An end table that highlights the natural edge of wood, but with a colorful twist.
Step 1: Material List
3 24x48 pieces of MdF board cut into 24x24" squares
Drill for holes
Quartz infrared space heater
Live edge wood
Wood round (Home Depot)
Resin (I used Art Resin)
Colorant (Liquitex or golden high flow acrylic)
Clear Packaging tape
60,100,150,220,320 round orbital
Regular 320 and 420 sandpaper
Step 2: Step One: Plan
This is table 2.0. See my first table here.
After learning a lot from my first table, and having a commission for this one, I set out to not repeat my mistakes and make a table that looked more professional. While not perfect, the amount of mistakes I made with this table was probably only 15% the amount I made with the first one. Luckily almost all of the mistakes were correctable and so the final result turned out to be a level I felt comfortable to sell. I still don't have a tech shop or maker shop membership, so all of the tools and techniques I use were done with the intent to make the table as cheaply as possible. Because of this, there is a lot more rework than one would have to do if they had access to, for instance, an actual vacuum former.
I would not recommend making your own vacuum former unless you have done your reasearch and are responsible to not set your house on fire. My janky rig was fine for the purpose it served, and the time crunch; but just joining a tech shop for a month would have saved me a lot of frustration.
Step 3: Step 2: Vacuum Former
My friend wanted a circular table; and I realized that I would have to create a mold to pour the resin into. My design aimed to highlight the bark on the wood and I knew I wanted a channel of resin in between two halves of wood. I chose a diameter based on available wood rounds at Home Depot and Lowes, and knew I needed to make the top of my vaccuum former to be bigger than that.
To make a vacuum former, it's very simple. You need a box with a hole in the bottom and holes on top so you can create a vacuum that would suck the plastic over an object. See diagram below. In addition, you also need a heating element to heat up the plastic. So this is a two part project, make the vacuum cabinet, find a heat source to uniformly heat the plastic.
For the Cabinet, I bought the 24x48 pieces of MdF from home depot and had the guys there cut the board into 4 24x24" pieces. Once I got home, I cut 4 of the pieces down to 23x23". Home Depot didn't allow cuts smaller than 12 inches with their industrial machine, so I had to improvise with my jigsaw. I then went in and traced a grid on top of one and then drilled out the vertices of the grid, leaving a 2 inch border. This process took about 3 nights, as my drill ran out of power and my wrist kept cramping up. A drill press would have been perfect for this job, but janky worked in the end. I then used my orbital sander to finish off the extra ends to make the surface mostly flat. With 2 other flats, I traced a square with the edges one inch away from the edges I cut and cut out a window. I saved the 'picture frame' for the vacuum former. Finally with the fourth frame, I traced the mouth of my vacuum, and then dremelled out a large pinhole. I finally sandwiched them all together to form the vacuum cabinet. See diagram. I then took the two 24x24" boards and cut out a 22x22" window in order to make the frame for the plastic sheet. I could then clamp the sheet between the two frames for heating and forming.
The Heater Element:
I used this as reference to making the Former and Heater: https://makezine.com/2011/09/08/how-to-large-homemade-vacuum-forming-machine/
A lot of people use their ovens to heat the plastic to form their plastic pieces. Since I'm not trying to get cancer... I decided to heat my another way. Since my poly sheets were going to be big, I knew I probably needed something big to heat it up. Originally I tried to use just a heat gun, because I only really needed the parts of the plastic that were directly over the edges of the wood round to form down, but found that doing that created unnecessary stress in the plastic and the plastic even warped and broke to the point where it would be foolish to use. I knew I needed to make a homemade oven of some sort. Preferably one where I didn't have to poison myself or food I made. I found this tutorial that offered an easy relatively cheap solution that wouldn't burn down my garage. I bought four more 24x24" MDF boards and arranged them to make a 23x23" box. Looking at the video, I wish I had used thumb screw like he did so I would know the clamps on the plastic picture frame wouldn't accidentally prop up the sheet, breaking the vacuum seal. Hindsight is 20/20. After purchasing the heater element off amazon, I was in business.
The heater was strong enough to heat the plastic to be pliable, but I still had issues with the vacuum former. I used the heat gun to help soften the sides, and while not perfect (I needed a stronger vacuum). I managed to create a good enough mold for my table.
Step 4: Step 3: Preparing the Wood
I got the wood from thelumbershack.com. They offer a huge selection of wood and what you see online is pretty much what you get.
I bought a second wood round from Home Depot and traced about 1/3 of the curve onto the wood making sure to capture the bark. I then traced another 1/3 for the other side. Since I only had a jigsaw, I roughly cut out the semi circles, then went in with a Dremel to more accurately shape the semi circle. I then sanded the rough edges smooth with my orbital sander.
Step 5: Step 4: Pouring the Resin
Next step was to lay the pieces in the mold and begin the pouring process. This time I used Art Resin to make my table. I had curing issues with envirotex last time so trying a different brand I had used before in an art capacity was an experiment for me. As last time, I made colored pucks where I matched the color to what looked good with the particular wood. I used golden fluid acrylic and used only about 2-3 drops per pouring session. As with my last table, I poured the resin in multiple .25 inch layers and let cure for 2 days in between. With this new mold, I only poured layers that reached halfway the thickness of the wood. I then decided to remove the plastic mold. To remove the plastic, I tried chipping it off as much as I could, I was then able to use my heat gun to soften the plastic and it came right off. Do this carefully and with a lot of ventilation. Using a mask is recommended. I then sanded the acrylic and the wood down so the I had a perfect circle base. The next move was to create tape gates for the final layers of pouring. I did this by placing two pieces of clear packing tape facing each other so the resin would cleanly form to the perimeter but not stick to the tape itself. When the final layer was poured, I was able to peel off the tape and use minimal sanding to make the table edges cohesive. I used my 100,150,220, 320 grit orbital sand pads to really get a smooth cohesive finish on the table. There is one spot where the wood chipped, but my client felt that that added character to the piece :).
Step 6: Step 5: Varnish and Legs
For the varnish, I decided to use regular polyurethane with mineral spirits. I hand sanded with 320 sandpaper to give the table a bit of grip for the first layer of urethane. I then used an old T-shirt rag to buff in the polyurethane. I used my father’s old bottle and used mineral spirits to thin out the polyurethane to a thin mucus consistency. I made special attention to fill in some sanded air bubbles. Luckily they all disappeared and the table surface looked flawless. After letting the first layer dry, I then sanded with the 420 and buffed on the second layer.
The legs I used raw hairpin legs from Amazon. I first cleaned them with a degreaser, and then because I liked the look of the raw steel, sprayed them with a clear coat of krylon. When done, I then positioned them on the B-Side of the table so they wouldn’t show through the resin, and then pencil marked the holes. I tapped the holes with a screw and then went in securing the legs with the correct screw to the table.
Second Prize in the
Furniture Contest 2017