This was the first of the more challenging / intricate projects that we have undertaken. We spent months agonizing over the design and construction of the dining table and looked at options with concrete (too heavy), solid wood (too expensive) and epoxy (just right).
Instead of doing a traditional cast epoxy table or the equivalent of a epoxy counter top using a flood coat of epoxy resin, we came up with the idea of pouring a thin epoxy layer inside a permanent oak frame. To keep with the aesthetic of the house we settled on a cathedral grey epoxy with the mix coming from CounterTopSolutions. We also did not want a glossy finish to the epoxy so decided that it would be best to sand down to a smooth matte finish.
Despite what you may read online we actually found working with epoxy relatively forgiving (provided you don’t want that perfect glossy epoxy finish). For some more details and tips on working with resin, take a look in the Tips section of the website.
- Difficulty – Hard
- Time – 2 weeks
- Cost – ~$200 +$180 for legs (excl. materials we had leftover and metal legs – closer to about $400-$600)
- Table Saw
- Miter Saw
- Drill & Impact Driver
- Wood Clamps (incl. corner clamps)
- 180 – 800 grit sandpaper
- Corner / Orbital Sander (optional)
- Finish nailer
- Digital level
- Router with 1/8″ roundover bit (optional)
- Planer (contingency)
- Disposable mixing buckets (from home depot)
- Epoxy Trowel
- Materials (TBC – this is from memory)
- 2×4 Lumber (approx 6 x 8′ sections – I used lots of scrap and leftovers)
- 2×6 Lumber (1 x 8′ for the base frame)
- 4×8′ Sheet OSB / Melamine (we had melamine leftover from a previous project)
- 1×4″ Oak Boards (x3) (we had these leftover from our trim and casing)
- ~1 gal Epoxy (after lots of research we settled on resin from www.countertopsolutions.com)
- Epoxy pigment (color of your choice – we used cathedral grey)
- 2 1/2″ and 3 1/2″ construction screws
- Silicone sealer
- Wood glue
- Wood filler (we used DAP Plastic Wood from home depot)
- Polyurethane coating
- N95 masks for sanding epoxy
- Lots of latex gloves
The first step of the process was to construct the table frame. We screwed a frame of 2×4″ lumber to the underside of the melamine sheet to add a bit of depth and rigidity to the table top. I’m not sure that this step is absolutely essential but we were worried that just attaching the 1×4″ oak to the melamine would be too weak and would break over time. We cut 4 sections with 45 deg miters on each end to add a bit more rigidity to the corners. At this point I also took some 80 grit sandpaper to the top of the melamine to ensure the surface was properly keyed for the epoxy adhesion.
When the frame was built, we cut sections of 1×4″ oak to frame the entire outer dimensions of the table top frame. We made the decision to use simple butt joints with a couple of dowels to keep the framing simple and elegant. We decided against using miter joints in the corners as they are much, much less forgiving and look awful if they are not perfect (experience from the floating bed!).
At this point we covered the floors with 6 mil plastic to protect them when we poured the epoxy – we also built a dam underneath the perimeter of the plastic out of 2x4s just as an additional layer of protection for our new hardwood floors.
The oak boards were then glued and finish nailed to the table frame, leaving a reveal of ~1/8″ above the melamine top to allow for the epoxy to be poured into. Using the digital spirit level we made sure that the oak boards were completely level since the epoxy is self leveling and we didn’t want it over flowing the edge of the wood. The oak was nailed in place with the table in on top of the plastic and in the location where we would be pouring the epoxy.
We then placed a bead of silicone sealer along the entire edge of the melamine / oak border to make sure there was no way for the epoxy to leak through onto the floor. With hindsight, we may have decided to actually use the silicone on the underside of the table as it would have been much more forgiving and less messy.
Last step before pouring the epoxy was to cover the oak with some no residue duct tape and painters tape. This was to ensure that if we did have a mishap while pouring, it would not damage the oak.
Once the frame was built and trimmed the fun with epoxy started. Since this was our first proper project with epoxy, we made the decision to pour thinner coats of epoxy and build them up gradually (we ended up pouring 4 coats in total). Make sure that you key the epoxy (sand) between coats if you leave it for more than 4 hours between coats. See the section on working with epoxy under the Tips section of the site for more details. Since we made the decision to pour the epoxy in the dining room, it was impossible to prevent dust and hairs from settling in the resin – this led to an awful lot of additional finishing work at a later date.
After the 4th coat was dry there was still a very small rim of oak protruding above the final level of the epoxy. We made the decision to sand / plane it down rather than attempt to pour another smaller epoxy layer given that the table was so large and impossible to keep perfectly level.
We removed the duct tape began to work on the wood using an electric planer, removing 1/64th” of wood with every pass. An alternative the the planer would have been to use the sander and slowly remove the excess wood. The planer worked perfectly when it came into contact with the epoxy but you do need to be careful that it doesn’t leave chatter marks if you don’t move it in a slow, even pass.
When the edges of the wood were completely level with the epoxy (well almost) it was time to start working on the table top using the sander. We worked our way up from 180 grit to 400 grit using dry sandpaper and the corner sander and then switched over to wet sandpaper and a block for the final 800 grit pass. Ideally, every pass should have been wet sanded but we didn’t have the patience to wet sand 32sqf of table top multiple times over – make sure that you wear a mask, change the sandpaper frequently and don’t press too hard with the sander when you are working it. The epoxy will heat up, soften and melt with too much heat generated from sanding and if you work it too hard with the electrical sander then you will damage the table top.
Once the sanding was complete, all that was left for the table top was to fill in the finish nail holes in the oak with wood filler, sand it down and paint it with a couple of coats of polyurethane for protection (equally you could oil the oak or leave it unprotected).
To finish the table off we ordered some trapezoidal table legs to measure from LivingSteelCompany on Etsy. Ryan and Kaylyn did an absolutely fantastic job making the legs 27″ tall legs (the height of our table was designed so that it would perfectly fit our existing chairs) out of 3×1″ steel tubing and they were able to do it for a very reasonable price (even with shipping from Canada). They built the top plate slightly wider than normal at 41″ for additional support.
We really didn’t want a steel bar across the bottom of the table legs so we built a wooden frame out of 2x6s and 2x4s which was then bolted on to the top of the legs using countersunk 1/4″ machine screws (we used 1.5″ long screws), washers and nuts. This added enough rigidity so the table doesn’t wobble. To finish everything off and hold the table top in place we countersunk 4 x 4″ construction screws through the frame support and into the 2x4s on the underside of the table. We have no plans to paint the table legs as the raw steel works beautifully with the exposed steel columns on our staircase and in the great rooms.
With hindsight it may have been simpler to countersink the bolts through the melamine directly before pouring the epoxy and then attach the legs directly to the underside of the melamine – we would have lost some of the table stability but it would have made for a much cleaner finish…
Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want some more details or if the descriptions don’t make sense. Happy DIY!