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5 Epoxy Tips I Wish I Knew as a Beginner

John Malecki

5 Epoxy Tips I Wish I Knew as a Beginner

Tips for Epoxy Mixing, Creating Molds, and Finishing Epoxy Resin Projects

Tips & Tricks
min read
May 12, 2020

Epoxy woodworking projects have quickly become some of my favorites to tackle. From a massive epoxy resin bullet table to river tables, I’ve been around the block a few times with epoxy resin. In other words — I’ve made my fair share of time-consuming and costly mistakes. That’s why I’m here to share epoxy tips that can help you make sure your project goes smoothly from start to finish. From epoxy mixing tips to mold creation, these tips can help ensure that you don’t make the same costly mistakes that I have in the past.


Choosing the Right Epoxy for Your Project

Be Sure to Choosing the Right Epoxy for Your Project Depth

john malecki with instruments

When getting started on any epoxy project, it’s important to begin by making sure you have the right epoxy for the job. If you’re like me and tackle an epoxy project without much heads-up, tabletop epoxy seems like the logical choice. However, this is a major misconception that can be costly for your project. Here are the types of epoxy you should be mindful of  for your upcoming project:

  • Liquid Plastic Epoxy: good for resin projects like mine, but be sure to read about the depth of pour that each epoxy allows. This is extremely important. While you can do multiple layers of thin pours, it can be expensive to do it this way.
  • Standard Usage Epoxy: choose either a slow or fast hardener. Fast hardeners don’t allow for as much air to release, so you may have bubbles in your epoxy.
  • 5 or 15-minute Epoxy: This is best for quick fixes of voids or holes in the wood’s surface, but not good for a river table or major pour.
  • Tabletop Epoxy: used more often as a finish and is great for high-gloss applications.

No matter what type of epoxy you choose, be mindful of the temperature requirements for getting them to set and abide by these recommendations to get your epoxy to set properly.

Making a Mold for Your Epoxy Pour

Building a Leak-Free and Easy to Remove Epoxy Mold

john-malecki preparing shape

People who make high volume epoxy projects typically have very advanced molds that are reusable. However, if you don’t make a blot of epoxy projects or are simply trying it out, it’s best to create a simple form out of affordable materials. Creating the proper form is key to making sure that you get the shape you need and aren’t throwing money out the window on spilled epoxy.

To get started, choose your material. I recommend using MDF because it’s smooth and affordable. Melamine is also a good choice, but be mindful that deeper pours that harden at a higher temperature can melt the melamine. Once you choose your material, you want to seal it with clear packing tape or Tyvek tape to ensure that the epoxy tears away easily.

When putting together your mold, keep in mind that you want to make sure it’s oversized. You’re not going to get perfect edges and will be doing a bit of sanding, so plan accordingly. If you build your mold with countersunk screws,  you’ll probably be able to get a few uses out of it rather than tearing apart the whole thing if you use brad nails.

Once assembles, caulk the whole thing. I like to use black caulk so that I can see it easily on the seams I’ve already done. This prevents leakage under the form. If you’re doing a river table, be sure to caulk the underside of the wood as well. Additionally, find a way to secure your wood on a river table so that it doesn’t float in the resin as it solidifies.

Epoxy Mixing & Coloring

Recommendations for Properly Mixing Epoxy Resin

Mixing Chemicals

It’s extremely important to make sure that your resin is mixed properly. To begin, I recommend adding a mixer to a drill so that you don’t have to mix by hand If you’re using clear resin, be sure to use a brand new mixer to avoid contaminating it with color. If you’re adding color to your resin, you can typically reuse your mixer. Before you get started, be sure that you have nitrile gloves to protect your hands.

If you decide to color your resin, you’ll have to choose between powder and liquid pigment. I prefer to use powder pigment because it’s easy to control the volume. The liquid can be more difficult to measure, and using liquid pigment in low-volume pours can affect the chemistry that occurs while it solidifies.

Before pouring, make sure that your form is completely level and free of dust and debris. While epoxy looks like it might be thick, it’s extremely viscous and will certainly go everywhere if you spill it.

Follow the instructions of your specific epoxy regarding heating and/or vibrations. While heating, I recommend a torch with an automatic trigger so that you can hit the bubbles as soon as possible.

Prepping the Surface of Epoxy Projects

Enhance the Appearance of Your Epoxy with Surface Preparation

john malecki preparing woods

After you spend hours to days waiting for your epoxy to harden, it’s time to break it out of its form. This, in my opinion, is where the fun really begins. 

You’ll start by flattening the surface, which I’ve done in a few different ways:

  1. Use a DIY router jig
  2. Use a CNC
  3. Use a store-bought flattening jig

Once flattened, you’ll want to use a standard sanding process like you would for wood. I like to use an Abernet disk on my orbital sander because it’s super porous and durable for the whole application. I’ll typical sand from 80 to 800 grit, depending on the clarity I want, as I sand out scratches and swirls.

If you want a crystal-clear surface, you’ll need to buff the surface as well. I do this with polish and a buffer you’d use with a car or truck. Follow the directions on the bottle and be sure to remove all of the polish before adding your finish.

Finishing Your Epoxy Project

How to Choose & Apply the Right Finish

john malecki with chemical

When it comes to applying a finish for your project, you literally have thousands of options to choose from. If you follow my videos,  you know that Rubio Monocoat is one of my all-time favorite finishes It’s oil and wax-based, and it applies by hand. This is great for people who don’t have a sprayer or spray booth.

Additionally, you can choose a  more complex finish like a 2-part catalyzed lacquer, which you’ll need to sand between coats then buff and wax once it’s done.

As mentioned before, you can also finish off your epoxy project with a tabletop epoxy finish. This is a popular choice for high-gloss river tables. It’s a great choice because it binds with the resin on the table and eliminates imperfections in the process.

Thanks for checking out these tips! If you liked it, be sure to check out some of my favorite resin projects:

Download the Plan

Want to try this build out for yourself? Download the digital plan now for step-by-step instructions, measurements, and a detailed look at how to punch this project in the face.

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Tips & Tricks
min read
May 12, 2020
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John Malecki

I used to be an offensive lineman in the NFL, Now I run my own furniture business and am completely self taught. In my videos and posts you'll see a variety of wood and metal work as well as some tips and tricks. Enjoy!