Don’t want to abandon the beach at the end of your vacation? Bring it to you with this side table that resembles a cross-section of the ocean.
Bob Clagett shared the video how-to of this project to his website after being inspired by river tables and his wife’s love for the ocean. This project takes about a week to complete when you factor in set and dry times, and it took Bob three tries to get it just right. He shares his best tips for the concrete and epoxy processes in his video, and the steps are outlined here.
How to Make an Epoxy Table Step-by-Step
Step 1: Make the Concrete Form
Cut melamine to make the concrete form. You’ll need a bottom piece that’s the same length and width as the size you’d like your table to be, and four pieces for the sides that will dictate the height. Be sure to keep two of these pieces slightly larger than the others for a secure form.
Bind the side pieces to each other and the base piece of melamine with screws. Then, cut small pieces of melamine to mimic the sizes of your inset table legs. Cut one piece the width of the leg and cut a smaller piece to make up the difference in width on the other side. Glue the two pieces together with CA glue, then put in place.
Finally, seal the form with silicone sealant at each seam. Also seal the cut edges of the melamine to prevent the concrete from sticking. Apply mold release to ease in removing the corners and side pieces from the concrete and epoxy.
Step 2: Pour the Concrete
Once the sealant has dried, clean out the form. Then follow the directions for adding water to your concrete mix and prepare in a large bucket. (See Roger Cook and Kevin O’Connor give some tips at How to Work with Concrete.)
Boost up one side of your form by a few inches (Bob used melamine scraps) so that you can pour the concrete on at a slant. This will make the ocean effect appear to have an increasing depth.
Pour in gradually, then take time to shape the concrete to look like a beach once it’s in the mold. Bob made his base thin on one side and thicker on the other, then added texture to the top to give the concrete ocean floor a more natural look.
Get rid of some of the air bubbles by running an orbital sander (without the pad) along the sides of the form. Cover with plastic, and let cure for roughly 48 hours.
Step 3: Prepare the Table Legs and Cross Braces
Adjust the fence on your table saw so that you can cut four square legs for your table. These dimensions should match the size of the insets you made in your concrete mold. Clean and sand the legs appropriately, and select the side of each leg that you’d prefer to have facing outward on the table.
Bob used wood from the same site to cut four pieces for cross bracing. He cut these to length, but slightly oversized.
Step 4: Add the Epoxy
Once the concrete has had a couple days to dry and set, remove and vacuum away extra concrete and dust that crept up the side of the form. Then, set up the form for the epoxy by boosting it in the opposite direction as you did when pouring the concrete.
Next, follow the specific ratios and processes for preparing the epoxy resin. Add blue resin dye (Bob added 10 drops) to give the epoxy an ocean color. Pour in the first batch of epoxy, manually adjusting the mold to make sure that it covers the entire base and reaches the corners.
Lightly set with a heat gun, which will also pop any air bubbles that begin to form. Continue adding epoxy until the table reaches the correct height, waiting 4-6 hours between each pour. Bob used 2 gallons of epoxy, split into 4 separate batches. Once the final layer has been added and the heat gun has been used to draw out air bubbles, let the epoxy cure for 48 hours.
Avoid cracks by keeping the thickness under the maximum recommended for each pour. If a crack does form, you can fix it by carefully pouring epoxy into the crack after letting it sit for the 4-6 hours, then applying the heat gun to that area before pouring the rest of the epoxy into the mold.
Step 5: Separate the Ocean Table from the Mold
Unscrew the mold one panel at a time, using a mallet to bump the melamine pieces away from the dried concrete and epoxy. Then, use an orbital sander to remove the residue. Be sure to also sand down the edges of the table, which can become sharp after the epoxy sets.
The mold release should assist with removing the side pieces and corners, but if it sticks, use a mallet and chisel to pull the pieces away. Save any corners of epoxy that break off, and use CA glue to reattach them after completing the initial sanding of the table.
Step 6: Complete the Legs and Cross Braces
Return to the cross-brace pieces made prior to adding the epoxy, and cut to the final width and length. One pair will cross underneath the table, and the other will be closer to the ends of the table legs.
To make the X shape, set up a stop block on each end of a cross-cut sled. Cut out the center of two of the four pieces of cross-brace wood to half depth.
The legs will need spaces for the cross bracing. To make them, begin by cutting a 2x4 to a 45-degree angle to act as a backer for your cross-cut sled. Draw a line where you want the cross-bracing to intersect the legs, and then set up a stop block to know where to cut. Holding the leg piece against the backer, cut several small slots to create a flat dado at an angle. Repeat this process at both ends of each leg. Then, clean out the cuts and flatten the slot area with a chisel.
Assemble the legs and cross-bracing and do a dry fit with the table. To add some reinforcement to the table structure, add a screw to the middle of each X from the bottom. Apply glue to each of the cuts in the table legs, then use a mallet to knock them into place. Surround the frame with straps to secure the frame as the glue dries. Add the table top to the frame to ensure that the frame holds the correct shape. Then, let the frame dry.
Step 7: Finish the Tabletop
Use spray glue to attach 400-grit sandpaper to a wood block, and sand all faces of the table. Then, wet sand the table beginning with 400-grit paper and moving up to 1500-grit.
Though Bob didn’t do this while making his table, he recommends sealing the concrete in this point of the process to prevent it from changing colors during the polishing process.
Next, use a polisher and two different compounds to smooth and shine the table, sanding and re-polishing as necessary. Bob did this over the course of an afternoon.
Step 8: Finish the Ocean Table Frame
Attach high-grit sandpaper to the orbital sander, and do a final clean-up of the frame. Then, Bob used Danish Oil to stain the frame. (See tips from Kevin O’Connor and wood-finishing expert Bruce Johnson at How to Stain and Finish Wood Furniture.)
Step 9: Attach the Table to the Frame
Once the frame is dry, set the table top inside the frame. It will stay in place because of its weight and the build of the frame. Also, this will allow you to more easily remove the table top from the frame should you ever want to re-polish or clean the top.