Suggestions for part of a woodworking project

I’m restoring a game table that I found at a church bazaar. Nice piece, French provincial legs, reversible game top for checkers/backgammon. It’s clearly something that falls under the category of old folk art, as it’s clearly hand made. It had a nasty coat of poorly applied varnish or shellac, which I removed.

I’ve refinished the bottom part (legs and frame), and have the top pretty well planed and sanded to where I need it, but there’s what I guess could be called a problem, depending on your point of view.

The checker/chess side of the board has a shallow (3/8") well on each end, which is probably for holding checkers or captured chess pieces. It measures about 4.5" x 16".

Photo (you can sort of see the table base in the background on the right of the photo)

I don’t like it in its present state and would like to do something artsy with them. The problem is that whatever I put there will eliminate the well, but I don’t see that as a problem. The problem for me is coming up with a good decorative idea for them. I’ve thought about the following:

*High-end 1" backsplash tiles, glass or ceramic
*Decorative wood of some sort
*Make boxes out of exotic wood that will fit into the existing wells but be slightly higher, which would still allow for game pieces
*A set of three 4" ceramic tiles at each end with some sort of game motif on them
*Some sort of something captured with epoxy resin

I’m open to ideas and would appreciate any input.

I like the lowered areas - it’s unique. I like your nested boxes idea.

You can buy pre-assembled veneer applique panels that could be fitted to the recessed areas that would add some style to the blank panels. Or, being a game table, how about lining the recessed surfaces with felt? Either idea still lets you add the boxes.

Maybe panel inserts with a wood burned design or some intaglio. Or some sort of filled fretwork.

You could try some marquetry. These images may give you ideas.

I like that idea, other than that I have zero skill at doing it. Maybe I can find something in an antique store that could be made to fit. Or a kit of some sort.

Make a miniature version of glass display tables. Creates some sort of game-themed, relatively flat display, then mount a glass sheet over it. Maybe an arrangement of old playing cards?

Glass pieces to fit in the wells (I was going to suggest plexiglas, but it gets scratched too easily) with whatever pictures you wish to fit underneath it (pets, kids, etc.). Change out at will. A fresh decoration every day, if you want. Never gets old.

I haven’t tried it yet myself. I found a couple of websites with instructions, it doesn’t seem that difficult except that it would probably take a lot of attempts to cut the pieces right before gluing them up. The wood is just veneer thickness so it can be cut with scissors. Depends on the complexity of the design though, simple geometric shapes will be a lot easier than floral patterns. Anyway, I really want to try this some day, just need the time and circumstances, like so many other things.