I made an epoxy resin filled end table and added a glow in the dark feature to make it really unique. You can easily customize my design with any simple shape as the focal point for your table. I am a resident of the beautiful state of North Carolina so I chose my home state shape as my focal point. This table is very economical to make with the most costly parts being the two-part epoxy resin and the glow-in-the-dark powder.
Total work time took about 3 hours, most of the time with this project is sitting and waiting for layers of epoxy to cure overnight.
Good luck and stay creative! Don't be afraid to be unique! My favorite projects always have a bit of weirdness or even silliness to them which is what I have grown to love.
Step 1: Buying the Materials
I am a firm advocate of efficency when it comes to both time and money. While taking your time and enjoying the process with something like this will allow you to enjoy the end result much more, simply spinning your wheels can be frustrating and slow the reward of progress. Projects like this should be more about providing a creative, artistic release and the satisfaction that one gets from creating something beautifull and whole from pieces of nothing.
Having said that, I started with a pre-engineered 18" pine round that was kiln dried and rated as stain grade. This costs $10 from the local hardware store and is also offered in a 36" size for $40 if you wanted a table suitable for playing cards on or sitting around. Look through the inventory to find the lumber that speaks to you. For this project you need two pieces, so I selected one with a very clean, wide grain and one with burly knots and mixed grain variances.
Next you will need some two-part epoxy to fill in your cutout shape and coat the top of your table to provide for a crystal clear, smooth, and tough-as-glass finish. I always prefer working with epoxy that is to be mixed with a 1:1 ratio (as opposed to 2:1) to keep things simple. If you've never worked with epoxy before, it can be finicky and doesn't provide for a lot of working time before it begins to set, so be sure to practice a bit on some scrap. This stuff can be a little salty so try not to waste too much while practicing. I pay $22 for 35 oz of my favorite epoxy (Famowood) which should be enough for you to cover your 18" table depending on how big your cutout shape is.
I also found some old rope that I used as trim around the edges of my table. I wanted something to make my two pieces of round look like one and this 3/4" rope worked perfectly.
Lastly you will need some glow in the dark powder which is purely optional. You can find this online and prices vary greatly so do your research here.
Step 2: Templating Your Cutout Shape
Step 2 involves just a little math but I will keep it easy. For an 18" diameter table, my design calls for the following:
- a 2" boarder around the outside of the table
- a 1" gap which will be filled with epoxy resin and glow powder if you desire
This leaves us with a center round of 12" ((18-(2x2)-(1x2)).
This is the perfect size to print a design on a standard 8.5x11" piece of paper with the margins removed. Look for a shape that will challenge your jigsaw skills but one that you are confident you can pull off. For me, using the shape of a State was great because I could find many pictures that included difference variences of detail. For North Carolina, the Albermarle and Pamlico Sounds were a fun challenge, but I know my limitations and didn't even attempt the Outerbanks (what a cool State shape NC is by the way, I wouldn't recomend this if you want a Colorado table!).
Once you have your shape printed out on letter-sized paper up to 11", cut out the shape with scissors and trace onto the wooden round that you want to use as your top piece (for me that was the piece with more personality). Be sure to trace your shape to the very center of your piece of wooden round.
Step 3: Cutting Your Shape
A Jigsaw is one of my favorite tools to use. Go nice and slow and stop often while resetting in a different direction to get the angles right.
Start with a drill hole in the center of your shape and work your way out slowly with the jigsaw. It is important to use a very small, fine-toothed, and sharp blade when cutting to a high level of detail.
Once the shape is cut, you need to take down the diameter of the round from 18" to 12". I found a frying pan lid for a 12' pan and traced the outline around my shape for a template. I suppose a math compass would work well too :)
Using the jigsaw, take down the diameter based on your traced line. Take an orbital sander around the edges to smooth things out. Be sure to not cut outwardly around the 12" circle more than 1" because you need the outer 2" of this round to use for the boarder piece. Cutting the boarder piece the same way as the center piece, but measure to 14" diameter.
Finally, sand the top to beautify the wood and to erase all of your trace lines.
Step 4: Stain the Top Pieces
Before gluing, stain the top two pieces as desired. I used Minwax Red Chestnut in a very thin application that I wiped off with a clean towel two minutes after applying. This created a nice cedar look that brought out a lot of the grain but didn't overpower with color.
Step 5: Gluing the Rounds
Next we need to glue the two top pieces (12" center circle with cutout shape, and he 2" boarder piece) to the bottom 18" round that is still whole. This is where the epoxy fill will set and you can get creative with your fill. The gap between the two top pieces should be 1" all the way around at this point.
I always use Titebond wood glue for my projects and this was no exception. Because the seal between the two rounds needs to be tight enough so that the epoxy fill won't leak out, Titebond II or III is recommended. Glue the three pieces together like the picture shows and clamp overnight.
Side Note: I wanted stark contrast between the inside of my shape cutout and the top pieces so I aligned the grain perpendicularly to themselves before gluing. You can see in the final pictures that the grain inside the North Carolina shape is vertical and the tabletop is horizontal.
Step 6: Fill in With Epoxy Resin
Initially, mix and pour enough resin to only coat about 1/4 of the height of the top pieces. This is important because it will create a solid base and prevent you from using too much expensive glow powder. After letting this base cure overnight, you can move on to the glow powder stage.
Mix enough resin per the product instructions to fill in the outer circle. During the last 3 minutes of mixing, add in the glow powder to fully incorporate. When pouring the glowing epoxy, be sure to continuously mix as the viscosity of the resin does not allow the glow powder to be suspended as a mixture for very long.
After the outer ring cures over night, fill in the center shape and coat the entire top to make a smooth and level surface.
I added a marker for the geographical proximity of my residence using a thumbtack.
Step 7: Rope Boarder
I am including the rope boarder as its own step because it really adds to the table and I've received a few compliments on it.
To calcluate the length of rope required, use (pi x 2 x radius). For an 18" diameter table 56.5" of rope. To secure, tack in the rope using finishing nails on top of a bead of wood glue.
Step 8: Final Product
Once everything is cured and clean, charge the glow powder by putting in sunlight for a few minutes. The glowing power will remain strong for many hours, even in a lighted room indoors.