Introduction: Sycamore Epoxy River Table

About: Woodworking gadget fan, photographer, husband, cyclist, kayaking SUP riding real ale drinker. More of this stuff is over at my Instagram.

I know "not another river table".
I had been planning on doing one for ages but never got round to it.
My sister was looking for a table top for a set of old legs she had.
She thought it was going to be a cheap alternative to a glass top she was looking at... She was mistaken... More on this later.

Step 1: Too Much Choice

First of I had to go and pick an appropriate sized piece of wood.
I was planning on doing the cut and flip method so needed a piece that was long enough and slightly wider to form the river.
Thankfully there are a couple of timber merchants near me, so I went shopping.

I ended up with this beautiful slab of sycamore.

It was reasonably flat but more importantly had some lovely figuring on it.

Step 2: Clean Up

Although this was going to be a live edge river, so that the epoxy had a good chance to stick and not bubble I removed all the loose bark.
At this stage I also gave the top and bottom a full sanding. Starting at an 80 grit paper up to 320. This was done using discs on a random orbital sander.

Step 3: Deciding on the River Shape

After choosing the wood the next step was to decide on the shape the river would take.
The piece of ply you can see below the sycamore was the size of the table top I was after so I was able to line up the sides and get an idea of the layout.

Once I had finally decided on the layout I cut the side to length. Both sides were then run through the joiner to made sure I had a straight and true edge.

Step 4: Setting Up the Frame

The next stage meant making a frame for the wood to be held in while the epoxy was poured.
This frame has a couple of requirements... Firstly it needs to fit the wood as closely as possible, secondly it needs to contain the epoxy. I didn't go to the extent of sealing the joins with caulk as I have seen some people do, although I did have to tape up a couple of the corners.
The frame was made using a sheet of 15mm melamine, it's perfectly flat and I was hoping the surface finish would allow for the table top to be released once the epoxy pouring had finished. The whole thing was held together with Kreg pocket screws.
To make sure I didn't have a wonky table I leveled up the frame, shimming up the base with old business cards.

Step 5: Let the Pouring Begin

The epoxy used was by Resin Research from Seabase in the UK, this is a 100:45 mix that I've used before on a SUP I've previously made.

The first pour was a relatively shallow one, mainly to set the wood in place, I rested a couple of kettlebells on the wood while the epoxy went off to stop the pieces moving.
Each pour was left to set before I mixed up another batch. I should have let the pours only dry to the 'b stage' where it is still tacky, this allows for a better bond between the layers. If you let it harden too much then you need to key the surface with sandpaper, 80 or 120 grit is fine for this.
In the end it took 8 pours for the top, using about £70 of the epoxy.

Step 6: Out She Comes

I'm very pleased to say that my plan using the melamine worked perfectly.

The top released from the frame easily, I unscrewed the pocket screws and with a sharp tap with a wooden mallet the side popped away, the top then lifted away from the base.

Step 7: Final Top Coat

Although the top looked pretty good it wasn't quite perfect with some inconsistencies around the edge.
The whole top was sanded down again using the 120 grit paper on a random orbital sander.

Taking a sander to an OK looking surface is very overwhelming but don't worry because once you add the next epoxy coat it will look perfect again.

To get a good spread of the final top coat I made a spreading comb from a plastic box.

This allowed me to move the epoxy around without just pushing it about.

Looking from the side you can see the different layers.

Step 8: Not Too Bad

The bottom of the table came out relatively cleanly but I wanted it a little better.

Again out with the sander.
I masked all around the edge to make sure I didn't get any over run on the newly finished top when I poured the final bottom coat.

Step 9: A Bit of Sanding

Although the top coat was pretty good I wasn't fully happy with it so I asked my wife what she thought.
Unfortunately her comment of "well it's nice but not really up to your normal standard" confirmed what I was already thinking, I needed to break out the sandpaper.

I think the problem with the finish was the temperature in my workshop, overnight while it was hardening dropped below the recommended 15ºC.

7 hours... Yes 7 HOURS of hand sanding then ensued.

I started with a 600 grit paper to take out the surface imperfections. I then went through the following grits, 1000, 1500, 2000, 3000, 6000, 8000 and 12000. This gave the finish in the third picture.
Finally I broke out the buffing mop and finishing compound.

To save a little time the bottom was 'only' finished to 1500 grit paper.

Step 10: Top Fitted - Final Views

To get the exact height required, where the top touched the legs I routed out the bottom face.

The top was fitted using some screw in threaded inserts.

After all the hard work and time I am super pleased with the result. Hopefully my sister won't put a hot pot on the table and melt the epoxy...

All in all 18.5 hours time was wrapped up in this table and the parts cost just over £160 (see attached breakdown of the costs and time).

This isn't a cheap weekend project but the end result is superb.

Furniture Contest 2018

Runner Up in the
Furniture Contest 2018