then mounted on castors for ease of movement.

Glass Table Top:

The Hippo Table is crowned with a 10mm thick toughened glass top, providing a flat, stable surface that contrasts with the organic form below.

This choice of material ensures the functionality of the table without distracting from the visual appeal of the carved hippo.

Woodworking Insights:

Creating a piece like the Hippo Table demands a blend of artistic vision and technical woodworking skills.

From the selection of the wood to the final finish, each step involves a thoughtful process that considers the material’s natural tendencies and the functional purpose of the piece.


Derek Pearce’s Hippo Table is a fine example of how woodworking can transcend the creation of simple furniture to become a statement piece that captures both the imagination and the essence of the craft.

Woodworkers looking to undertake similar projects must harness a range of skills, from chainsaw carving to fine detailing, all the while respecting the wood’s natural properties and the need for a functional end product.


Check out more amazing water table works by Derek Pearce!

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