Late summer/early fall of last year (2017) I was looking for a project where I could start with a funky liveedge wood slab and incorporate some resin. I had received some interest after showing off another table I had created a few months prior at an art festival. That table was a small liveedge hard maple slab filled with resin and glow-in-the-dark powder and completed with hairpin legs (read about that project here). I struggled to find a piece as unique as that one. Eventually I found a hard maple slab at a saw mill with characteristics that lent it to have areas filled with resin. So, I set on the path of making a coffee table.
Step 1: Slab Prep
I was starting with a liveedge slab of hard maple that had been kiln dried and still had bark along the edges. The slab had been planned on both sides and was flat. I needed to remove the bark while maintaining the shape of the edge. Machine marks also needed to be removed from both the top and bottom surfaces. I utilized a drawknife and an Arbortech Turbo Plane to remove the bark from the edge. For the removal of machine marks from the top and bottom surfaces I started with a belt sander and orbital sander, but in some areas with particularly wavy grain I was having difficulty removing the marks. So, I used a card scraper in these areas to use precise strokes to remove the machine marks. Once the machine marks were removed I continued to sand it smooth going from 80-grit sand paper up to 220-grit sand paper using my orbital sander.
Step 2: Dying Slab
With the slab fully prepped for finish it was time to apply the dye. With Iowa sunsets as my inspiration, I chose to use orange, pink, and purple colored FolkArt dyes. In order to make the colors blend and form naturally as they do in a sunset, I diluted each dye with water and then poured them on top of the slab. The dye followed the natural curves of the slab with a little assistance from me rocking it back and forth to ensure dye covered the full slab. Now, I will admit that it was difficult to apply dye to the slab. This maple wood had beautiful natural wavy grain full of chatoyance. However, I decided to take the risk, perhaps with my eyes closed a bit.
Step 3: Mold Build
As the dye dried it was time to consider how I would fill the voids with resin. I noted while applying the dye that there wasn’t much of an actual flat surface available on top of the slab. I also noted that it would be very difficult to isolate the two voids enough to fill them completely with resin without it overflowing. So, in order to make a coffee table with substantial surface area, and to make the pour more successful, I decided to encase the entire slab in resin. I needed to make a mold for this. I used melamine with Kreg pocket hole screws to create a rectangular mold just large enough to hold the slab. I used silicone to seal up the inside edges and then applied furniture paste wax to keep the resin from bonding with the mold. I placed the mold on top of saw horses to ensure it was level before starting to pour in resin.
Step 4: Add a Little Glow
Even though the entire slab was going to be encased in resin, I still wanted to highlight the two original voids. In order to do this, I mixed some orange glow-in-the-dark powder into a small amount of resin and then poured it into the voids.
Step 5: Resin Pour
Once the void had cured it was time to get started on the rest of the resin. This particular type of two-part epoxy resin has to be poured in layers no thicker then 3/8th of an inch, so for a top that would be three inches thick it would require many different layers. I tinted each layer of resin orange and sprinkled in a bit of pink resin.
**Note to project: Since finishing this project, I have moved to using a new resin, Ecopoxy. It is a bit more expensive, however, it is plant based, meaning it is less toxic to use (no masks required), and for a table such as this one, I could have done the whole pour in one shot.
Step 6: Demolding
With all of the resin cured, it was time to remove the table from the mold. This was really quick and slick. I just had to remove the Kreg pocket hole screws and do minimum prying. The melamine came off without a hitch. Some bubbles appeared in the top layer of the resin and would require sanding to remove. After sanding to remove the bubbles and even out the top of the table, I applied orange dye to new exposed areas of wood and then poured an extremely thin layer of resin on top.
Step 7: Leg Prep
While waiting for the top layer of resin to cure, I turned my attention to the legs for the coffee table. I had a local metal worker make legs out of 3/8” steel strapping and spray painted them a metallic silver.
Step 8: Sanding
With the legs completed it was time to finish the table top. Starting with 120-grit sandpaper and working all the way up to 3000-grit, I sanded the resin top to a crystal-clear finish.
Step 9: Assembly
With the top fully sanded it was time to assemble the legs to the table. I flipped the table top over and laid out the legs. Then I pre-drilled the holes for the carriage bolts. With the holes pre-drilled, I used a Ryobi cordless impact driver to drive in the carriage bolts with complete ease!
Step 10: Polishing
The last and final step was to polish the top to a high gloss. Armed with a buffer, two car polishing compounds, and turtle wax the top was bright and shinning in no time!
This project took 9 to 10 months to complete. It repeatedly was placed on the back burner while projects with tight deadlines stepped in. I could’ve rushed it and tried to push the limits of working with resin. However, I’m so glad I didn’t. The table turned out better than I could have ever imagined. You can check out the video to see additional footage of the whole process.
Second Prize in the