The Wrong Way to Make a River Table




So I have wanted to make one of these river tables that have been so popular out there lately. I started my search and found a few ideas, and trying to keep the cost down as much as possible. Epoxy is expensive!! In my search I found out that I could use a cheaper alternative, which would be bondo brand fiberglass resin.

In the next few steps I will show you how to not make a river table, and the experience i had in making this project which went from river to looking more like a piece of bacon in my yard.

Hope you enjoy.

materials you will need.

1. singular or two pieces of wood that you can either cut or sort of book match to create your river effect.

2. gallon of fiberglass resin, I used bondo brand.

3. gloves

4. breathing mask( this stuff stinks and can be very harmful to your health.

5. planer

6. band saw

7. sander with different grit pads.

8. chisels

9. wipe on poly

Step 1: Prepare Wood

Gather all materials and set up shop.

I have had these pieces for over a year I milled them myself with a small chain saw mill. They worked great for this.
They were a little warped from air drying. and needed a little help. So I took them to the planner and made a few passes to get the. both to the right height.

I then squared of the ends to get them ready to build my resin dam.

Step 2: Resin Dam

I built a small box with a piece of melamine board and some scrap wood. this was to make a dam so that the resin would just fill in the river like area of the wood. I found that gorilla tape crystal clear worked amazing for this to make a strong dam. There are a lot of great people out there that are making these on a regular basis that are great resources on how to make your own dam. I used what I had and went on the cheap side of things.

Step 3: Warning Read the Lable


This was my big mistake, I do not have any photos of what happened in this step as I was dealing with the problems that occurred. sorry.

So I mixed fiberglass resin as directed on can, with hardener and resin in a small mixing cup and made small batches as directed and began to pour in to river area of wood. I repeated this step a few times until it filled up to top of wood where I wanted it to.

The next thing that I did wrong was to not listen to the flammable signs on can. I have seen so many people burn away the bubbles in their epoxy tables and every thing was fine. that is the key word there though EPOXY. fiberglass resin is a completely different chemical and does not react well to fire.

Having had read the can I lit the torch outside the garage thinking if it went up i would at least be outside the garage. i moved inside and just touch the table with the flame and up it went. in the immediate panic I was not able to take a picture to show the pure stupidity of what I just did. I was able to safely put out fire and remove wood from garage and put way out side. I can still smell the resin in the garage some seriously noxious stuff.

So moral of the story don't light fiberglass resin on fire like me.

It wasn't all a waste though.

Step 4: Life Burns Your Wood Make Bacon

So turns out it was really burnt like toast, and I had spent time money and energy on this project and I really don't want this to just end up in the trash. Again sorry for no picture of burnt product, just wasnt thinking about completing this instructable any more. so I took the burnt piece to my band saw and started to take some slices and see if I could fix what I had done. I couldn't save the table , but I was able to get a piece that I kinda liked and could make something work. So I squared of the end and went to town with the sander and just flowed with the piece until it was to a shape I liked and could keep going with. at this point it has become more yard piece than table.

Step 5: Make a Base

I had another piece of wood that I had milled that looked pretty cool and would work with this work.
I cut to desired size and then layed out where my larger piece would sit. I then cut with chisels to make the desired depth so that the piece wouldn't fall.

Step 6: Epoxy

I used jb weld epoxy to attach the two pieces together with no fire too. I let sit and the. used a wipe on poly to seal and finish.

Step 7: From River to Bacon

So my kids have decided that it looks like bacon. I tend to agree with them and my wife doesn't seem to mind the yard art.

Again just read the warning. this scared me and I usually am pretty good about researching this sort of thing and not just flying by the seat of my pants.

so one more time do not light fiberglass resin on fire it will go up. I would love to have more of a discussion with other who have had a similar situation or know more about river tables then I do.

thanks for reading.

Stick It! Contest

Participated in the
Stick It! Contest



    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest
    • Sew Tough Challenge

      Sew Tough Challenge
    • Sensors Contest

      Sensors Contest

    55 Discussions

    Eagle Dan

    15 days ago

    Thanks for the laugh! and it's worth a reminder for those of us could miss some minor(or major) details on using a product. I am working on a river countertop myself as well. Maybe you can still use your "bacon" piece as a table top, by surface plan it, then coat it with a thin layer(~1/8") of epoxy, then you would have a decent looking table top. Maybe it would turn out a unique piece with the "bacon" pattern embedded in it, Trademark it as "bacon table", it could start a new designer trend. Thanks for posting.


    9 months ago

    This was a great post.It made me laugh and also taught me what not to do. We all make mistakes. I recently tiled a wall in my half bath and didn't use any leveling clips and wedges on my uneven wall. OOPS! LOL! Luckily I only had a few pieces that were an issue and my mirror ended up covering the problem pieces. pheww....


    9 months ago

    Thanks for the laugh mate...I needed


    11 months ago on Step 7

    i think its really cool that you posted it anyway, failure is a big part of learning and its refreshing to see some one actually post the "failure" and then make the best of it ! :)

    i always fail in one way or an other but i usually try to cover it up or start over so it seems like i know what i am doing but maybe this is a better way to do it :)

    btw. i think it looks cool ;)


    11 months ago

    I like the post. Interesting to see mistakes and we learn from them.


    11 months ago

    The Darwin Award committee called and they want to hear more... Congrats.

    Did the burn discolor the resin entirely through the thickness? The deeper amber color is still cool though. The fact that you have a story behind the piece makes it that much more valuable as art.


    11 months ago

    take heart not all rivers are blue looks like the mississippi during spring flood stage


    11 months ago on Step 7

    Thank you! This was informative as I myself have been looking into making one. It takes courage to show others our failings and you sir are awesome.


    11 months ago

    you could add a small garden light behind it.


    12 months ago

    Would this qualify as an unstructable?


    12 months ago

    Hilarious! Thanks for sharing. I, too, have done stoopid stuff. Thus is the life of the crafter...


    12 months ago

    I think the piece you ended with looks just fine, you should turn it into a bench to sit on for your next attempt at the table!


    12 months ago on Step 7

    This is great. "When life hands you the wrong resin, make bacon".


    Tip 12 months ago

    Have you tried putting a lightsource close to it at the underside? Might look cool and/or interessting. If it looks right or better you could implement a lightstrip to it. Thanks for sharing knowledge. Glad you're ok and thanks for the giggle.


    12 months ago

    You've ended up with an interesting piece anyway.

    A couple of points to consider when using resin like this.

    Polyester resin and MEKP will have an exothermic reaction, it will get hot from the chemical reaction, and with large amounts like this can auto combust. There is a special casting resin that would be more suitable for this job and its more clear in colour.

    Polyester resin will shrink when hardening causing all the cracks in your work, more so when used so thick. We had to watch out not to laminate fiberglass to thick to avoid shrinkage and distortion.

    Use a vibrator to get the bubbles out instead of a gas torch.

    I have used finely crushed charcoal mixed with resin to make a black fill in wood if you want the dark finish. A different colour pigment could be mixed in to make the cracks stand out as a feature on your table. Mix the pigment before the catalast.

    Epoxy resin might be more expensive but its probably a more suitable material to use for this job as it will have less shrinkage and be easier to get a better finish. Harder material can be polished up to a higher gloss and be harder, longer lasting finish.

    I have leaned this from many years working in the aircraft industry making fiberglass aircraft parts, kitset sports cars, motorbike fairings and other fine work.

    We also made undercarriage spars for microlite aircraft from carbon fiber and
    kevlar with epoxy resin in a stainless steel mold, the whole thing was
    put into an oven and baked for about 4 hours to harden making it
    incredibly strong.

    Once a year we would pile up the off cuts and rubbish away from the hanger and light it up, had to call the tower and let them know before hand so the fire trucks would not be called out, it was a very big fire but only for a short time.

    Hope this helps for the next project.


    12 months ago

    Your next project needs to be two round end tables that look like eggs, and a bench that looks like toast.

    1 reply

    12 months ago on Step 3

    Yes I laughed way to hard that this, but you're very lucky in many ways. Also, if you put too much activator in the resin, it will smoke itself into fire for you!

    Want no bubbles? poor slowly while project vibrates slightly. Bondo resin is one of my preferred materials for lots of things :) Glad you're okay!

    Next time you light something up, get your wife to take pics maybe?


    12 months ago

    Could be a chocolate river table to be different. Good for when you drink tea and eat cake. I know the blue verion looks better but your versionis not so bad either.


    12 months ago

    Chapeau ! To be able to admit your own mistake is one of the biggest virtues. Thanks for sharing,