Introduction: Bottle Cap Tray Table With Grout and Resin

I first saw a bottle cap table on Pinterest a number of years ago and knew I had to make one because they're just so cool!
I've been collecting bottle caps for a while now with this project in mind. I've even been known to inform people how to 'correctly' remove them so that they don't bend...
I knew I wanted to show off different caps so each one on this table is different. However other people have done patterns etc.
Having looked at others projects, I liked the look of grouting between the gaps to obtain a solid background and highlight each caps design. I had only seen one other similar project but figured, how hard can it be?
Incidentally, I've just counted the number of caps on the project and it appears to be 182. If you like precision.

Step 1: Collect Your Bottle Caps!

Ironically, I don't even drink beer! However I had lots of willing help from friends and family. I also sourced eBay for some rarer caps to ensure a variety.
The caps should be clean and as dent free as possible. They need to lay as flat as possible, plus they just look nicer if they're not all bent.
I collected mine in a big pretzel tub which made it easy to chuck new ones in when sourced.

Step 2: Find Your Table

I spent aaaages looking for the appropriate table. I knew that I wanted to put resin over the finished product for a glossy finish and therefore was looking for something with a raised edge so that it wouldn't all leak out.
Other people have said that square or rectangular tables are easier to work with however I wanted a circular table to compliment the shape of the caps.
I eventually found this GLADOM table in IKEA which was perfect. It has a removal tray top as well as a large raised edge. It comes in 3 colours, green, yellow and white. Plus it's only £20! Bargain.

Table link:

Step 3: Plan How You're Going to Arrange Your Caps

I wanted the table to have all unique caps so I went through my large bottle cap collection and sifted out those that I wanted to use. I then put them all on the table and started experimenting with layouts etc. I decided on layers of circles.

Step 4: Glue Caps to Table

Firstly make sure your table and caps are clean. I used Homebase tile adhesive for this. Other people have used superglue, no nails, etc, but I thought this method would allow me to place the caps, see the overall layout and move them if required. I knew I was going to grout over the top so it didn't really matter if the adhesive is an odd colour (this one is beige!) or if the surface is uneven.
I spread a thin layer (around 2-3mm) of tile adhesive across the surface of my table. I used a metal paint scraper to get even coverage. I then pushed the caps into the adhesive. That's really it. I was able to move the caps slightly to get a perfect fit using this method. Be careful when pushing the tile adhesive up to the edges of the table. Don't be slapdash and don't push it so high that you won't be able to cover it with grout when it's dry. This will need at least 24hrs to dry.

Step 5: Grout Your Caps

After applying the tile adhesive, I knew getting a clean grout line was going to be difficult just by eye. Therefore I applied masking tape all around the inner edge of my table to the level at which I wanted the grout to sit.
Next came the grout. I used unibond tile grout, pre mixed in white. Give the grout a good stir and then apply a dollop to the table. Try not to apply too much grout so that the caps are completely submerged as you'll only have to spend longing taking it off and smoothing it out.
Using an old store card, sweep the grout across the caps making sure that you get in between all of the caps and removing any excess.
Once the table is covered in grout, use a damp grouting sponge to smooth out the grout. Wet the sponge, smooth across the table in circular motions, rinse and repeat until the caps are visible. I recommend doing this step next to a sink so that you can quickly rinse the sponge and dampen it again. Don't worry about the caps being completely free of grout because you can polish off any excess later.
I removed my masking tape while the grout was still wet as I was worried about it sticking to the grout. This produced a nice clean grout line.
After I had done my grouting and left it 24hrs to dry, I noticed that some small pockets had formed in the grout. To remedy this, I just took a small amount of grout on my finger, pressed it into the hole, smoothed over with a damp sponge again and left to dry. I was very glad I did this because when it comes to applying the resin, those holes will produce loads of air bubbles!
Once your grout is completely dry, polish the caps with a clean cloth to remove any excess.

Step 6: Apply the Resin

I was really nervous about this step as I didn't want to undo all of my hard work. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to get this right. Important first points: Your grout has to be completely dry and free of any dust or dirt. You need to make sure that you have all of the equipment that you will need to hand before you start to mix the resin. Your table needs to be leak free. There's a random small hole in the side of the GLADOM which I remedied with masking tape.
I used envirotex lite pour on gloss resin as this is what has been recommended previously. This stuff comes with very comprehensive instructions which worried me into thinking that this step was going to be really difficult to get right... Spoiler alert: It wasn't.
This resin uses the two stage double mixing technique. Essentially it comes with 2 liquids, the hardener and the resin. You have to combine them together in exactly equal parts and stir thoroughly. Then transfer this mixture to another container, stir again and then immediately apply.
It helps to warm up the bottles of resin and hardener slightly so that they're less viscous and easier to pour. I submerged them in a saucepan of warm water.
I used two cheap plastic measuring jugs and a silicone palette knife for mixing. I measured 200ml of the hardener first and then poured 200ml of resin on top into the same measuring jug. The amounts have to be exactly the same or your resin won't harden. You stir this combined mixture for two minutes. You then transfer this into a second measuring jug and stir for another 2 minutes. Don't worry about bubbles in the mixture, they'll get sorted out later.
The whole point of the convoluted mixing technique is so that you don't have any unmixed resin or hardener from your jug/stir stick getting poured onto your project. Apparently this can cause 'sticky spots' that never cure properly and you have to re-do your entire project. Therefore, it's in your best interests to follow the instructions. I suspect the company give out such detailed instructions because they're sick of the complaints from people doing it wrong. But honestly, it's not difficult.
Once you've completely mixed you have to pour immediately. I started in the centre and using the same silicone palette knife I mixed with to smooth the resin out to the edges. This stuff is self levelling so I just got it to touch the edges.
There was JUST enough in this packet to cover my caps. Some of the caps on the edge are slightly protruding but I can live with this. In an ideal world I'd have used double the amount to make a thicker top.
When your resin is poured you will see bubbles. These are easily remedied by blowing over the surface of your table through a straw. I kid you not, this was the best part. It was basically magic watching all the bubbles disappear! Some tutorials advocate using a heat torch or open flame however this worked so well, I don't really know why you'd need to go to such lengths and risk scorching your table...
I then kept checking the table every 15 mins for the next 1-2hrs as small bubbles did keep forming front the same few spots - Where I had inadequately filled some of the grout holes previously. However, with gentle straw blowing and patience, these decreased in frequency until the resin became so viscous that they stopped forming.
The resin then needs to dry for 24-72hrs. It needs to dry in a warm room free from dust as much as possible. I made a makeshift dust cover with foil so that it wouldn't sag onto my resin.

Step 7: Admire Your Work!

Once the resin has hardened, it will be like glass. It is heat and water proof (apparently) so should be hardy. Cleaning should be with furniture polish as per the resin instructions.

Step 8: Reflections on the Process...

All in all, this project went really well. My main gripe is that some of my caps became a bit scuffed. I'm not entirely clear how this happened but it was at some point during the grouting. I initially used a metal wallpaper scraper to drag the grout across the table and I think I may have damaged some of the cap designs doing this. However it may have just been using the grout itself which is quite coarse. Either way I'd recommend using a plastic card instead, just to minimise trauma to the surface of the caps.
Take great care with your resin. Be very mindful to mix it as per the instructions and use exact amounts.
I only realised after I had bought the tile adhesive (first) that it was beige in colour and couldn't be used as grout. That meant I had to buy another product to grout over it. I could've saved myself some hassle by using the unibond for both steps as it is both adhesive and grout and a much nicer colour... I used about half of each tub for this project and plan on doing another one so I'm going to use both again but if you're only making only one table, I recommend you just buy a combined tile adhesive and grout.