Follow along as we take an already beautiful piece of Montana Box Elder into a deep and profound swirl of riotous color using nothing more than simple household food coloring.
Wood- This is Box Elder which is famous for it's crazy burl figure. I cut these slabs myself from a tree that fell on a friends car several years ago. I think the idea will work great with any light colored hardwood such as Maple or Birch.
Power Planer- because these slabs are coming directly off the drying rack after getting milled 3 years ago they are not flat. I use the power planer to quickly knock them down level. This step could be done with a belt sander, it would just take longer.
Belt Sander- I am using a 4x24 Rockwell and just two belt grits, 60 and 150.
Vibrating Sander- This one happens to be an old Craftsman 1/2 sheet but any small sander will take you though the higher grits quickly. I sanded with 220 and then 320 grits.
Food Coloring- Just two colors red and blue stolen from the kitchen and mixed with some water. I recommend starting with the blue as the red can be overwhelming. Then artistically dab on the red. It will look brown at first but will turn purple as it dries. Force it from purple back to red with additional applications. There is no way to force it towards blue once the red had been applied so take it slow until you get the color you like.
Epoxy- I am using some very old two part water thin epoxy from AeroMarine. There are lots of choices out there so look around. You want something tin with a long open (working) time. That will let it soak into the wood and create a hard durable inner surface without that thick glossy look. (not that you can't do that if it is your jam) I remove all surface epoxy before it sets, sort of a strange procedure but it gives me the surface finish I want with the strength and durability of epoxy.
Finish- I used Rustoleum 2x clear satin in a rattle can. I have been amazed how well this stuff works over epoxy as a hard UV resistant top coat. Watch for sags on vertical surfaces but I have been able to build a heavy hard surface on flat surfaces very easily. To be honest I almost never bother to hook up the spray gun and shoot lacquer anymore. I find the satin to be more forgiving than the pure clear gloss.