Using epoxy in woodworking isn’t for everyone. There are purists who think wood furniture and decor should only be covered by paint or stain and maybe a little shellac. But for those DIYers who want to create some innovative works, epoxy and wood can make some astoundingly beautiful pieces -- the kind of projects that make jaws drop.
But the world of epoxies has a lot of options and it can be confusing to know which kind to use when.
Here’s a quick rundown along with some videos showcasing the possibilities.
Fast Dry Epoxy for Gluing Pieces
Many DIYers are familiar with the epoxy that’s a more substantial take on super glue. These epoxies often come in bottles with a plunger and two gels that must be mixed together to become an adhesive. If something breaks and you need quick mend that will last for years, a quick-drying epoxy can be the way to go. Some of these quick dry epoxies are made for a variety of materials and other are created specifically to work on surfaces such as wood or plastic or metal.
Two Ton / Thickened / Marine Epoxy
If you don’t need a glue that dries immediately, a choice like 2 Ton Epoxy holds ceramics, fiberglass, metal and other materials. The epoxy takes 15 to 30 minutes to set, which can be useful if you may need to adjust the pieces you’re gluing together.
Marine or thickened epoxy can work for heavier use cases like boats or woodworking pieces that may be sitting outside on a deck, for example.
Need an epoxy that will help you build a plane or building? Several companies make structural epoxies that will adhere pieces together that probably won't come apart. These glues often come with ratings that you’ll need to check if you’re using them load-bearing situations.
Penetrating epoxy is much more watery than structural or marine epoxy. This pourable solution seeps into the grain and can be used to harden up soft woods while maintaining the appearance. If you’re building a table that will live most of its life outside, penetrating epoxy is a nice option for sealing the wood so water doesn’t seep into it. A varnish or shellac will often go on top for the finish.
Now you have to be mindful not to pour too much of the epoxy on the wood or it can overheat the chemical reaction and damage the wood.
Deep Pour Epoxy
If you’re looking to get creative with epoxy, many projects utilize a deep pour solution. For example, “river tables” are made by filling voices with deep pour epoxy. The viscosity is runny at first and creates the look of a river where it collects and hardens.
When you’re making a project like a river table, you may have to tape off sections of the wood and be patient as the solution dries.
Other epoxy tables are made by placing large sections of wood into a table-shaped mold and then covering the pieces with epoxy. For this type of furniture, plan to have a ration of 70 percent wood to 30 percent epoxy.
If you want a clean look for the finished project, you'll need to remove the bark wood.
The amount of preparation needed before applying epoxy varies depending on the wood you're using. If you want to paint or stain the wood, apply a pre-treatment on the surface before adding the epoxy. The finish will be more even and durable as a result. Adding thin layers of deep pour epoxy is recommended in order to prevent air bubbles and uneven coverage.
To get a uniform spread of the epoxy and remove any air bubbles, you may want to try heat gun. Avoid too much heat, since this may cause the epoxy to bubble or even harm the surface of the wood.
Many first time table-makers are unsure sure how much epoxy a project may need. It can help to work with a deep pour epoxy calculator (yes, such a thing exists). If you’re not used to working with deep pour epoxy and wondering how much solution your project requires, calculating the deep pour epoxy coverage is very helpful. Type in the length, width and desired thickness and you won’t be guessing about much many bottles of the epoxy you’ll need.
Once the epoxy is poured, keep an eye out for small pieces of wood floating in the solution and pick them out with tweezers or a popsicle stick.
Deep pour epoxies can take 3 to 4 days to cure. Check if the epoxy is ready to unfold by lightly pressing your fingernail into the surface. If you finger nail doesn’t make a dent, you’re ready to unmold.
You can also mix colors into the deep pour epoxy and develop beautiful images with epoxy. These projects often come closer to painting or sculpting than table finishing, but the results can be one of a kind conversation pieces.
Consider embedding things into the epoxy other than wood, such as flowers or even LED lights.
The temperature of your working space is crucial when using epoxy. Epoxy dries more quickly in warmer climates and more slowly in colder ones. Give your project ample time to cure if you're working on it in the cold since otherwise it won't properly harden.
A heating pad or lamp can also be used to hasten the procedure. This is especially useful if you have a tight deadline or are working in a colder environment.
Alternatively, you may want to slow down the curing procedure to ensure everything is setting as you want. Put your project in a cool area or add a few drops of cold water. So that you have more time to work on your project without worrying about it hardening too rapidly, this should help slow down the curing process.
Epoxy can be used for a wide variety of crafts, so use your imagination and have fun.