Epoxy resins have skyrocketed in popularity over the past several years by professional and novice woodworkers alike. The most instagrammable ones tend to be the “river” or “ocean” tables wherein epoxy is used to bridge the divide between two live-edge slabs for the effect of water. This can have a stunning effect, and really make a show piece out of otherwise normal slabs.
Here at Black Hound, we’ve used epoxy frequently over the years for bar tops or cast tables. For example, our award-winning Frozen River table utilized epoxy to create a frozen water effect. We tinted the epoxy with blue pigment for a high impact color and visual. We also inlaid some of the cracks with copper glitter for added punch. “I never thought I’d use glitter for anything in my life,” says James Hixson. “But it sure did look cool in the end.”
We’ve also created numerous dioramas in bar tops, vanities and tables using epoxy. From dominos, to tiny balloon animal charms, to landscape designs, we’ve inlaid all sorts of objects into our custom furniture.
One down side to epoxy lies simply with the process. It can be a tricky medium to work with, and easily leads to catastrophic results. Bubbles, waves, and ripples are all too easy to create, and very challenging to fix.
Three Common Mistakes
Brody Meldahl, one of our master wood craftsmen, said that there are three common mistakes when using epoxy:
"Dust is disastrous to epoxy use," Meldahl said. Just a few minute specks can wreak havoc on a build.
"You need to be in a completely dust free environment," Meldahl cautions. "Otherwise it can turn your project cloudy."
Likewise, the temperature is crucial for epoxy. “I remember one bar top we built years ago for a Denver brewery,” recalls Hixson. “It was really cold out that night, and we left the jug of epoxy on the floor of the car. We blasted the heater that next morning- not thinking about how it was also blasting the epoxy. When we poured it out onto the bar top, it clumped together into a solid mass, and instantly hardened.”
To fix it, the Black Hound Boys had to sand down the whole bar and start from square one. Ultimately, the brewery bar top looks great- but it sure gave them considerable headaches.
“Another important factor for epoxy use is patience,” says Meldahl. “You have to really babysit it and carefully watch out for any bubbles or disturbances.” Heat guns and fans are your friend and ally when on epoxy guard watch duty.
“Each epoxy resin is different,” Hixson notes. “For proper curing, the resin needs to be mixed thoroughly in the exact, correct proportions. This is an instance where you definitely want to read the directions.”
"You have to mix it really well," Meldahl continues. "Or it can turn to gel."
"But, this mixing can also lead to air bubbles," says Hixson. To combat this, here at Black Hound Design Company, we created a vacuum chamber out of an air compressor that sucks any air bubbles out. "Plus it also makes us feel like mad scientists," laughs Hixson.
In short, use epoxy with caution...but if done correctly, it can lead to beautiful end results.