Welcome woodworkers, craftsmen, designers, homebuilders, homeowners and the generally curious. We’re glad you found our page. You might be wondering how you can build a live edge epoxy river table yourself or perhaps you’re just curious how one is made. Either way, you will find everything you need to know right here. We’ve been building live edge tables for quite some time and we began experimenting with epoxy river tables years ago. There have been many trials and errors on our part. Some of the errors can be quite expensive as we only sell the finest quality tables to our customers. Now, if you’re building your own table you will want to make sure it is of the utmost quality. Of course, you likely have many friends, family and most importantly The Wife to impress (or The Husband). Big shout out to all the women working with wood these days (and everyone in between). It’s always an awesome sight to watch a feminine artisan craft a beautiful piece of art.
Too Long, Didn’t Read?
We made a summary here for you below. However, if you are a person of details he would like to know every detail about how to build a live edge epoxy river table, skim this mini section and get to the nuts and bolts of the article below.
How to Build a Live Edge Epoxy River Table
- Live Edge Slab Selection. Pick a slab that matches your intended outcome. It sounds obvious but you need a slab that will be big enough to produce the project that you want but not so large that you are overspending or wasting expensive live edge slab material. This is also the step where we do our first woodcut. We split the slab down the middle to give us the two pieces that will create the epoxy river down the middle.
- Bark Removal Remove the bark from the live edge. You simply cannot build a strong live edge table with the bark still attached to the wood.
- Fill the Bottom of the Slabs with Epoxy In this step, you will fill any nooks and crannies in the bottom of the slabs. This will make your slabs stronger and avoid the wood from checking also known as splitting in the future.
- Sealing the Live Edge Brush the live edge with epoxy to stop air bubbles from leaking out of the edge. You will need to allow the sealed edges to cure. You don’t need a full cure but allow it to dry for at least 12 hours. 24 to 48 for best results since.
- Build the Epoxy Form this part is very important. Here you will build a frame around the live at slabs. We recommend using Tyvek or quick release tape around the form so the epoxy doesn’t stick to it. This will be very helpful when it comes time to removable from the live edge table top.
- Determining the Volume of Epoxy Will Need do some quick math length depth times average width will give you an estimated volume of epoxy you will need to mix to complete the project
- Adding Pigment if you want to add a pigment tear epoxy it’s best to mix the entire batch at once. Unless you’re using straight black it will be impossible to get an exact match of color when you do multiple pours.
- First Epoxy Layer Pour This is where we knew our first epoxy layer. We like to pour about 2 mm or quarter-inch. This sets the stage for the remaining epoxy that will be poured over it.
- Next Epoxy Layer The next epoxy layer can go over the first after a 12 to 48-hour curing process depending on the epoxy that you use. Always follow manufacturers suggestions on the label.
- Final Epoxy Pouring this is your last epoxy for. You will fill in any remaining gaps and give a final brush coat over the top of the tabletop if you want to have a glossy live edge epoxy river table. For a matte finish complete the same steps and finish it with a light sanding with 400 grit sandpaper
- Finishing Steps In the finishing steps we recommend to select table legs that you can either build yourself or purchase pre-manufactured. When adding the table legs make sure to mockup the lake position and pre-drill with pilot holes. Use a bit stop to prevent your pilot holes from drilling completely through the table.
Okay, that’s our summary but it would be near possible to build a live edge table just following the steps above without any detail.
Before we get started with the detailed instructions of how to build a live edge table let’s talk about some of the materials and tools you will need. without a doubt, you will essentially need a full woodshop and a large working area. Some of the more expensive tools include a large planer, table saw, miter saw, circular saw and an orbital sander. You’ll need a lot more tools than that but those are some of the bigger, more expensive tools. Some of these you may be able to use at a local woodshop or perhaps borrow from a very good friend. We have many tens of thousands of dollars invested into quality woodworking equipment. Without borrowing tools it would be hard to produce one of these live edge tables without at least $1000 worth of tools – and that’s going ultra cheap on basically everything. We like to buy woodworking tools that last a minimum of 5 to 10 years. Cheap stuff simply doesn’t last.
Here’s a list of tools we typically use when building a live edge table. If we have forgotten to mention one or two please comment below and we’ll be sure to them to the list.
First, let’s talk about the safety gear you’ll need.
With any project, you do in the wood shop you should always start with a good set of eye protection your protection and a good set of gloves. You’ll want latex gloves to protect your fingers from epoxy stains paints and oils. It’s never a good idea to get carcinogens all over your hands on a regular basis. We know it’s cool to have dirty fingernails and worn-out hands because then you’re a man’s man or woman that really knows what she’s doing. But it’s really not cool to subject yourself to toxicity unnecessarily. You also want a set of strong, thick, yet comfortable leather gloves to protect your hands while you are handling unfinished wood. We have had many splinters that have cost us way too much time trying to pick out with tweezers in the wood shop. It is just not worth it to make sure you always wear gloves.
One of the most important things to protect is insideof your body. Your lungs. If you damage your lungs or your respiratory system it can lead to serious health complications in the future and even death. A dust mask can help in certain situations but don’t rely on one for much protection at all. We like to use 3M half-face respirators with Organic Vapor filter cartridges. One will run you about $60, but they last a very long time and you can buy replacement filters for them. A good respirator half face kit will keep you from getting dizzy and affected by harmful VOCs as well as keep out irritating dust. If you get any sort of allergies this is definitely the type of safety equipment you are to use.
Last but not least don’t forget your hearing protection. We know how easy it is to fire up a saw or angle grinder without covering your ears but trust us from our experience is always worth it to put your protection on. It doesn’t take very long to protect your years and it also doesn’t take very long to destroy her hearing which can be permanent and lead to lifelong hearing issues.
Someone’s father always used to tell them a cheap head gets a cheap helmet. The same goes for almost any safety equipment. If you see a set of safety goggles for $0.99 take a hard pass and pick up the ones that cost a few bucks more. A broken saw blade exploding at your face is not something you want to leave up to a $0.99 piece of equipment. So get the good gloves the good goggles and the upgraded ear protection. Even top-of-the-line stuff is relatively cheap and it’s always certainly worth it.
Here’s a handy list of safety equipment you should have when building a live edge table or any time you’re working or observing in a woodshop. It’s probably a good idea to get two or three of each in case you have guests or a helper.Safety Equipment:
- Safety Goggles
- Ear Protection
- Leather gloves
- Latex Gloves
- Dust Mask
Apologies for the long rant about safety but it truly is important, and it should be the number one thing. If you keep safety as your top priority your fingers, eyes, ears, nose, and throat will thank you.
Finally, let’s get to the additional equipment and materials you will need. Of course, all of these things are in addition to the live edge slabs you will need. These are in alphabetical order, not in order of importance or cost.
- Air Compressor
- Butane Torch
- CA Glue
- Carpenter’s Square
- Circular Saw
- Dovetail Clamps
- Heat Gun
- Large Planer
- Long Level
- Lots of Sandpaper 60 grit through 400
- Orbital Sander
- Painter Sticks for mixing
- Silicon Glue or Hot Glue Gun
- Tyvec or quick snap tape
- Straight Edge
- Tack Cloth
- Two Part Epoxy Resin (please buy eco-friendly, we do)
- Utility Pry Bar
- Various air tool accessories
- Table Legs
We put table legs at th
e bottom of the list because there is such a wide variety of legs you can use, it’s hard for us to point you in the right direction here. Whatever you think looks best and will keep the table steady should be just fine. Be sure to make sure your table legs are overbuilt and more than sufficient for your new live edge table top.
1. Live Edge Slab Selection
Let’s get the first step out of the way. You need to figure out the overall intention and purpose of your project and you need to have the general dimensions you want or need. Next, you find a live edge wood slab that will fit your purpose. We’re not going to go into the logistics of searching for and buying live edge slabs in this article, but we will write an article about that in the near future. For this tutorial, we will assume you have already found the wood you want to work with. But we will leave you with a couple of tips here. Make sure the wood has been dried and cured properly and it’s also helpful to get the flattest slab you can find. A flat slab will save you a ton of work when crafting your live edge table.
Now the next most important thing is making sure you have the correct epoxy resin. This isn’t rocket science, but you want to make sure you get the right stuff. You’re looking for an ultra clear two-part epoxy resin that is sold as either Marine grade or for furniture making – specifically tabletops or countertops. If it’s possible and it’s available in your area we highly suggest you purchase an eco-epoxy.
Now let’s get to woodworking!
For this live edge project, we will assume you want to have a square edge table and you will run the live edge on the inside against the epoxy river. You can also build the table with a live edge on both exterior lengths.
Square your edges.
The first step will be to square up the edge on two lengths of live edge slab. There are several tools that can accomplish this job but we like to use a straight edge jig on the finest table saw your money can buy. It goes without saying but make sure you always use a sharp blade. Go ahead and rip one side of each slab or rip right down the middle to get two slabs with the square edge on each. It should go without saying that use some common sense here. You will need to measure and make sure that the width of both pieces will be big enough with a space in the middle for your epoxy river pour. Depending on the size of the table, we like to make the river anywhere from 6-24 inches.
If you’re anything like us, this is where it gets exciting. The sound of the saw and the smell of fresh cut wood. Ahhh it’s a beautiful thing in the morning!
2. Bark Removal
You will want to remove and treat the live edge bark. It’s probably tempting to keep the bark on because it looks really nice but don’t do it. You have to remove the bark. If you don’t remove the bark, your table will have a weak center. The epoxy will not be able to bond to the wood and you’re going to have some major issues with the structural soundness.
Use a chisel or an edge tool and your fingers to remove all of the bark. Then take some sandpaper and lightly treat the edge. 150 grit sandpaper should work well here, but certainly try whatever gain of sandpaper you prefer.
3. Filling the bottom of the slabs with epoxy.
You’re going to lay your two slabs bottom side up. Make a small amount of epoxy and fill in any cracks or knots. This will help prevent your slabs from checking. Use tape along the edges to keep any epoxy from dripping out. You might be surprised at how much resin gets absorbed into the nooks and crannies on the slabs. Don’t be worried about anything just keep pouring the resin into the holes until they are filled. Let the resin cure for 48 hours. Once cured take an orbital sander and make sure the resin is sanded flat and flush to the slabs. Want to make sure the slabs will lay flat when you place them on your workbench.
4. Sealing the Live Edge
This next step is critical and you will not want to skip it. It’s important that you treat the live edge with a sealant. Some builders like to use shellac or silicone here. We simply like to use the same epoxy that we use for our tables. You’ll brush the edges with your sealant to prevent air bubbles from drifting out of the edge and into your main epoxy pour. Again let the edges to cure. For the sake of saving time, you may want to do this the same time that you fill in the bottom of the slab with epoxy the previous step. If you split this into two different steps you don’t need to allow the edge to fully cure. A 12-hour cure should be good enough depending on temperature and humidity.
5. Build the Epoxy Form
Now it’s time to build the epoxy mold. Essentially this is a tray or form mold that will serve as the building container for your table and give shape to the epoxy pour. There are many ways to build the epoxy mold. We like to use polypropylene sheets joined with silicone glue or a hot glue gun with a wood frame. Then use some 1 by or 2×4’s to build a solid wood frame around it. The size of the wood you use for the frame doesn’t really matter – just make sure it’s strong and has enough dimension to clamp everything in. Keep in mind the interior dimensions of this frame will be nearly the exact size of your table. We like to use a flash release tape or Tyvek around the wood frame so that epoxy will not stick to the frame. Keep in mind the idea of how you will clamp all of this together to your workbench. Depending on the length of your finished product you may need to use several clamps and several pieces of lumber over the top to add stability. You will want the live edge slabs to be vertically tight to the surface without damaging the slabs. This is why you use a wood brace rather than just clamping directly to the slab. Use silicone glue or a hot glue gun to seal the outside edges of your form. You need a watertight seal so the epoxy doesn’t run out of the edges.
6. Determining the Volume of Epoxy Will Need
We’re going to let you in on a little secret here. Most of our forward customer facing dimensions are in inches and feet but when we are building we typically ditch the US standard system and use the metric system. It seems to be a little more accurate and when determining the volume to weight ratios of epoxy the metric system keeps things much more organized.
To determine the volume of epoxy you will need some people might use a solid material like sand or rice to fill the gap between the slabs to get an accurate volume amount. We simply like to take measurements and get a rough estimate. This way we don’t have to worry about broken pieces of sand or rice being embedded into the epoxy once it is poured. So you’re gonna take the length and the depth of the gap between the slabs. Then take the average width. Again you’ll have to do some guesswork here but you should be a will to come up with something close enough. The main objective here is to make enough epoxy so that you’re not short on your pour but also not make so much that you’re wasting material. Multiply the length depth and average width of the gap between live edge labs. Use millimeters for the depth, meters for the length and meters for the average width (Even though the average width will be much less than one meter).
Here is an example formula:
35mm Depth x 2.5m length x 0.2m avg width = 17.5l (let’s round up to 18 or even 18.5 liters so we know we’re not short).
7. Adding Pigment
If you want a clear epoxy table you can skip this step. We tend to like colors whether it be black blue turquoise or something more exotic. Your choice of color doesn’t really matter. What is important is that you mix your color in advance. You will want to take your first part of the epoxy and apply the pigment before you mix in the catalyst. It’s important to note that in the next step you will be pouring the epoxy more than once. If you don’t mix the color in advance, it will be impossible to get the epoxy to match the exact same color on each pour.
8. First Epoxy Layer Pour
We think it is important to pour a base layer of epoxy about 2mm to 4mm to make a shallow epoxy river. The reason why you want this is to seal in the bottom of the epoxy river pour. Some people skip this step and do a single pour. While this can be done, we dont advise it. Using our formula above we can determine that each millimeter equals about 0.5 liters (17.5l / 35 = 0.5l) This means you will want to use 1-2 liters of epoxy for the first pour.
Use a brush to cover the top layer of the slabs then clamp down your live edge slabs thoroughly for the remainder of this process. Once the slabs are clamped down for the remaining epoxy right into the center of the river. Use a heat gun or a torch to carefully treat the liquid epoxy for bubble exposure. You only need to apply a little amount of heat and you should see all of the bubbles disappearing. Be cautious with the heat. You do not want to burn anything. Let everything cure for another 12 hours.
9. Next Epoxy Layer
The next layer of epoxy can go down 12 to 24 hours after the initial pour. The first pour doesn’t have to be completely cured. The two layers of epoxy will chemically bond together. Sometimes we complete a table and a total of two pours but many times we do three or four pours depending on how much epoxy we mix for each run. There is no exact science to this as you could create a table with many pours and end up with the same results. A couple of things to keep in mind are temperature and air bubbles. Some epoxies automatically release bubbles as it cures and some epoxies require a little bit of heat treatment as mentioned in the steps above. We like to make sure the room temperature does not exceed 80°F and make sure the epoxy does not exceed 120°F. Use fans or air conditioning to regulate temperature.
10. Final Epoxy Pouring
You want to make sure all looks and crannies are poured and your Main epoxy River is full and level. At this point we usually break the table out of the mold so we can begin to work with it during the final stages. Sand the top to make it smooth. Flip the table over and sand the bottom to smoothen it out as well. If you want an ultra glossy finish on your live edge table, your next step will be to put a final coat of epoxy over the top of the live edge table you can brush this on and let it cure for 48 hours or more. For a matte finish, sand with 400 grit sandpaper or higher to achieve the finish you are looking to achieve.
11. Final Steps
At this point, you’re basically ready to mount legs to the live edge tabletop. Like we mentioned before, there are so many leg options you can use for a live edge table. Some woodworkers like to use small wood slabs as the legs, some like to add four individual legs, but our favorite thing is to use two square tubing legs as a stand. We have a metal fabrication guy that makes these legs perfectly for us and we really like the modern contemporary look it adds to the table.
When mounting the table legs always be sure measure and set up the table how it will stand so you can mark where your mounting holes will go. Always pre-drill and make sure you measure twice. You don’t want to spend all your time making this gorgeous table only to have legs remounted unevenly. Another important tip is to use a stopper on your drill bits when pre-drilling. It would be terrible to drill all the way through the top of your table because you didn’t want to take the time to use a 50 cent drill stop.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial on how to build a live edge table. This is in no way an absolute or definitive guide. There are many ways to accomplish building a live edge epoxy river table but generally speaking you should be able to accomplish building a gorgeous table using the step-by-step guide. That rearranging some of the steps works best for you. In certain instances this might be the case however do not skip some of the more critical steps like sealing the live edges and gently heating the epoxy to release the bubbles. Another critical step you don’t want to skip is making sure your epoxy mold has some sort of plastic quick release material along the edges so that the epoxy doesn’t bond to it. If you think for some reason we may have missed something please let us know and we will address your concerns.