When it comes to adhesives epoxy resin has a history of being used in the creation of everything from cars to aircraft, to snowboards. That is to say, resin can repair items made of metal, wood, glass, ceramic, or other synthetic materials. Broken table leg? Epoxy resin has got you (and that table leg) covered. Shattered mug handle? Broken statue in the yard? That’s right – epoxy resin.
You can prevent corrosion with epoxy resin. This durable, waterproof material can create glossy coating to protect wooden tabletops. Some other examples would be tile floors, garage floors, metals prone to rust, and anything else you need sealed and protected from the elements. I’ve even witnessed it being used to seal completed puzzles and collage projects.
To start your DIY resin river table project you will need to choose your wood, it needs to be as dry and flat as possible and the more interesting the wood the better for this type of project, however this will depend on your personal taste. If you don't have access to a professional workshop you can ask your wood supplier to plane the wood to your chosen thickness and cut it in half ready to create the river channel. You will need to have access to various tools and materials and it is very important that you work in controlled workshop conditions to achieve optimum results - like a dry heated workshop and room temperature 23 Celsius throughout the working and curing time.
For this conventional resin river table the step by step guide assumes that the wood has a edge of either live or waney and is split down the middle then turned over and inverted so that with the gap for the river it forms an accurate rectangle. If the live-edge has bark or loose material on it this will need to be completely removed so that when the resin and wood meet they will form a strong chemical bond. The best way to do this is to remove the loose material with a chisel, then abrade the surface and remove any dirt/dust.
If your wood has any splits, cracks or knotholes on the underside these will need to be filled with a small batch of resin (those on the table-top can be filled when the main pour is done). You may need to top-up these small pours as the wood will soak up some of the resin. Flash/release tape is ideal for creating a temporary barrier if required as it won't stick to the cured resin, and the aim is to pour to slightly overfill the hole. Once fully cured use a hand-held sander to remove any high-spots.
Due to the resin river being largely unsupported you will need to set up a barrier (both base and sides) around the wood, check that these are watertight and made from material that the will not stick to - ideally Acrylic sheet or Wood with Sunmica. We used Ply wood with Sunmica sheet which gives a great smooth surface finish and used a hot-melt glue-gun to fix and seal the barriers. At this stage you will need to add additional support to the sides to support the barriers when the weight of the resin is poured in and plan the clamping that will be necessary to hold the planks in position and flat. When you are happy with the set-up remove the clamps and your wood from the container and you are ready to pour.
We recommend that you measure or weigh out the resin for the entire project if you are adding color or effects as this will ensure a consistent color/effect. We used blue translucent tinting pigment - adding a few drops at a time until we reached our chosen color, we used a tinting pigment so that the resin was still translucent but would look like a river. Then measure out the correct amount of hardener for each pour (do not exceed 25mm depth in a single pour) and mix thoroughly before transferring to a second container and mixing again (this is also known as 'double-potting'). Then the following pours will be made:
- Base Layer & Sealing Coat
- Main Pour - Layer 1
- Main Pour - Layer 2
- Main Pour - Layer 3
- Final Clear Layer
After each pour the resin must be allowed to reach the B-stage - this means that the resin has partially cured and started to become firm when touching the surface (with a gloved finger) you can make a mark but no resin sticks to your finger. Pouring on top of the layer below at it's B-stage will ensure a strong chemical bond - as though the pour was done as a single pour.
Remember, do not exceed the 25mm single pour depth and mix multiple smaller batches as required and use the double-potting method to ensure a thorough mix. The resin is self-degassing but if you do find that you have any bubbles use a heat-gun or hairdryer on a low heat to help remove them.
Pouring a base/sealing layer before the main pour is the most important advice we can offer - it will completely seal all the faces of the wood and minimize air entrapment. Pour a layer into the barrier container and reposition the wood then using a brush apply a thin coat of resin all over the exposed edges and fill any knotholes or cracks as before. Then add the clamps and fasten into position. Once the B-stage has been reached pour Layer 1 of the main pour and repeat as necessary until the resin is just slightly proud of the river channel then leave to fully cure.
Lastly, pour the transparent / clear layer all over the table including the wood; to make it even and look cleaner. One can use glossy, mate or simple pour here.
Once cured, remove the barriers and decide on the final finish you would like to achieve. The tutorial demonstrates a natural wood finish contrasting with a glossy high shine resin river. To achieve this you will need to completely flat the surface of the piece - there are different ways to achieve this depending on the equipment available to you. We used a router set up on a bridge and made multiple passes over the whole surface area. Then using a hand-held sander we worked through coarse to fine grits until a smooth finish was achieved.
Sixth Step (Optional)
We wanted to create a coffee table with a waterfall effect using sides made from the piece of wood and resin rather than separate legs, to make it look like the river flows all through the top and sides. We created mitered joints using a 45° blade angle and brought the joints together using a clear epoxy adhesive - Permabond Using release tape to all sides of the joint to create a hinge then applying the adhesive and clamping at a 90° angle whilst the adhesive cures.
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