How to make an Epoxy Resin River table with Wood [Tutorial]
You think a beautiful epoxy table can only be obtained from a professional? Far from it! In the following tutorial we will show you in a step-by-step instruction and with a detailed list of the required materials, how you can produce such a tasteful table yourself. And with the right materials and tools as well as practical tips, it’s not as difficult as you might imagine.
- 1 What is behind the trend of epoxy resin river tables?
- 2 The best epoxy resin for casting the table top
- 3 The best table top epoxy resin for final coat
- 4 Choosing the right wood
- 5 Preparation of the wooden boards
- 6 Creating the right working conditions
- 7 Create your own Epoxy River Table – step-by-step instructions
- 7.1 Step 1: Removing the bark and sanding the wood
- 7.2 Step 2: Fill in bumps and cracks and seal the wood
- 7.3 Step 3: Build a mould / formwork for the table top
- 7.4 Step 4: Inserting the wood into the mould
- 7.5 Step 5: Mix epoxy resin
- 7.6 Step 6: Colouring the resin Creating a water effect
- 7.7 Step 7: Creating a design with crystal clear resin
- 7.8 Step 8: Removal from the mould and sanding
- 7.9 Step 9: Finishing / finishing
- 7.10 Last but not least: Attach the table legs
What is behind the trend of epoxy resin river tables?
For some time now the trend around the artistic Epoxy River Tables has been on everyone’s lips worldwide. The idea for these beautiful tables originated in the USA and started its triumphal procession all over the world from there. And not without reason: an epoxy river table is a small work of art that radiates luxury and modernity at the same time. So it fits into the living rooms of friends of rustic wooden furniture as well as in modern penthouse apartments.
Such a table simply cannot be put into any (style) drawer. The great popularity of Epoxy River Tables is probably also due to the fact that there are no limits to creativity. Rather traditionally designed tables with a neutral colour scheme can be found as well as exclusive, almost eccentric looking pieces in strong colours.
The best epoxy resin for casting the table top
The best table top epoxy resin for final coat
Choosing the right wood
The key to making a truly beautiful Epoxy River Table is to choose the right wood to be used. Here it is undoubtedly worth digging a little deeper into your pocket in favour of a good quality material. After all, you want to put a lot of time and effort into your artwork and enjoy it for a long time.
The wood used should be as natural as possible. Here, for example, a board made from a tree trunk that is at least 4 cm thick is a good choice. A so-called “natural edge” with bark looks particularly stylish here. You can find such a piece of wood in a good carpenter’s workshop, at a timber dealer or on the Internet. Alternatively, you can of course use two wooden boards from the DIY store, which are cut into a slightly curved shape on one side with a jigsaw. Whether from a carpenter or from the DIY store: the most important thing is that the wood is well dried. Ideally the moisture content should be less than 12%.
Preparation of the wooden boards
You have two options for the preparation of the wood. Firstly, you can process the material itself. For this you need a circular saw and a planer to produce the right length and thickness and divide the wood in the middle.
On the other hand, you can of course also buy the boards in the desired thickness and length, or have your purchased piece of wood cut and planed to fit in a joinery. If you have little experience in processing wood, this is the much easier option. In addition, the possibly quite high purchase costs for the large machines are omitted. Even if your initial piece of wood is very large, it is advisable to have it prepared by a professional before you process it further.
Before proceeding further, you should make sure that your two boards are exactly the same length. In addition, the side edges must be cut at right angles to the straight outer sides. It is also important that both pieces of wood have the same thickness. They should also be absolutely flat. If in doubt, it is advisable to commission a joiner to carry out the finishing work.
Images: Vlad Teodor / Rawpixel.com / shutterstock.com
Creating the right working conditions
Since epoxy resin is a very sensitive material, ideal working conditions should be created before starting the processing. Very high temperatures, cold or humidity can have a negative effect on appearance and performance. In addition, unfavourable external conditions can affect the drying time of the resin.
The ideal temperature for processing epoxy resin is a constant minimum of 20° Celsius. This should also be considered during storage. Even if the room temperature is actually an ideal 20° C, the temperature drops significantly towards the floor. Here the thermometer can only show 15° to 17° C.
If the epoxy resin were to be stored on the floor at these temperatures, tiny, unsightly bubbles could quickly form in the resin. These cannot be removed so easily even with a hot air dryer. It is therefore better to store the material on a workbench or shelf. Another important factor is that the work area should also be dust-free, dry and well ventilated.
Create your own Epoxy River Table – step-by-step instructions
Step 1: Removing the bark and sanding the wood
- The first step is the thorough removal of any remaining bark, e.g. with a chisel. Although the bark looks very nice, it does not form an ideal bonding base for the epoxy resin. Then you should work the edges again by hand with sandpaper, so that wood and resin can later combine optimally.
- Now sand the large surfaces of the wood smoothly. An eccentric sander is particularly suitable for this. You should start with 80 grit and then work your way up to 220 grit. After each grit size the dust should be removed from the boards. The sides are best finished by hand with sandpaper.
- Finally, the wood must be cleaned extremely thoroughly from all dust residues. A vacuum cleaner is an excellent tool for this. Then wipe again with a microfibre cloth to get rid of the last fine sanding dust.
Images: left: Vlad Teodor / shutterstock.com, right: Velimir Isaevich / shutterstock.com
Step 2: Fill in bumps and cracks and seal the wood
- Now all possible unevenness, cracks and porous areas in the wood must be levelled. These are simply filled with crystal clear, unpigmented epoxy resin. If you want to even out any unevenness in unfavourably located areas at the edges, you can seal the edges in advance with a very strong adhesive tape. This will prevent the resin from running over the edges afterwards.
- After the filled up resin has dried, the whole wood is sealed. Use a crystal-clear resin as you would for filling the cracks. This is generously distributed over the entire wood surface. This sealing prevents later outgassing of the wood. It is better to invest a little more money in a good brush that does not hair. Because once hairs have been distributed, it is very difficult to remove them from the resin again. The sealant must then dry very well. You should allow 5 hours for this in any case. The ideal temperature for drying is 18° to 24° C.
- After curing you should slightly roughen the inner edges, which will later come into contact with the cast resin, by hand with sandpaper. This will create the perfect base for the resin to bond with the edges.
Step 3: Build a mould / formwork for the table top
- Next, a mould is built in the desired length and size of the table. Simple MDF boards are used for this. The whole thing sounds more complicated than it actually is. However, it has to be measured and worked out very precisely and carefully. MDF boards with a thickness of 16 mm, both for the underside and the sides, have proven to be very suitable for the production of the mould.
- The side panels should protrude the actual table top by approx. 15 mm. There are two possibilities for joining the underside with the side panels: either the individual parts can be screwed together or joined together with hot glue.
Images: left: brizmaker / shutterstock.com, right: Rawpixel.com / shutterstock.com
- To seal the edges afterwards, it is best to use clear sanitary silicone. Here, very careful work is essential to ensure that the mould is 100 % tight at the end. Otherwise liquid epoxy resin will leak out.
- Now a release agent is applied in the finished mould. This is a very important step, as the resin could otherwise adhere to the MDF boards after drying. In this case it would be almost impossible to release the table top from the mould without damaging it. It would be possible to use adhesive tape to cover the entire mould or, alternatively, liquid release wax. Spraying with Teflon spray or silicone spray (this should be applied in up to three layers until the surface is smooth) is also suitable for this purpose.
Images: left: Wood’n Water Artwork and Design, right: Comeback Images / shutterstock.com
Step 4: Inserting the wood into the mould
- Make sure that the work surface on which the mould rests is really 100% in the balance. Otherwise the resin would become skewed after filling and possibly leak. Once this has been ensured, the wood is now placed in the mould. To do this, the wood is pushed into the position that it should have when the table is finished and then fixed with several parallel clamps. If you are planning a slightly smaller model, the wood can alternatively be fixed with heavy objects such as stones. However, you should always bear in mind that any object used to fix the wood could come into contact with the resin.
- In order to prevent the resin from later being present on the entire table and not just in the gutter provided for it, it is advisable to draw a kind of barrier of sanitary silicone along the inner edges at a distance of 1 to 2 cm.
Step 5: Mix epoxy resin
Calculate the right amound of epoxy resin for your epoxy resin river table. This can be a little bit complicated. For this reason, we have created an epoxy resin calculator to help you out:
- In the next step you now mix the epoxy resin. Important: When working with resin please always wear safety glasses, breathing protection and nitrile gloves!
- Now you need a sufficiently large bucket. It would be ideal if this bucket holds the entire amount of resin or the first layer of resin. Please choose a sufficiently large bucket so that nothing can go wrong. It should also tend to be more wide than high, so that not too much heat is generated.
- This again shows that resin is a very sensitive material. From a certain amount and height it starts to get extremely hot and in extreme cases boils and thus becomes either cloudy or directly unusable. Therefore it may be necessary to cast the resin in several layers. The product used is the most important factor here. How many layers are required, or the maximum layer height and maximum amount to be mixed, ultimately depends on the thickness of your table top. If in doubt, observe the maximum layer thickness specified by the manufacturer or decide directly for a special epoxy resin as described above, which can be cast directly in one layer.
Images: left: Wood’n Water Artwork and Design, right: futuristman / shutterstock.com
- It is also particularly important that the mixing ratio recommended by the manufacturer is observed and that the individual components are then thoroughly mixed. A drill with a mixer attachment has proven to be the best solution for this.
- After mixing, air bubbles that have formed in the resin can be easily removed with a Bunsen burner or hot air blow dryer. The rule here is: as much as necessary, as little as possible. If the resin is heated too much, it will be damaged.
Step 6: Colouring the resin Creating a water effect
- Especially when casting a water effect, it becomes clear why the acquisition of a special epoxy resin, which can be cast very easily in one step, pays off.
- If you want to achieve the popular water look after mixing the two resin components, the appropriate colour pigments must now be added to the epoxy resin. To do this, divide the resin into two containers (the ratio 1:1.5 would be possible, for example). To achieve the water effect, colour the larger part of the resin with a metallic pigment in turquoise and the smaller part with a matt blue pigment. This mixture refers, as said, only to the typical water look. In general, there are no limits to the choice of colour.
- When filling in the epoxy resin there are again two possibilities. You can either pour the resin from the two containers alternately into the mould or simultaneously from one side each. Slight circular movements, especially with the metallic epoxy resin, make the final result look lively.
- At the end, the resulting pattern can be changed with a wooden stick or similar.
Afterwards the epoxy resin has to cure very well (follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
Images: left: © Suteren Studio – stock.adobe.com, right: Suteren / shutterstock.com
Step 7: Creating a design with crystal clear resin
- In addition to the typical water look, there is an infinite number of different designs that turn your DIY table into a real work of art. Just as nice to look at is for example a River Table with crystal clear resin and embedded objects. For this, a first layer of crystal clear resin is poured between the two wooden boards. This process should be done very quickly, but still carefully.
- Afterwards a short (!) walk over the epoxy resin with a hot air dryer. Extreme caution is required here. If the resin is exposed to the extreme heat of the hairdryer at the same spot for longer than 3 seconds, this can cause, among other things, a burning of the material. The final result is an unsightly yellow epoxy.
Images: left: Marco Zamperini / shutterstock.com, right: Wood’n Water Artwork and Design
- Now follows the so-called “B Stage”, the second layer. When this layer is poured, the first layer should not yet be completely dry and still slightly sticky on the surface. You must not miss this point, as the next layer can only bond optimally with the first one if the substrate is slightly sticky. If the first layer is already completely dry, wait until the resin is completely cured. Then sand the surface with a 220 grain, clean it thoroughly and then pour the second layer.
- If you want to embed decorative elements such as crystals or pebbles in the epoxy resin, then these should be added to the second layer. This has the advantage that they can no longer sink to the bottom.
- Now the resin layer can be filled in to just above the edge and then allowed to dry completely again. The manufacturer’s instructions should again be observed.
Step 8: Removal from the mould and sanding
- Next, the cast table top is released from the mould. To do this, remove all screws and parallel clamps and carefully loosen the table top from the mould using a chisel and a plastic hammer. Afterwards the table top can be ground. This work can be done by hand. However, an orbital sander makes the task incredibly easier. Start with an 80 grit and work your way up to 400 grit. At the end there should be no more resin on the wood.
- For perfectly smooth edges, these can be additionally processed with a router before sanding or, if necessary, cleanly re-cut or planed again with a circular saw. However, these steps are not absolutely necessary. A small tip: The higher the grain of the sanding paper, the lighter the surface of the Epoxy River Table will be at the end.
Images: Comeback Images / shutterstock.com
Step 9: Finishing / finishing
Polishing and oiling the table top
- Now follows the finish, in order to protect the wood optimally. On the one hand you have the possibility to achieve a natural, matt look. To achieve this, the finished table top – and especially the resin river – should be thoroughly polished with a polishing machine and polishing paste. This procedure ensures that all traces of sanding are removed and a silky surface is achieved.
- For a matt appearance, oil is then applied evenly over the entire table top, e.g. with a soft cloth. This method is extremely simple and seals the wood perfectly. In addition, only one single application is required here.
- For the epoxy resin polishing we have prepared separate, detailed instructions.
Images: left: Osadchaya Olga / shutterstock.com, right: © Suteren Studio – stock.adobe.com
Covering with crystal clear resin
- If you prefer a glossy look, you can instead coat the surface of the tabletop with crystal-clear resin. To do this, start with the underside of the table top and first apply a sturdy adhesive tape around the top, which should protrude 1 to 2 cm. This prevents the resin from dripping down the sides.
- Now the resin is poured over the surface and evenly distributed over the entire surface. A plastic spatula, for example, is suitable for this. Go briefly over the resin with a hot air dryer to avoid bubbles. Afterwards, the whole thing must be completely hardened again.
- Since the first layer is only the base, you should always pour a second layer of resin. Here too, the first layer should be sanded briefly to ensure a successful bond between the two layers.
- After curing, you can now remove the adhesive tape on the sides. Now the edge of the painted underside is taped (at least 5 cm wide).
- Then you can turn the table top over and put something suitable underneath it, such as leftover pieces of wood. To avoid damage to the lacquered side, you should also place a fleece underneath.
The table top must be 100% level again, so that the resin can now be poured over the top of the table. After the subsequent distribution with a spatula and the drying time, the remaining adhesive tape can now be removed and all sharp edges can be sanded with a fine sandpaper.
Images: Wood’n Water Artwork and Design / www.woodnwater.com.br
Spraying by professionals with polyurethane lacquer
- For a perfect, mirror-smooth surface, a professional must be commissioned after all, because a polyurethane coating is necessary for this. Such a paint job can only be done with special equipment, a paint booth and a lot of know-how. Furthermore, this technique is very cost-intensive. The advantage of a polyurethane paint would be a very high durability and insensitivity, e.g. to scratch marks. However, with such a high-quality piece as the self-built Epoxy River Table, the investment in such a painting is worth considering in any case.
Last but not least: Attach the table legs
- In order to finally finish the good piece you can screw on legs of your choice. With classic wooden legs, the table looks rustic, but at the same time noble. Stylish metal table legs turn the table into a modern piece of furniture.