Wood & Resin Coffee Table
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Below is a full video of the build process.