GRAY – Ashraf Eldeknawey knows how to make visitors to his workshop cringe.

He hops on top of one of his beautiful coffee tables decorated with a custom veneer design — the tables sell for $2,000 to $4,000, depending on how elaborate they are — and starts jumping to show off the strength of the furniture.

The table, made with old-fashioned joinery, doesn’t budge.

“This table has no nail, no screw,” Eldeknawey says as he bounces up and down.

Eldeknawey is an Egyptian immigrant who builds furniture with exotic, intricate custom inlays that he creates himself. He is proud of the fact that he still uses methods that were common in his homeland 200 years ago.

His only tools are two simple knives and a hammer.

Eldeknawey’s parquetry has adorned everything from mantlepieces to jewelry boxes. He only uses natural woods like maple and African mahoghany for his geometric designs, and each piece of furniture gets eight to 10 coats of a hand finish.

Eldeknawey learned the techniques he uses when he was growing up in Egypt, where his father owned a furniture shop. They lived in the province of Domiat, which is famous for its furniture making.

“My father, since he was 16, had his own business,” Eldeknawey said. “He learned a lot from the old masters.”

Eldeknawey began by helping out his father. By the time he finished high school, he was known for working on antique-style furniture. Eventually, he began exporting his work to Germany, Italy and the United States.

When Eldeknawey wasn’t working as a graphic designer in Egypt, he was making custom veneered podiums and elaborate conference tables for government officials and corporate offices. Some of his furniture clients included the Egyptian minister of defense and the son of deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Eldeknawey came to the United States seven years ago and worked as a painter here until he had a car accident. Now, when he’s not out selling real estate, you’ll find him in his workshop in Gray, working on his stunning tables.

Leslie Curtis, a well-known designer in Camden, is showcasing some of Eldeknawey’s work in her home decor retail space in Camden. In addition to selling her own line of custom furniture, she often offers pieces made by various Maine craftspeople.

“I like to have fine quality work here that is a little different,” she said.

When Eldeknawey called Curtis to ask if she would look at his coffee tables, she agreed because she rarely turns down the opportunity to at least view someone’s work. She was impressed with what she saw, and asked him to make a couple of special tables for the store.

“They’re like cabarets (tables) with a somewhat eastern influence,” Curtis said. “And then he made two absolutely exquisite lazy Susans. I know once we have more summer-home people coming and setting up their homes, we’re going to have a lot of interest in that.”

Eldeknawey has a few pieces in some other galleries as well. While he’s glad to have outlets for his work, he prefers custom designs because he can work more closely with his customers that way.

“I like to talk to the customer,” he said, “because I can talk to them and create what they really want.”

On the lower end, Eldeknawey’s jewelry boxes start at around $250. A small cabaret-style table might start at $600 to $800, and a lazy Susan at $600. But Eldeknawey is reluctant to name specific prices because, he said, the cost is dependent on how complicated the design turns out to be.

Some of his tables have a 3-D effect on top. Walk one way, and the geometric design appears to move in a particular direction; change direction, and the illusion shifts with you. “Some people say, ‘Don’t drink around my work,’ ” Eldeknawey said, displaying his frequent sense of humor.

His latest project is developing a freehand spinning wheel — he got the idea while watching a friend who uses a traditional spinning wheel.

Eldeknawey can’t help but critique American furniture makers who do veneer work. Their methods take longer than the old ways, he says, and some of them call their furniture handmade when it really isn’t.

“Hand laid is not handmade,” he said.

While some furniture makers order their veneer pieces from a factory and just glue on the completed designs, Eldeknawey draws and cuts his intricate designs from scratch. Cutting these designs into the wood by hand, he jokes, is “what separates the men from the boys.”

“There is nobody who does it this way anymore,” he said.

Fans have told Eldeknawey he should move to a larger city if he wants to get his work recognized more broadly.

“A lot of people, to be honest with you, recommend me to go to Boston,” he said. “But I like Maine.”

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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Twitter: MeredithGoad