In this instructable, I show you how to make an epoxy bar top using reclaimed wood. The outdoor bar top has a glowing river with embedded fire glass that runs through the reclaimed sinker cypress wood.
Below are only some of the things you will learn in this instructable:
- Mix Resin & Glow Powder
- Construct & Seal a Resin Mold for a Large Table
- Reinforce a River Table with Steel and Bondo
- Embed Objects in Resin
- Different Types of Epoxy Resin Coats (Fill, Seal, Flood)
- The Best way to Package and Transport Large Furniture
Tools & Materials Used
For a full list of tools & materials, visit my blog by clicking HERE.
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Step 1: Obtain Reclaimed Sinker Cypress Wood
I used pecky sinker cypress on the first table built after starting my blog.
Obviously, I fell in love with the beauty of this reclaimed wood, which is pulled from the river bottom all along the gulf coast.
First, I contacted a local Sinker Cypress Logger to purchase a slab for this live edge epoxy bar top using reclaimed wood.
Ultimately, I decided to buy the live edge slab directly from the source for price reasons and to meet him.
As I expected, he was very knowledgeable and the inventory of sinker cypress in his backyard was beyond impressive.
The slab I chose was 14' long, 28 inches wide, and 2.5 inches thick.
I hauled the slab home in my truck without issue. However, I forgot my bed extender which made the 30 minute drive home a little nerve wracking. More on my truck bed extender later in this tutorial.
Step 2: Rough Sanding
First, I begin most of my projects with rough sanding to remove loose dirt, expose the grain pattern, & reveal the overall condition of the wood.
For this live edge sinker cypress slab, I started with 40 grit sandpaper & my rotex sander in rotary mode.
Furthermore, I bought this Festool RO125 about a year ago to reduce the amount of time I spent on sanding. It was expensive; however, it is worth its weight in gold. 'Buy once, Cry once" definitely applies in this situation.
Obviously, the underside of the slab was lying on the river bottom from the looks of these indentations.
Next, I flipped the log over and sanded the top down to 80 grit.
Step 3: Shape Live Edges
First, I carried the slab outside to reduce the amount of dust in my workshop. This sinker cypress slab was absolutely beautiful!
Next, I shaped and cleaned the live edge on both sides of the reclaimed wood with my grinder and kutzall extreme shaping disc. Also, the kutzall extreme shaping disc proved to be very effective to shape the live edge.
As a side note, the small holes in the sinker cypress slab were filled small crab shells. They must have burrowed a hole in the soft spots of the wood.
Then, I flipped the table over and cleaned up the spots I couldn't reach with my rotary sander while rough sanding.
Step 4: Rip Sinker Cypress Slab
For this epoxy bar top, my customer requested one live edge face the pool and one straight edge facing the bar.
Sadly, I was forced to rip it down the middle since this slab has 2 live edges.
Step 5: Making the River
First, I chose the best side of one part of the reclaimed wood slab for the live edge.
Next, I sketched a winding river with a pencil.
Then, I used my jigsaw to cut out the river.
Step 6: Reinforce River Table
To reinforce the middle of the table, I used square steel tubing.
First, I flipped the table so the underside faced up.
Next, I spaced the 2 parts of the epoxy bar top apart so that the table was roughly 20" apart. I marked the lines by using the steel tube as a guide.
Next, I used my router & a jig I built 5 minutes before to route a channel a little wider and deeper than the tubing.
Step 7: Apply Bondo
After I routed the channels, I secured the steel tubing in the channels with bondo. As you can see, I had a very special helper for this step - my daughter. :)
First, we mixed the bondo according to the instructions.
Next, we put a little bondo in the channels and placed the steel tubing on top.
Then, we covered the steel tubing with bondo.
Be sure to sign up for the epoxy bar top DIY plans via my website. I'll notify you when they are ready for download.
After the bondo dried, I sanded away the excess.
Step 8: Epoxy Bar Top Resin Mold
Once the bondo dried, it was time to construct the resin mold.
First, I decided to use styrofoam insulation due to the size of this table. Next, I placed 3 sheets down on the slab and secured them to each other using silicone tape and packing tape.
Then, I covered the entire side with packing tape then vaseline to serve as a release agent.
I flipped the mold over, clamped it to the slab, and flipped the entire thing over.
Since I used a large piece of styrofoam insulation as the resin mold, I left 5" of excess at each end.
I used my razor knife to cut the underside of the styrofoam half way. This allowed me to form the end of each table by folding it up.
Then, I sealed the inside of the river epoxy bar top with hot glue.
Step 9: Check Resin Temperature
First, I checked the resin temperature using a laser temperature gun and it was a bit low.
The temperature is very important when mixing and pouring epoxy resin.
So, I placed the resin outside sun for about 10 minutes until it reached 70 degrees. As you can see, a laser temperature gun is very handy to get an accurate temperature of resin.
Step 10: Mix Resin and Glow Powder
First, I mixed the resin per the instructions. Please note, it is vital to follow the instructions for the type of resin you plan to use. The best affordable resin in my opinion is Pro Marine. There are many others which are better, but they can be expensive - especially for a weekend warrior.
Next, I added the glow powder and stirred for about 5 minutes.
Step 11: Pour Resin
After I mixed the resin and glow powder, it was time to pour the resin.
The amount of resin used as well as other detail will be in the DIY plans, so be sure to visit my blog to be notified when they are ready for download.
First, I poured the resin on one end of the table and moved my way down to cover the entire bottom. The steel bars prevented the resin from running down the length of the river, so I had to pour equal amounts in each section.
Additionally, I only used glow powder on the bottom layer for this table. This allows me to embed objects in resin for the upper layers.
Next, I used my heat gun to remove the air bubbles.
Then, I turned off the lights and tested the glow powder with a black light.
Once the resin cured, I cleaned & dried the blue fire glass. I find a strainer works well for this.
First, I spread enough fire glass to cover the bottom resin layer, but allowed enough space for the glow powder to shine through.
Additionally, I make sure the glass is below the river bank so it doesn't protrude from the top.
Step 13: Embed Fire Glass in Resin
Once the fire glass is in place, I made sure the table was level.
First, I took my time and filled the river with multiple layers of resin and removed bubbles after each layer.
Ultimately, the goal here is to fill the table with resin without going over the top edge which causes unnecessary work.
Also, I used casting resin which allows for deeper pours. This saves time and increased consistency.
In fact, it is better to come up a little short of the edge and sand down rather than vice versa.
Step 14: Trim Epoxy Bar Top Width
After the resin cured, I removed the resin mold and used my track saw to trim each end of the table down to the final size.
First, I made a straight mark across the table with my T-square.
Next, I used a very old blade to cut each end using multiple passes. I had to cut through a small amount of fire glass b/c I didn't leave myself enough room when spreading the fire glass.
Step 15: Sand Excess Resin
After I trimmed the ends, I took the table outside to clean up the bottom with my grinder & a 50 grit metal sanding disc.
The resin spread a little in the bottom during the initial pours because of the uneven spots on the underside of the table.
Step 16: Cut to Final Width
I used my track saw in order to cut it to it's final width.
Step 17: Remove High Spots
Resin spilled over on the top of the bar top, so I cleaned that up with my rotary sander as well as any high spots.
Step 18: Remove White Spots in Resin
After I removed the high spots from the epoxy bar top using reclaimed wood, I noticed white spots in resin.
Evidently, my sander speed was turned up too high which caused white spots. The white spots are tiny bubbles that get filled with resin residue after sanding.
I used my drill and countersink bit to remove these.
Step 19: Raise River
First, I hand sanded the surface of the resin and decided to pour one more layer of resin on the river to raise it a bit.
The river was about 1/8" lower than it should have been. It's much easier to add a little resin than sand the entire table down 1/8". First, I wrapped a scrap piece of wood with silicone tape and nailed it to each end.
Next, I sealed it with hot glue and poured the resin. I actually needed more than I thought - I ended up using 2 32 ounce batches.
Then, I poured resin in the epoxy bar top river.
After the resin cured, I removed the boards and used my rotary sander on a low speed setting to knock down a few high spots at one end of the table.
A variable speed sander is very useful when working with resin.
The 2 areas were only about a 32nd higher than the river, but it needs to be flush before the seal coat.
Step 20: Sand Resin
I sanded the entire table with a soft sanding pad and 320 grit sandpaper.
I checked each part of the bar top where the resin river meets the wood to ensure it was flat.
Finally, I used my hand plane to remove one high edge.
Step 21: Roundover Edges
After the table was flat, I used my trim router with a 1/2" roundover bit on the straight side of the bar top.
Step 22: Epoxy Seal Coats
I asked my wife to help me on the first seal coat and she was nervous to mess up. So, I took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of this step in the project. :)
The purpose of the seal coat is just as the name implies - it's meant to seal the surface.
First, my wife spread the material with a squeegee back and forth and let a bead of material drip over the edge. There formula for seal coats is 1 ounce per square foot of surface area.
Next, I used my torch to remove air bubbles. I wiped the edge about once per 5 minutes to prevent dripping.
Step 23: Sand Between Seal Coats
After the first seal coat cured, I sanded the entire table with 320 grit sandpaper and repeated the process for the second and third seal coats.
Step 24: Epoxy Resin Flood Coat
After I sanded the final seal coat, I mixed 3 ounces per square foot for the flood coat.
Next, I used a 1/8" square notch trowel to move the resin across the bar top at a consistent depth.
Then, I used a brush to chop the material to facilitate proper blending.
Finally, my torch removed the air bubbles and help flatten out the material.
I repeated this process for the 2nd flood coat.
Step 25: Seal Underside
After the bar top cured for 6 days, I flipped it over and sealed the underside with oil and urethane.
This is not necessary for this type of wood, but it just made me feel better since the bar top would be outside.
Step 26: Secure Black LED Lights
First, I used hot glue to secure a string of black LED lights under the river.
Also, this is not necessary because the glow powder is charged by sunlight or artificial light.
The black lights will charge the glow powder if the bar top is not exposed to the sun or lights.
Step 27: Box for Shipping
After the table was completely dry, I decided to drive this table to my customer. The shipping was very expensive due to the size of this bar top.
First, I built a box with 2x4s and particle board roughly 4 inches longer than the table and 2 inches wider.
Step 28: Load Bar Top Into Truck
In order to transport the epoxy bar top securely, I used my bed extender. Also, the bed extender is one of the handiest tools I own. I initially bought it to haul my paddle boards in my old truck, but I mostly use it to haul lumber much longer than my truck bed. It's a bed extender if it's installed horizontally and it's a roof extender if installed vertically.
Step 29: Deliver Table
So, I left my house at 4:30am in Louisiana and drove 12 hours to South Carolina.
I delivered the table to my customer, spent a few hours chatting with him & his family, and got back on the road later that evening.
Also, my wife warned me to just ship the table, but, as usual, I didn't listen.
I wanted to save my customer the huge shipping expense b/c he was so easy to work with. Ultimately, my travel expenses were much cheaper than the shipping expense. As much as I enjoyed meeting my customer & his family, the trip simply was not worth my time. I will listen to my wife next time - maybe. :)
Step 30: Conclusion
In summary, I hope you enjoyed this project and it brought you some form of value.
Check out my online store where I sell some of the things I create as well as digital plans. Finally, I build custom furniture just like this project. If you are interested, complete our online custom quote form.
Feel free to contact me anytime if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!
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