Introduction: DIY Resin River Table Using Clear Epoxy Casting Resin and Wood
Live-Edge Resin River Tables are beautiful pieces of furniture and highly sought after and with the right planning and skills can be created by experienced wood workers and DIY'ers.
We recently published our Penny Floor Project Instructable due to the demand for information on the subject and now we're experiencing high volumes of calls regarding making Resin River Tables. So we're back with a new Instructable on how to create your own Epoxy Live-Edge Resin River Table. For this project we decided to create a coffee table with a central resin 'river' running along it, but we also mitred the sides to create a waterfall effect on both legs. You can adapt the process to create small side tables, large dinner tables and other types of furniture and art pieces.
We've also produced an eBook for in-depth instructions which you can download free of charge here.
Hope you enjoy it and please post any questions/comments ...
Step 1: What You'll Need: Preparation and Materials
The Products and Materials used in the project:
- GlassCast® 50 clear epoxy resin
- Wood - English Yew - with a waney edge
- Translucent Tinting Pigments - we used blue
- Tape - flash/release and double-sided
- Polypropylene Sheet
- Polishing Compound and Oil (or similar)
- Tools - various
- Spreader & Mixing sticks
- Mixing Cups & Mixing Buckets
- Epoxy Adhesive
- Safety Equipment
- Hot-Melt Glue-Gun
- Digital Scales
It's very important that the environment you are working in is a dry, heated space with an ambient temperature of around 20°C throughout the process.
The Resin also needs to be at room temperature - so if it's delivered cold or it's been in the garage you will need to raise the temperature to 20°C before use.
Any damp or cold conditions will affect the end result and the room needs to be as dust & dirt free as possible.
Step 2: Choosing and Preparing the Wood
When choosing your wood you need to make sure that the wood is seasoned, dry and as flat as possible.
The style and type of the wood is a personal choice - although interesting grains and waney-edges work best for this type of project.
We cut down and prepared our piece of wood but if you don't have the equipment you can ask your supplier to cut the wood down to the correct size and depth and also ask them to cut it in half if you're going to do a central river channel.
You then need to flip and invert your pieces of wood to create the river channel and remove any bark from the live-edge. This will allow the resin to bond to the solid wood and the finished table will be mechanically strong.
Use a chisel to remove the bark and then rub down with abrasive paper to remove any loose material, then wipe or vacuum any dirt and dust from the wood.
Step 3: Sealing the Wood and Filling the Knots
- Next you need to check for cracks, knotholes and gaps on both the top and bottom of the pieces of wood and fill these with resin to seal them
- Use some tape to seal the cracks and gaps to prevent resin running out- a release tape works well for this.
- Measure and mix a small amount of resin and pour into any gaps - make sure you check on this after a few hours to see if it needs topping up as the wood will probably absorb some of the resin.
- Overfill the gaps slightly with resin and then leave to cure fully following the instructions.
- When the resin is fully cured use abrasives to level off the surface, removing any high spots with a sander or with abrasive paper - you are aiming to leave a keyed surface so a coarse abrasive is ideal.
- TIP when you have thoroughly mixed the resin and hardener, pour the mixture into a second cup and mix again to make sure no unmixed resin remains - this is called 'Double Potting'.
- The resin we used can be measured by weight at 100:45 resin:hardener or volume at a ratio of 2:1
Step 4: Creating a Container
Now position your slabs of wood and allow for your river channel so you can make a container around the whole table slab - this will support the resin whilst pouring and curing (the river):
- Begin with a flat sheet - something like mdf or chipboard which is just slightly larger that the slab you will be producing which will make a baseboard to work upon.
- Next using a suitable product (we used polypropylene sheet as the resin doesn't stick to it) cut a base and side barriers to create a container around the wood. Make the base approximately 8cm larger than the table size to allow for side barriers and battens (if required).
- Using a hot-melt glue-gun run a bead of glue all around the base and side barrier joins to make sure the container is water-tight.
- Test it's watertight but make sure you dry the container thoroughly.
- It's a good idea to use clamps or weights to ensure the planks do not float around in the resin - test this too, to ensure it stays in place and remains as flat as possible. When you're happy remove all the clamps, supports and the wood for the table and you are ready to prepare your resin.
- You may need some batons to place against the wood and the clamps - we covered ours in flash/release tape so it wouldn't stick to the resin
Step 5: Resin - Measuring, Adding Colour and Pouring
Personal taste will dictate whether or not you choose to tint or colour your resin or leave it clear. Lots of makers are using glow powders, metallic pigments, solid colours and embedding things in their resin rivers and we would recommend thorough testing in a small amount of resin with any effect you want to achieve before attempting your table.
We used a blue translucent tinting pigment in our resin to achieve the watery effect in our table.
The resin we used is the new GlassCast® 50 resin which can be cast to a depth of 25mm in a single pour.
For this project we divided the main river pour into two - and prior to this poured a base/sealing layer.
Measuring & Colouring
- Following the instructions measure or weigh out the resin - enough for the total project to ensure consistentcy.
- Add the colour pigment to the resin - a little goes a long way so add a couple of drops at a time and mix thoroughly.
- Limit each mix to 5kg and repeat if necessary
- Then add the correct amount of hardener to the pre-coloured resin and mix thoroughly
- Then transfer to a second clean bucket and mix again (double potting)
You are now ready to prepare the resin ready for the base / sealing layer.
Step 6: Pour Base Layer and Allow to Reach the B-Stage
We advise pouring a base layer to seal the underside of the wood - this will help to minimise air bubbles during the main pour.
- Make sure the resin completely covers the whole base area
- Place the wood planks back into the correct position on top of the resin
- Using a brush seal the waney-edge and top surface with resin including filling any knots, splits or cracks
- Position pre-covered wood blocks over the barriers and batons and clamp into position
- Allow the resin to reach the B-stage of the cure
- The B-stage means that the resin has started to become firm but still has a tackiness
- To tell if this stage has been reached - with a gloved finger, touch the resin and if it leaves a mark but does not stick to the glove it has reached it's B-stage and you need to prepare part 1 of the pour
- If you allow the resin to cure past the B-stage then the resin will not chemically bond to the next layer so will need to be keyed all over with abrasive paper to create a bond with the new layer
Step 7: Pour River Layer 1
Once the B-stage has been reached on the base/sealing layer you need to prepare the resin for Layer 1:
- Measure out the pre-pigmented resin and measure out and mix in the correct amount of hardener
- Transfer to a 2nd pot and mix again
- Pour the resin into the river channel
- Use a heat-gun to remove any bubbles - the GlassCast 50 will self de-gas but you can speed up the process by using a heat-gun or hairdryer on a medium heat held back from the resin.
- Then leave Layer 1 to cure to the B-stage
Step 8: Pour River Layer 2
Repeat the stages again for the 2nd main pour once the B-stage has been reached on part 1:
Measure - Mix - Pour - Heat-Gun
If required, repeat the process until the river is full - remembering to double pot the mixes and if pouring multiple layers wait for the B-stage before mixing and pouring the next layer.
Aim to slightly overfill the river channel, then leave the resin to fully cure!
Step 9: Routing & Sanding
To finish the table in the project we used a router set up over the slab on a bridge as we didn't have access to a drum sander or thicknesser and routed the surface all over by making multiple passes.
This gave us a flat, even surface of equal thickness all over and we were then able to sand the surface using a hand-held sander and working through the coarse to smooth grits to achieve a beautiful finish over the wood and resin.
We worked our way through 120, 240, 400, 800 and 1200 grits and made sure all scratches were removed from the previous grit at each stage before progressing to the next one. If this isn't done correctly there will be tiny scratches visible in the final polish and the sanding process will have to be repeated.
You can of course completely avoid this stage if the look you want to achieve is a high-gloss all over which can be done by pouring a coating resin like the GlassCast 3 over the keyed surface.
Step 10: Making and Attaching Sides/Legs
Then we created the sides - you could attach ready made legs like hairpins but we wanted to create a waterfall effect on the sides to add more interest to the piece.
This was done by:
- Measuring the slab and marking off the 2 sides/legs
- Mitring the slab using a 45° angle on the saw and bringing together the 2 angles in a 90° angle
- Repeating the process for the other side/leg
- Then using a clear epoxy adhesive we bonded the joints
- To do this we masked off the areas immediately around the joint with flash/release tape to limit any overspill and create a hinge which helped guide the two sides together correctly
- Then we applied the adhesive to the outside of the joint so that when it was squeezed together it filled the joint evenly and fully
- Then we supported and clamped the sides into place to support the angle during the cure and left it until fully cured, then removed the tape
Step 11: Polishing
To finish off the table you will need to seal the wood - you can choose the look you want to achieve - we used a clear Danish Oil and rubbed it in using a lint free wipe, then allowed it to soak in and dry.
It's important that you do this prior to polishing the resin river as the polishing compound may mark the wood if it's not protected.
To polish the resin you will need a hand-held polisher and a high quality polishing compound like the Pai Cristal NW1, we applied the compound to the river and used the polisher to achieve a high gloss finish.
Step 12: That's How You Make a Live-Edge Epoxy Resin River Table!
That's how we made our Resin River Table!
You can see from the images that the river is so glossy and the blue pigment looks so water-like.
You can change the appearance of your piece of furniture by using different products like a wax or stain to change the look of the wood and of course you can change the appearance of the river too by using different colours, or embedding objects in the resin pours.
The resin also looked really good after the sanding process with an opaque look, so you could leave it with a matt effect or as we mentioned before you could pour a coating resin over for a full gloss finish on the resin and wood - it really is all about personal taste.
You can also adapt the processes and techniques for lots of different projects using wood - the possibilities are endless!!!
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