Introduction: Epoxy River Swing
We built an epoxy river SWING! A deliciously fancy, one of a kind piece of wooden art, the likes of which prestigious individuals the world over are sure to covet! Okay fine...it's just a swing. 😄 We're still new to working with epoxy so we thought this would be a fun DIY epoxy project to help us learn the ropes and get some practice in! As usual, we didn't get the epoxy pour quite right and some stuff went wrong but we recovered as always and the epoxy river swing ended up coming out great.
We recommend watching the video above and following along with the written steps!
We also use manila rope and show you how to tie an eyesplice to hide the knots and give it an awesome look finished look. Will our DIY epoxy river swing last forever in the harsh climate and unpredictable outdoors of central Texas? Not sure! But that's ok. We love it anyway. 🔥⛈🌤🌡
Total Boat 2:1 Epoxy (totalboat.com - use code 'WICKEDM15')
Total Boat TableTop Epoxy (totalboat.com - use code 'WICKEDM15')
Ambrosia Maple (Wood)
3/4" Manila Rope - https://amzn.to/38GCr8s
Eye Bolts - https://amzn.to/2W7mu65
Quick Links - https://amzn.to/2ZUPdMG
Blue Tape - https://amzn.to/3ebW3Cl
Step 1: The Live-Edge Ambrosia Maple!
A key component of any epoxy river project is a "live-edge" which is essentially the original edge on a board. This gives you an organic, flowing shape for your epoxy river! We opted for 'Ambrosia Maple' which is piece of Maple that was eaten up by the Ambrosia Beetle. The beetle burrows in and leaves small black holes all over the place, which gives way to a fungus which discolors the usually clear white Maple. The result is a beautiful piece of wood with a lot of interesting variation in color!
We used a single board and cut it in half so we could put the two pieces with the live-edges facing inwards towards each other.
Step 2: Preparing the Boards!
After cutting the board in half, we found there was about 5-6 inches at one end that didn't have the 'live-edge' so we used a power-carving disc to power-carve our own organic edge! After that, we used an orbital sander to clean up any loose grain on the live-edge so the epoxy will have a nice smooth edge to attach to.
Once our live-edge was ready to go, we positioned the boards to figure out how wide our "river" would be, and then ripped off some of the back of the boards to get it down to the overall width we wanted.
Step 3: Building the Epoxy Form!
When you pour epoxy, you need to create a form for your boards to sit in so the epoxy stays in the area you want it to. Since our piece is relatively small, we cut some pieces of 3/4" plywood and built a form with them. We covered the insides of the form with Tyvek tape. The epoxy won't stick to the tape, which means we can pull the board out easily once it's cured.
We let a bit of the tape hang over on the rails and folded it over into the corners as we glued each side piece on. This made sure there were no gaps in the corners. We also put a couple of screws in from the bottom to ensure it wouldn't come apart.
If there are any gaps or even a tiny pin hole in your tape, your epoxy will definitely leak out and cause you lots of problems! (Don't ask us how we know this...😅)
Step 4: Measuring How Much Epoxy to Use!
To measure exactly how much epoxy to use, we came up with a really interesting trick! We put our boards into the form and then used some rice to fill the volume of the river. The rice can then be transferred to a measuring cup to tell you how much you need! We opted for rice over something like sand because it was easier to clean up and gave us more than close enough of a measurement.
When you do an epoxy pour on wood, some of it will seep into the wood grain so just measuring the volume of the river alone won't be quite right. We added 10% to our measurement to account for this.
There are more mathematical ways to measure for volume, but this worked perfectly and was super fast!
Step 5: Prepping for the Epoxy River Pour!
To prepare for the pour, we placed our boards into the mold and clamped them in place. This is done so the epoxy doesn't seep too much underneath and float up the boards. Next, we used a level to make sure our entire mold was level and flat.
Lastly, we used a hot glue gun to create a small dam along each live-edge. This way, if we pour too much it'll stay in the middle and be easier to clean up. You could also do this with silicone caulk or something similar.
We're very glad to have done that last step because...the pour went a bit awry and it kind of saved us! 😬
Step 6: Pouring the Epoxy River!
We're using Total Boat 2:1 epoxy, so we mixed up the amount we needed, being careful to follow the instructions and mix it appropriately. We then used some blue pigment to give our epoxy some color and mixed that in as well.
We then slowly poured the epoxy into the river and let it fill it up the entire way. We waited about 15 minutes and then used a torch to pop all the bubbles that came up to the surface. Note: Our result was far from ideal and we'll cover our mistakes on the next step. We should have done it slightly differently.
Total Boat was nice enough to create a coupon code for us that'll give you 20% off your purchase if you're interested in trying out their product. Just use the code 'WICKEDM15' on https://www.totalboat.com 🙌
Step 7: The Next Day....😫
Well, we did almost everything right but as you can see in the pictures, it didn't quite work. When epoxy cures, it creates an 'exothermic' reaction, meaning it creates enormous heat. If it gets too hot during this process, it can overheat and create a kind of chain reaction that will turn your epoxy into what basically looks like epoxy lava. It bubbles up intensely under the surface and the resulting cured epoxy will be far from a smooth, clear result.
What went wrong?
The main issue we had was the ambient temperature in our shop was almost 100F degrees that night. We learned later that this greatly contributes to the epoxy getting too hot and not curing properly. The instructions say you need to be under 80F degrees for it to cure properly. We also shouldn't have poured the entire 3/4" at once.
What should we have done?
Ideally, we'd control the temperature in our shop, or pour somewhere else where the temperature is within the range we needed. Also, we should have poured it in smaller (~1/4") layers to limit the heat generation. There are also different kind of epoxies that are meant for thicker pours like this.
So, what next?
Thanks to some help from some fellow woodworkers, we realized we could simply shear off the top layer of the swing to get below all the bubbled up parts. You could use a sander for this, or a router, or a thickness planer in our case was the quickest way. The result then was a perfectly smooth surface. See? No problem! 😁 Just a speed bump.
Step 8: Cutting to Swing to Size and Drilling the Rope Holes!
Next, we cut our swing down to it's final dimensions. We also rounded over the edges with a router so that when you're sitting on it it'll be much more comfortable.
We then drilled some 3/4" holes in each corner for the rope! Using a Forstner bit was ideal to ensure we got perfectly clean holes in the wood.
Finally, we sanded the entire swing to 180 grit using an orbital sander. We're going to do a glassy epoxy finish over the entire swing so there's no need to sand any further than 150-180.
Step 9: The Glassy Epoxy Finish!
The swing will be outdoors and have to endure quite a bit of weather. For this reason, we decided to do a complete epoxy "table top" finish to seal the entire thing. This is marine-grade epoxy so the theory was that it should provide ideal protection from the rain and weather. Also, we'd never done this before and it was a perfect way to practice a brand new technique!
We began by taping around the bottom edge of the swing with blue painter's tape. Next, we mixed up the Total Boat Table Top epoxy and poured it on. We used a gloved hand to spread it around and make sure it got everywhere. This is self-leveling epoxy, so we made sure our board was on a level surface and then let the epoxy roll around and do it's "thing"!
As it drips over the edge, it will create a nice even surface. When it begins to gel an hour or so later, we peeled off the tape, revealing a perfectly clean edge! We repeated the process for the bottom as well.
Having never done this before, we were intensely proud of how well it came out! Per Total Boat's recommendation, we let it cure and then did a second coat to give it a perfect, glassy surface.
Step 10: The "Eyespliced" Rope!
Instead of just some boring metal hangers, we really wanted to use a knot called an "eyesplice" to attach the 3/4" manila rope to the swing. This is done by measuring the height you want and then essentially weaving the rope back into itself. The resulting knot is simple and elegant looking.
We repeated the process on both sides of the swing and it was ready to hang!
The video in Step One shows this knot in greater detail, and if you're interested in an even longer and more detailed explanation of how to create an eyesplice, we have a video on our Patreon page! Patreon is also a great way to help support our channel if you enjoy our content and want to see more behind the scenes and exclusive stuff.
Step 11: Hanging the Swing!
We used stainless steel eye bolts and quick-links to attach our swing to a beautiful live oak tree in our yard. After measuring the height, we marked the rope and tied two more eyesplice knots at the top of the ropes. The quicklinks are then hooked on and the swing can get hooked onto the eye bolts!
Step 12: The Results!
The fanciest swing of all time was complete! We're so happy with how it came out and our son LOVES IT! Working with Epoxy is a lot more than just mixing and pouring. There are a lot of variables to control for and honestly, it just takes practice. This was a great project for us to do that and we're now more confident than ever that we can take on something even bigger. Thanks for viewing! Let us know what you think in the comments. 👊😀
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