Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table
#11
  
I have never done one of these, and I know they are not the most popular things among real woodworkers. I myself tend to agree, mostly because it seems like a different skill set. I see tons of epoxy tables that require a nice slab, but then just a mold and epoxy and some basic finishing techniques. Throw in metal legs, zero drawers, and you've got a "wood" project that really isn't. It's obvious that plenty of people, especially on YouTube, have plenty of real woodworking skill, so it's a bit frustrating to see it reduced to something like that. In any case, I did not intend for this project to be any sort of build thread, but I do have a few pictures and I'll share what I've learned. First, I had a small walnut log dropped off by a neighbor. At its widest, it was maybe 12". The "full" length was 31", and there were some sawn stubs above that. This is what I got from the log:
[Image: 20211106-112745.jpg]
That's two bowl blanks and three live edge boards of varying size. At 31", I wasn't really sure what to do with them, but I got the idea for a live edge / epoxy table to replace a thrift store piece we've had around for a while. That, unfortunately, is 48" long, so I didn't know what to do. I felt bad at the time (and still do, to be honest) but I resawed the thicker slab, split all of them roughly in half, and created three long "boards" by gluing end to end. To be realistic, most lumber yards would probably call this "character" lumber as it isn't anything special and contains visible defects. My plan was to do the back side flat, two live edges in the middle with the epoxy, and another live edge on the front. As I now had three boards that were butt-jointed (with Dominos, at least), I did not want a four-way joint so I threw in a piece of curly walnut that I had laying around. This would create a stronger panel overall.

However, wanting to plane the epoxy, I made the mold for about 12"x50" so I could put the resulting piece through the planer. The mold was melamine, sealed with silicone and then sprayed with a silicone mold release. I clamped the pieces down using scrap plywood to limit epoxy incursion underneath. I also sealed the inside of the channel with clear epoxy and a bit on the surface to prevent staining. The epoxy was mixed with mica powder (I mixed two colors, blue and silver) and mixed with a paddle and my drill. Upon first pour, there were a ton of small bubbles that significantly affected the color. Here's what it looked like:
[Image: 20211210-125636.jpg][Image: 20211210-150715.jpg]
That's pretty light, but as time passed and the bubbles rose and popped it looked a lot more like I expected. Most of what I had seen on YouTube said the exothermic reaction would create a lot of swirling effects in the epoxy. I did not get any of that, or rather very little. I checked periodically with my IR thermometer and the temperature never really went above 75 (ambient being 68). It said three days to cure, and it was probably done after 24 hours. I waited three days anyway. After that, I had to glue the curly walnut strip on one of the ends, then the other "live edge" board before surfacing. Here's what it looked like after all of that, including rounding over the edges:
[Image: 20211214-165115.jpg]
This was sanded to 240 at this point. You may notice that the already-bad-looking butt joint in the middle had a low spot that collected epoxy, so I had to get back to work and fix the whole thing anyway. I should note here that (as you can see on the floor) the bark was removed with an angle grinder and a nylon brush. It actually obliterates even hardwood (angle grinders do that) but without leaving the telltale marks of a wire brush. As you get to the sapwood, the bark is actually nearly solid and very firmly attached, so I left some of it (both on the inside and the outside) and tried to shape it to be somewhat pleasing while also maintaining an even line at the butt joint. The inside pieces were approximately matched in grain and bark, as they were pseudo-bookmatched (in a strange direction). The front piece was not, as that was two separate sides of a board (left and right, as it were). Unfortunately, this to me looks pretty bad, but then again this was an experiment that isn't leaving my house. So that will teach me to use the old "board stretcher" trick.

In any case, I then sanded the entire thing up to 5000 (mostly focusing on the epoxy past 320) and applied some Polyx. It did come out looking nice, at least except for the rather harsh wood discrepancies.
[Image: 20211215-150942.jpg]
I will not try any sort of butt-jointing like this with disparate boards again. With a resawn piece, bookmatching the pieces actually flows somewhat well, even with the obvious butt joint line. With the different pieces, it looks very chaotic and out of place, compounded by the "old" strip of curly walnut (which is very brown) in contrast with the rest of the walnut that's variegated with light sapwood and reddish-brown heartwood. Though I'm not terribly proud of this, it did turn out OK.
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#12
  Re: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by FS7 (I have never done on...)
The finished table looks good. I was afraid that the but joints all in the same place would not look good but at least in your photo they blend in quite well. I like the proportions.
Did you leave the bark on in the middle? If so, are you at all afraid the bark may separate and wreck the joint? I know nothing about this just thinking out loud.
Proud maker of large quantities of sawdust......oh, and the occasional project!
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#13
  Re: RE: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by KyleD (The finished table l...)
(12-16-2021, 06:29 AM)KyleD Wrote: The finished table looks good. I was afraid that the but joints all in the same place would not look good but at least in your photo they blend in quite well. I like the proportions.
Did you leave the bark on in the middle? If so, are you at all afraid the bark may separate and wreck the joint? I know nothing about this just thinking out loud.

I have done cutting boards with lots of scraps and shorts, and those butt joints look fine because there are multiple, the boards are thin (3/4" or so), and they are scattered (like flooring). Also, butt joints with boards this length isn't something you see often unless it's flooring (in which case there are many, and they are random), the grain is very light and not noticeable (like maple), or they're mass-produced finger-jointed butcher blocks or something. This is an unusual application and with only one joint per length they pretty much had to be aligned. I could have staggered them if the ends weren't checked - as mentioned, this was just a log. It was seasoned for a few years and my moisture meter said it was workable (below 7%), so I wasn't overly worried, but it was also stored outside and as far as I know no particular care taken to preserve it. It looks OK, but I wouldn't do this again. I like the design but I will be more than happy to get straight live edge slabs of the appropriate length. No more butt joints.

With the bark, I took off all the loose bark and then took the angle grinder to it until I only got dust and no chips. Very little got down to pure sapwood. I checked with a spokeshave and it did not separate at all, just peeled. So as far as I can tell it's very firmly attached at that point. I'm not a live edge expert, but from what I've seen different woods have very different bark characteristics. The butternut that I milled basically pops off all the thick bark right down to the sapwood, with a few stringy fibers left. Small pieces of holly that I've attempted to dry have very thin bark that when dry just pop right off. The walnut is transitional, and has either outer sapwood or inner bark that's darker brown and appears to have all the characteristics of wood.

I did seal it with epoxy on the inside, so that should probably help. In addition, when it's eventually attached to a base, it will be attached both in front of and behind the epoxy and supported by an apron. So there will be some mechanical attachment to prevent separation. I made the mold about 50" and the final dimension was close to 48", so I did shave off an inch or so from each end. One of those did break when falling to the ground, and it was pretty close to the sapwood. So yes, it's definitely a possibility.
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#14
  Re: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by FS7 (I have never done on...)
"I see tons of epoxy tables that require a nice slab, but then just a mold and epoxy and some basic finishing techniques. Throw in metal legs, zero drawers, and you've got a "wood" project that really isn't."

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this way. I don't care for the live edge stuff, especially with just steel hairpin legs. I do like the style with two live edges and epoxy filled in the center to make a regular rectangular table, very similar to part of yours.

Yours did come out very nicely, I like the colors.
Project Blog Got it all up-to-date, and I promise to keep it up-to-date.
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#15
  Re: RE: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by lincmercguy ("I see tons of epoxy...)
(12-17-2021, 05:14 PM)lincmercguy Wrote: "I see tons of epoxy tables that require a nice slab, but then just a mold and epoxy and some basic finishing techniques. Throw in metal legs, zero drawers, and you've got a "wood" project that really isn't."

I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks this way. I don't care for the live edge stuff, especially with just steel hairpin legs. I do like the style with two live edges and epoxy filled in the center to make a regular rectangular table, very similar to part of yours.

Yours did come out very nicely, I like the colors.

What's funny is that "live edge" is to me just a rebranding of wane, which used to be a defect. I don't really understand how we've gone from a bargain bin board to commanding a premium, but that's the world we live in.

For whatever reason, I inherited or came into a bunch of live edge stuff recently. My old neighbor discovered I was a woodworker and gave me this walnut log. I have three slabs from Grandpa Flynn's stash that I don't know what to do with. Also, when we were prepping his house for show, we found a butternut log that needed to be milled along with two stumps. I don't know what to do with most of that, but I thought I would at least experiment with some of this stuff. Thanks to YouTube's algorithms (and online data sharing in general) I've seen more than a few videos of epoxy tables recently. I know they're quite trendy, though surprisingly I've only had one person ask me to make something for them incorporating epoxy (which I declined, mostly because he's entirely unpleasable and not because I didn't want to try).

My current plan is to do a more traditional style base for this. Tapered legs, 4" apron, two small drawers, with curly walnut for the drawer fronts. This might end up being way too busy, so we'll see. I actually really like the color of this wood, as the reddish-brown heartwood and light sapwood contrast is really a lot more pleasing to me than my existing walnut inventory which is uniformly brown heartwood.
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#16
  Re: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by FS7 (I have never done on...)
I am finding that epoxy introduces pretty annoying finishing problems. I am not happy with where the top is, but I'm OK with it. My normal finishing method is multiple coats of Watco danish oil followed by buffing with Scotch-Brite pads (up to white) and mineral oil. This produces a very smooth finish. This time I used the "premium" finish - Osmo Polyx. The bottom of the table top was only sanded to 240, and I did not have any problems with nibs on the finish (even without buffing). On the top, I wanted the epoxy to pop, so I sanded that up to 5000. Though Osmo doesn't specify, it seems pretty clear that you shouldn't sand that high as it inhibits penetration. The epoxy itself only gets a very small film, so buffing the nibs out is likely to buff right through the finish. The wood is fine and can be buffed with green pads up to white, but the epoxy not so much. This is my first time doing epoxy and I think in the future I will try a) thinning the Osmo and b) not sanding past 240. Rubio I believe says not to sand past 180, and I assume this is why. The finish is acceptable, though not great.

I did the apron pieces and drawer fronts. It's no fun working with curly walnut as it seems wasteful...such a beautiful wood that I can't pick an appearance side. My schedule got accelerated since my wife wants to take down the Christmas tree yesterday and this is replacing the table that normally goes there. So I've got to get moving.
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#17
  Re: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by FS7 (I have never done on...)
Finished. There's a lot about this I'm not all that happy with, but this was meant to be a learning piece for our own use and not a masterpiece. I assembled the guts in the shop and decided to use desk top / table top figure eight fasteners instead of my regular system. These actually worked out very well and were pretty quick. No complaints.

[Image: 20220107-092712.jpg]
The hidden "middle piece" was homemade mahogany ply, glued to a random piece of thin maple I had, planed to the proper thickness, and then glued to another piece of mahogany ply to get to just under 1.5". I thought I was leaving a little extra clearance for the drawers (using 1/2" exactly is never a good idea) but they still came out a bit tight. That's frustrating. The legs are laminated plain walnut along with the interior dividers. All other visible pieces are figured walnut. I used a planer jig to taper the legs. As you can see, if you only support it at one end (the taper end), the feed rollers will create a gentle radius rather than an angular break. I like that look, but if you don't you can simply put a support in the middle.
[Image: 20220109-134649.jpg]
Of course, something had to go wrong. One of the fasteners was a little too close to the epoxy channel for my liking, so I decided to pre-drill despite using Spax screws (which are self-drilling). I of course ended up drilling through the top, and instead of just a hole it took a chip with it. So I then had to fix that and refinish at least part of the top. Fortunatey, Osmo Polyx is pretty easy to repair, and the, ahem, "rustic" nature of the top means that a little "scar" kinda disappears into the hodgepodge that is the top. It's above the epoxy to the left of the light reflection.
[Image: 20220108-161433.jpg]
Fully assembled in the shop.
[Image: 20220108-161425.jpg]
And now in its new home.
[Image: 20220109-134549.jpg]
[Image: 20220109-134557.jpg]
[Image: 20220109-134615.jpg]
My wife loves it. It's not really my style. But it turned out pretty well, all things considered.
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#18
  Re: RE: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by FS7 (I am finding that ep...)
(12-28-2021, 03:45 PM)FS7 Wrote: I am finding that epoxy introduces pretty annoying finishing problems. I am not happy with where the top is, but I'm OK with it. My normal finishing method is multiple coats of Watco danish oil followed by buffing with Scotch-Brite pads (up to white) and mineral oil. This produces a very smooth finish. This time I used the "premium" finish - Osmo Polyx. The bottom of the table top was only sanded to 240, and I did not have any problems with nibs on the finish (even without buffing). On the top, I wanted the epoxy to pop, so I sanded that up to 5000. Though Osmo doesn't specify, it seems pretty clear that you shouldn't sand that high as it inhibits penetration. The epoxy itself only gets a very small film, so buffing the nibs out is likely to buff right through the finish. The wood is fine and can be buffed with green pads up to white, but the epoxy not so much. This is my first time doing epoxy and I think in the future I will try a) thinning the Osmo and b) not sanding past 240. Rubio I believe says not to sand past 180, and I assume this is why. The finish is acceptable, though not great.

I did the apron pieces and drawer fronts. It's no fun working with curly walnut as it seems wasteful...such a beautiful wood that I can't pick an appearance side. My schedule got accelerated since my wife wants to take down the Christmas tree yesterday and this is replacing the table that normally goes there. So I've got to get moving.

Frankly, I DGARA what anyone thinks about my various woodworking projects, and whether it really is "woodworking" according to their definition.

As you found out on your table build, working with live edge slabs and epoxy introduces some unique challenges. I make all wood furniture, and I recently have made a dining room table made from 3 long slabs joined with domios and also including 2 "rivers" of epoxy down the middle. I made the legs out of other slabs, but I've also made coffee tables out of slabs, and to save time and or for the aesthetic I was after, I used metal legs.

To me, if it is made out of wood, it is woodworking. Is a dresser made of wood not woodworking if the drawers arent dovetailed? who cares...lol

Also, people think working with epoxy is easy. As you now know, it is far from that. Making a mold, flattening the slabs, getting the color right, sanding smooth and blemish free isn't easy at all...

I'll make a thread with some of my wood and epoxy creations...

Also, for a good finish to use with wood/epoxy creations, try Rubio monocoat. It is a hard oil wax finish. It's 10x better than Danish oil, repairs easily and protects great.
Jason
Mesurei, cutti, cursi

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#19
  Re: RE: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by measurecutcurse ([quote="FS7" pid="80...)
(01-10-2022, 03:05 PM)measurecutcurse Wrote: Frankly, I DGARA what anyone thinks about my various woodworking projects, and whether it really is "woodworking" according to their definition.

As you found out on your table build, working with live edge slabs and epoxy introduces some unique challenges. I make all wood furniture, and I recently have made a dining room table made from 3 long slabs joined with domios and also including 2 "rivers" of epoxy down the middle. I made the legs out of other slabs, but I've also made coffee tables out of slabs, and to save time and or for the aesthetic I was after, I used metal legs.

To me, if it is made out of wood, it is woodworking. Is a dresser made of wood not woodworking if the drawers arent dovetailed? who cares...lol

Also, people think working with epoxy is easy. As you now know, it is far from that. Making a mold, flattening the slabs, getting the color right, sanding smooth and blemish free isn't easy at all...

I'll make a thread with some of my wood and epoxy creations...

Also, for a good finish to use with wood/epoxy creations, try Rubio monocoat. It is a hard oil wax finish. It's 10x better than Danish oil, repairs easily and protects great.

I've had a ton of people tell me to try Rubio. Cost was prohibitive at first and I really do like Polyx (a single coat of that is often fine, and it can be thinned quite easily as well). I always read directions, but I most certainly do not always follow them. Nonetheless, I will try.

My opinion on what is and is not woodworking is just that - my opinion, and it's been formed from my experiences. I guess my point was not to insinuate that building epoxy tables is somehow trivial or easy in terms of time or money or even skill. It requires a lot of all of that, especially the cost of materials (epoxy) and peripheral support (molds, release, etc.) as compared to an all-wood project. I just think that the subset of skills needed to build something like a Shaker-inspired sofa table with a wooden apron, legs, and drawers encompasses a lot more of the traditional woodworking skills than pre-fabricated metal legs. Live edge work requires learning about different things, like the different types of bark (particularly the species you use, obviously), how much and how to remove it, working with and around defects, working with and around sapwood/heartwood transitions, and so on. Epoxy has its own challenges and skillset. The overlap in the necessary skillsets between traditional furniture making and wood/metal/epoxy furniture making gets smaller and smaller, and you might be replacing knowledge and skills of traditional joinery and design with knowledge and skills of live edge-specific issues and epoxy.
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#20
  Re: RE: Experimental walnut epoxy/live edge table by FS7 ([quote="measurecutcu...)
(01-10-2022, 03:28 PM)FS7 Wrote: I've had a ton of people tell me to try Rubio. Cost was prohibitive at first and I really do like Polyx (a single coat of that is often fine, and it can be thinned quite easily as well). I always read directions, but I most certainly do not always follow them. Nonetheless, I will try.

My opinion on what is and is not woodworking is just that - my opinion, and it's been formed from my experiences. I guess my point was not to insinuate that building epoxy tables is somehow trivial or easy in terms of time or money or even skill. It requires a lot of all of that, especially the cost of materials (epoxy) and peripheral support (molds, release, etc.) as compared to an all-wood project. I just think that the subset of skills needed to build something like a Shaker-inspired sofa table with a wooden apron, legs, and drawers encompasses a lot more of the traditional woodworking skills than pre-fabricated metal legs. Live edge work requires learning about different things, like the different types of bark (particularly the species you use, obviously), how much and how to remove it, working with and around defects, working with and around sapwood/heartwood transitions, and so on. Epoxy has its own challenges and skillset. The overlap in the necessary skillsets between traditional furniture making and wood/metal/epoxy furniture making gets smaller and smaller, and you might be replacing knowledge and skills of traditional joinery and design with knowledge and skills of live edge-specific issues and epoxy.

I have transitioned to watching YouTube videos for new things instead of reading directions. Rubio is expensive, but a little goes an extremely long way. Like I mix up tablespoons full for a table top. Really just a little.
Jason
Mesurei, cutti, cursi

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