Epoxy, You Can Too
Just like Hansel, epoxy is so hot right now. You have probably noticed countless pour videos and finished river tables being coated in oils all over social media lately. After seeing all of those perfect glassy looking colours, you are probably trying to figure out how you too can make your own piece. Epoxy and filling things with it is the way all the cool kids are doing woodworking right now, so who could blame you? I'm going to go through the process step by step as well as share a few tricks and tips to make it a little easier and the results look professional.
First, What Is Epoxy?
What is Epoxy resin? It's a thermosetting polymer liquid, meaning it's a liquid that, once mixed, has a chemical reaction causing the liquid to become rock hard plastic with a glue like bond. Epoxy mixed properly can bond to almost any surface and will stabilize any potential holes or cracks. It's not just about practicality. Epoxy can be tinted using pre-made tinting powders or acrylic paint to make any colour you can dream up. The possibilities are endless in how you can implement it creatively into your work.
Epoxy will stick to pretty much anything so the limitations are very few. That being said, most issues come when the surface isn't prepared properly. If you're going to pour on wood, then plane, cut, lightly sand and wipe down all of the pieces before you even think of pouring. With all of that done as long as your work surface is dust free and your temperature for working and curing time is within manufacturers specs, you're good to go.
Let's Get Started!
First thing, epoxy resin makes a mess so wear gloves and tape off the sides and bottom of the void or spot that you're filling to hold the epoxy where you want it to stay. I recommend using standard Tuck tape. If you're doing a river pour (see video) build a box out of melamine boards and cover the bottom and sides in tape. When in doubt, add more tape. If there's a way it can leak, it will!
Mix It Up!
Time to get mixing! The resin comes in two bottles - one part resin and one part hardener. Mix the two liquids into a measuring cup and stir for as long as directed. Stirring is no easy
feat. To properly mix the epoxy, you will have to stir it until your arm feels like it will fall off. The epoxy may even heat up in the process. Add any pigment powders or dyes (acrylic paint works) and stir for another minute. Ensure your project is completely level so the epoxy will sit flat. Pour away making sure to evenly fill the void in 1/4 inch increments until the void is slightly overfilled. g
Heat It Up!
Once poured, the epoxy will have bubbles in it from stirring. These pesky bubbles not only look bad but can float to the top and leave craters in the nice glassy finish. Don't worry. This is where the magic of a propane torch or heat gun comes in! I prefer using a heat gun over a traditional propane torch for smaller pours and a combination of the two for deeper pours. For deeper pours, a torch partnered with the heat gun is required to burn off the surface bubbles quickly to get the glassy finish. I find the heat gun lets me control the amount of heat easier as it heats slower and the fan helps push the epoxy deeper into the void. The torch clears the bubbles quickly giving the large pour a glassy finish.
Cure and finish
Let the epoxy cure for as long as it needs (usually overnight). To finish the epoxy, you will need to remove the excess from the surface. To do so, sand the epoxy down flat. I work from 80-4000 (80, 150, 180, 220, 400, 1000, 2000 and 4000) grit paper/sponges using the 80 to do most of the removal then working through the other grits until it's polished to glass.
Tips and Tricks
Trying to get professional finishes takes time but here are a few ways to get the job done quicker.
#1-Use your heat gun to warm the epoxy in the bottles prior to mixing. It not only makes the pour from the bottles easier, but will ensure it's at a proper mixing temperature.
#2-When mixing always use one container. Measuring in separate containers or pouring into another one will change the ratio of the mixture.
#3-Heat the bubbles out of the mixing cup before pouring.
#4-Pour low. It may look cool on your video to do a real long pour, but you're adding air to the epoxy causing more bubbles needing to be removed later.
#5-Fully cured excess epoxy removals can be sped up by using a carbide scraper or a planer prior to sanding.
#6-If you're building a river table, caulk the bottom edges of the box/form to hold in any accidental leaks.
#7-If you're using a softer wood or one that has deep spots needing to be filled, mix some clear epoxy and brush it in to the voids with a foam brush first. This will make less epoxy needed during the pour and help with air from the wood.
#8-If you have a deep void or knot to fill, you can fill the bottom half of it with clear glue or caulk and pour the epoxy on top to save on epoxy costs.
#9-Shine your epoxy like glass, literally. Use Windex to clean the epoxy once finished.
That's it! Follow these steps and the sky is the limit! You can pour into any void or shape you want!
If you have any questions on the process of pouring epoxy resin or the Milwaukee M18 Coordless heat gun, please feel free to click the contact button in the menu or come to The School For Kids Who Can't Epoxy Good and Want to Do Other Stuff Good Too.