I refinished this old stained end table with epoxy resin and mica powder and I’m just delighted with how it turned out.
I’m feeling more and more confident about resin projects – I’ve been doing them for a couple summers at this point and am starting to have more success. Resin is finicky. There are so many ways it can go wrong. You’ve got to get the temperature and the mix just right, and even if you follow the directions to the letter, Circumstances May Conspire to wreck your project anyway. And resin isn’t cheap.. a gallon container can run anywhere from $80-$120.
But.. look how pretty… so I’ll document some of the stuff I’m learning in case anyone finds it helpful.
Epoxy Resin Tips for Beginners
There are three basic types of resin for this kind of project:
- Casting Resin. This is the kind you find at the craft store. It’s generally for making smaller projects like necklace cabochons and the like.
- Deep Pour Resin. This is, as the name suggests, for thicker pours of up to 2-3″ deep.
- Table Top Resin. This is for finishing surfaces like table tops or bar tops. It’s a bit thinner and levels itself to around 1/8″ when you pour it over a surface.
I’ve been a bit promiscuous in the past — I just used whatever was available or handy for whatever project I wanted to do. Resin is resin, right?
Well.. up to a point.
I’d used casting resin to make LED necklaces, so I used the same type to make my glowing resin river table. First of all it took FOREVER since I had to pour in 1/4″ layers — this table is almost two inches thick so it took me weeks to get all the layers done. I should have used deep pour epoxy.
That table also had a pretty rough surface. I was going for “glassy smooth and buttery”, but I ended up with a lot of dimples and ridges. I recently sanded it down and did another surfacing pour with Tabletop Epoxy and it looks a thousand times better now.
Lesson learned: use the right kind of resin.
Coloring & Beach Wave Technique
I used mica powder mixed into the resin for this piece. I didn’t get any build photos, since this was just my first try with this kind of thing (ok, second try), but there are a ton of tutorial videos online – just search “Beach Waves Epoxy Resin” and get some popcorn.
First I sanded the table top and vacuumed all the subsequent dust from the cracks. Then I masked off the base of the table by putting it inside a big black garbage bag and taping the edges to the underside of the table.
Once I got my temperature-controlled, dust-free environment set up, I got out five small cups (I used old spray paint can lids) and mixed about 1-2 teaspoons of mica powder in each one. One cup was white, then I had a light green and a dark green, and then a greenish-black. I also had a cup for clear resin. I mixed about 2 teaspoons of medium green for my main color in a bigger container.
I didn’t have any green mica — I just mixed blue and yellow together to get the greens. I like the variation I got.
Then I mixed about a quart of tabletop epoxy and poured maybe a half cup into each of the color-containing cups and mixed them all separately, leaving a good bit of clear resin. The clear is used for coating the bare wood part of the table, for a nice, level tabletop, and also to get a nice separation under
I started with the larger cup of medium-green, then added the lighter greens toward the beach and the darker toward the other edge. I poured the clear along the wood side and mixed them all together with my gloved fingertips to get a gradient.
I let it set up for around two minutes, then poured another swath of clear along the edge of the green, and just a small amount of white over that. Then I hit it with my hair dryer to swirl the colors and get the waves to look all swirly-like.
I popped any bubbles that came up with a heat gun. But as you can see in this photo, I missed a few. Since the wood wasn’t sealed with anything after I sanded it, some air bubbles leaked up slowly as the resin cured. Not a huge deal… but I might do the next one a little differently to avoid this.
Epoxy Resin Pouring Tips – Mistakes to Avoid
Temperature and humidity matters.
Resin won’t set up if it’s too cold, it’ll remain sticky forever and you’ll have to throw away your whole project.
When the directions say “dust-free environment“, they mean “dust-free environment”. A speck of dust will make a dimple in your project that’s WAY out of proportion to the size of the dust mote. I ended up sealing off my wine cellar, covering the floor in plastic, and putting an air purifier and space heater in there so I could get the conditions just right. This certainly isn’t 100% necessary, especially for smaller projects, but having the right environmental conditions makes a huge difference.
Mixing – Slow and Steady
The directions on most brands say to mix for 3-5 minutes. I watched some YouTube, felt all clever, and ordered myself a power mixer — basically an eggbeater that fits into a power drill. When I mixed my clear epoxy with this it turned solid white, because it sucked in a million tiny air bubbles. I had to do a whole lot of work with my heat gun to try and clarify it — I very nearly ruined my great big expensive project! Mix your epoxy by hand, and mix slowly and thoroughly.
Sealing the Wood
I sanded this tabletop down to get the old varnish off (along with all the stains and old cup-rings). I didn’t re-seal it with anything afterwards. Air will bubble up through unsealed wood, every time. This doesn’t matter a bit if it’s in your ocean-wave section, bubbles look great there. But in the clear section it’s just kind of annoying. Next time I’ll seal the wood first.
I poured enough resin that it spilled over the edges and onto the floor, in hopes of coating the sides of the table nicely. I masked the legs and base by putting them inside a garbage bag and taping it to the underside of the table top. This worked pretty well, except that I didn’t sand the sides of the table! I think they were finished with some kind of oil-based finish, because the resin didn’t stick to them very well and is peeling up in a couple places. Also, a lot of the drips hardened into place and I had to do some work with a box knife to smooth it out under there. I’m sure there is plenty of advice about this online — this is where I am in my learning curve, apparently.
I hope this has been helpful! I’d love to see photos of all your projects too.. Epoxy resin is fun!
I have also been getting a lot of inspiration from the Epoxy Resin Ideas & Advice group on facebook. Join up for lots and lots of project photos and tips from folks who really know what they’re doing!