Strap on your sea legs and spin up the laser cutter. Nautical charts are some of the best types of prints to plaster on the wall to give off an air of eclectic charm. You can, however, bump it up a notch with versions made out of wood, layers and layers of silky laser-cut wood. Little did I know that these wondrous layers of birch byways and coastlines were quite plentiful online, even available via Amazon. Finding out who actually manufactured them and how they went about creating them is a whole other story though.


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Below the Boat Beauty

Below the Boat is an online store selling the 3-dimensional lakes and sandy shores I first came across. They have wall art representing three regions of the U.S.: the West Coast, the Interior Lakes and the East Coast. The pieces come in various sizes with the majority measuring 25″ wide by 31″ high and some of the more dramatic land masses, like the Baja Peninsula, measuring 14″ by 43″. How are they made?

Starting with a bathymetric chart (the underwater equivalent of a topographic map), the contours are laser-cut into sheets of Baltic birch and glued together to create a powerful visual depth. Select layers are hand-colored blue so it’s easy to discern land from water, major byways are etched into the land, then the whole thing’s framed in a custom, solid-wood frame and protected seamlessly with a sheet of durable, ultra-transparent Plexiglas.

Each are designed in the United States (Northern Michiagn), crafted in a family-owned shop overseas, and imported. That location in Northern Michigan is family owned and operated WoodChart.com who supply a wide array of shops and online retailers. “We have our own overseas factory and drop ship from our warehouse in Northern Michigan.” David Michael, owner of Woodchart.com says, “We do most of our cartography work in-house to make incredibly detailed charts. We wholesale to many art galleries & also drop-ship for our web retailers.” Map geeks that they are, getting all the details is critical. “We have anywhere from 30-50 draft/changes before we put the harder ones into production.”

Personally, I’d like to see the Dean’s Blue Hole or the Mariana Trench done up in a massive stack of birch, but I imagine that would end up a deep cube of blue-stained birch sitting in your living room… Yes. A coffee table chart. There you go.

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Images: Below the Boat by M. Chris Leese

Filed under: DESIGN FAB

  • http://twitter.com/RickWChin Rick Chin

    These are just awesome looking maps! I might have to order the Nantucket Island map.

  • Josh M

    Aren’t they?! It was fun to hunt down who designed them. I’m really wanting that Mariana Trench coffee table.

  • Adam

    I want one of those more than I want my left foot. I wonder if they take left feet as payment?

  • http://solidsmack.com Josh Mings

    I think you need to make one out of your left foot. win win.

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  • V

    We have the great lakes one, bought on a trip to Michigan. It’s beautiful & interesting, always a conversation piece. Got it home and out of the box, and found a made in China sticker on the back. Doh!