Tutorial: Wood and Epoxy Resin River Table DIY

Do you think a beautiful epoxy table can only be created by an experienced craftsman? Far from it! In the following article, we will show you, step-by-step, with a detailed list of the materials you require, how you can create a river table that will impress everyone that steps foot into your home. And with the right tools and materials as well as some practical tips, it’s not as difficult as you might think!

Step 1: The best epoxy resin for your river table

Pouring epoxy resin river tables requires certain types of epoxy and special techniques. With most normal epoxies, you are restricted to only pouring thin layers of 5mm – 15mm to prevent excessive heat. Because many epoxy river tables are much thicker than this, multiple layers must be used, or as we recommend, a quality deep cast resin. This allows you to pour your river in one single layer and reduces your chances of making mistakes. If you are unsure of how much epoxy you may need, please see our Epoxy Resin Volume Calculator page for more help.

EPOXY RESIN – Deep Cast – Clear 2:1-15 Lt kit – for river tables & volume casting

Step 2: Chose your wood

When choosing your wood you need to make sure that the wood is flat as possible, seasoned, and dry. The style and type of wood is a personal choice – although interesting grains, knots, and curves work well and I like to go with something with a live edge as it works best for this type of project. You can usually find a supplier or sawmill in your local area that will stock different kinds of timber slabs and offer delivery to your home if needed.

Step 3: Preparing the wood

You have two options for preparing the wood. Firstly, you can prepare the wood yourself if you have the equipment and tools, or you can ask your supplier or local joinery to cut the wood down to the correct size and depth and also ask them to cut it in half if you’re going to do a river channel down the middle.

After you have cut your slab in half, both pieces of wood must then be cut to exactly the same length and the side edges cut at right angles to the straight long sides.  You then need to flip and invert your pieces of wood to create the river channel. Then remove any bark from the inside live-edges with a chisel. This will allow the epoxy to bond to the wood surface and the finished table will be strong. Although the bark looks very nice, it does not form an ideal bonding base for the epoxy.

I then use a wire brush to clean any remaining bark debris and finally a light sand before cleaning the dust away with a cloth.

Step 4: Creating a frame

For the next step, we will need to build our formwork or frame to house our tabletop and epoxy as it dries. I like to use melamine board as it is relatively cheap and usually available from your local Bunnings or hardware store. Start by cutting the base to the desired size of the tabletop. Then, using extra pieces of melamine or wood, cut walls for the frame which need to be roughly 15 – 25mm taller than the tabletop to allow for overflow and prevent spills. To join the base and walls I simply clamped the walls down onto the base, pre-drilled holes, and screwed them down into place with wood screws.

With the frame nice and sturdy we now need to make sure it is watertight so no epoxy will leak from the frame while it sets. For this, I used some clear silicone in a Caulking Gun to run along all the joins and edges, then smoothed it over with my finger

Lastly, we need to either apply adhesive tape to cover the entire mould or, alternatively, liquid release wax or silicone spray to prevent the resin from bonding to the melamine board. I chose to use Ametalin Insulation Tape to cover the entire inside of the formwork. This works great when trying to release the dried resin and table from the frame and it has high heat resistance. Take care not to trap any air bubbles under the tape as this creates an uneven surface to pour on.

Step 5: Placing the wood in the frame

First, place your pieces of wood into the frame. If your table is very large you may require the help of a second person to do this. The wood is pushed into the final position that it should be when the table is finished and then fixed with several pieces of wood and clamps to prevent it from floating when the resin is poured. Then, In order to prevent the resin from later spilling out onto the entire table and not just in the gutter provided for it, I run a barrier line of silicone down both sides of the river about 1cm in from the live edge. The last thing we need to do in this step is to make sure everything is level before pouring. Even a slight difference may cause the epoxy to collect down one end and be short on the other.

Step 6: Seal the Wood

This is all about the bubbles.  Just before your pour, take a small amount of epoxy and use a quality paintbrush to coat the live edge of the wood where the epoxy will be poured. This will keep the porous wood from soaking up too much resin and expelling as many bubbles, which is important to achieve the clear water look we are going for. I then let this semi-dry for several hours before moving onto the next step.

Step 7: Mixing the epoxy resin

After using our Epoxy Resin Volume Calculator to determine the right amount of Epoxy you require, it is time to start mixing for the main pour. For this example, I am using a deep cast resin that can be poured in one single layer and so this requires several large buckets to make up about 28L

Note, it is very important to wear the appropriate safety equipment such as gloves and breathing protection, and that the mixing ratio recommended by the manufacturer is adhered to.  Also, ensure that the A and B components are thoroughly mixed. To do this you must first measure or weigh the Part A and B separately and then combine them in a larger container or bucket. To mix well I then use a drill and paint mixer attachment for about a minute on a slow speed, making sure the mixer reaches every part of the bucket. Lastly before pouring, if you are adding a colour or pigment in your river, this is when it is mixed through. I chose a Transparent Resin Dye from PSTF called Poly Supra Blue and only a very small amount is required. I added several drops to the mixing bucket until it reached the right colour tone while continuing mixing for another minute or two.

Now we are ready to pour!

Step 8: Pouring your Epoxy Resin

First, you must choose which end to pour from and then lift your freshly mixed bucket of epoxy and start pouring directly into the river cavity. It is best to pour as slowly as possible to prevent any splashes or drops spilling onto the wood or outside areas. This will also help prevent too many air bubbles from forming.  Allow the resin to slowly flow down and level itself inside the bottom of the river. Continue pouring the epoxy until it rises just above the edge and stops against the silicone barrier.

After a couple of minutes, I then take a heat gun or hairdryer and apply heat to the areas where air bubbles have formed. You must use extreme caution not to keep the heat applied to one area for too long and keep the heat gun moving at all times. If you expose the epoxy to too much heat, this can cause burning and warping of the resin. After expelling all the air bubbles I usually return to the table several more times every 10-15 minutes and repeat this procedure carefully until the epoxy starts to harden. We then allow the resin to dry completely in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. This can take up to several days depending on the brand you have chosen.

Step 9: Removing the table from the formwork

Firstly, remove any clamps and wood used to hold the tabletop down in place. Then remove any screws from the frame itself and carefully separate the frame sides from the base and tabletop.

Then to separate the base from the tabletop I used a rubber mallet and plastic chisel on one corner, and then slowly worked my way around the table with the tools lifting the tabletop from the frame base. Use caution doing this step not to scratch or crack your tabletop.

Step 10: tabletop finishing

For this step, I usually start with cleaning up the sides and edges making sure they are perfectly straight using a circular saw to trim off excess. Then, I routed the edges of my table.  If you have access to a thickness plainer large enough for your tabletop, this will save a lot of time levelling out any high spots and creating an even thickness for your table. If not, I usually start with a belt sander on 100 grit to tackle any high spots and then move to an orbital sander and work my way down to a really fine grit, until a silky smooth feel is achieved. Depending on the look you are trying to achieve from here will determine what type of finishing work is required.

If you want that glass-like finish then applying a finishing layer of epoxy to both sides will achieve this. I chose to go with a slightly less glossy look and used a product called Odie’s Oil. This seals the wood and protects it and it is also food safe and can be used on all wood surfaces, which was perfect for this dining table. I used a soft cloth and applied it evenly across the entire tabletop and only one coat was required.

Step 11: Attach table legs

In order to finally use your amazing creation, you need to choose some table legs and attach them to the tabletop. This comes down to personal taste and what look will match your home. I chose some Stylish metal table legs to turn the table into a more modern piece of furniture. These particular legs were attached with threaded inserts that screwed into the tabletop. Then bolts were placed through the steel into the inserts. This created a much stronger hold over normal screws and the legs can be removed easier if required when moving.

I hope you find this Tutorial helpful when you start your journey to building your own beautiful Epoxy Resin Table!