How to Make an LED River Table
Hey Everyone, Jeremy Hoffpauir here. In this article, I show you how to make an LED River Table with Sinker Cypress. This table has an epoxy resin river with embedded fire glass and sits on industrial hairpin legs.
FREE DIY PLANS – Grab Your Free DIY Plans for this Project at the bottom of this post.
I received a text from my friends at Riverside Lumber in New Orleans about some unique Sinker Cypress they received. Immediately, I went over there the same day because Sinker Cypress sells very quickly. I love working with Sinker Cypress because it is such a beautiful wood with lots of history. Check out more about Sinker Cypress here.
So, I purchased a piece of Sinker Cypress that was about 8 feet in length and 17 inches wide. The picture below is a picture of the wood after I cut it in half.
The Sinker Cypress sat in my shop for 3 months and I finally decided to use it to make an LED Epoxy Resin River Table.
Tools I Used
Table Top Epoxy Resin
HairPin Table Legs
Stanley Block Plane
1/4″ Roundover Bit
Ryobi Circular Saw
Straight Edge for Saw
Spray Adhesive with Activator
Hot Glue Gun
WEN Electric Hand Plane
Porter Cable Heat Gun
Johnson Paste Wax
Milwaukee Orbital Sander
Melamine Board: Big Box Store
Lie Nielsen Low Angle Jack Plane
I normally start my woodworking projects with preparing the wood and this project is no different. Sinker Cypress is a beautiful wood species, but it is a little soft and requires special care during the preparation process.
First, I cut the 8 foot piece of sinker cypress at 50″ long. I used my straight edge and circular saw to make the cut. The LED epoxy resin river table will be 48″ long, but I left an extra inch on both ends to square the edges in a later step.
Obviously, it is not safe to run a piece of wood this heavy through a table saw without a fence or sled to keep the wood from moving. Since I don’t have a jointer, so I couldn’t get a straight side. I do have a jointer jig, but the piece of wood was a bit too wide for my jointer jig. I had to cut it in half on my bandsaw to prepare the sinker cypress to go on the jointer jig.
I didn’t care if the cut was not exactly straight because I needed to trim off some of the wood anyway. Good thing I didn’t care because it was definitely not straight.
Then, I took the two pieces of sinker cypress and straightened out one side using my jointer jig with dovetail clamps. I really love this jointer jig because it really gets the sides very straight.
I used a few of my general use chisels to remove the loose bark from each piece of sinker cypress. I wanted to maintain the ‘live edge’ look of each piece, so I was careful during this process.
The sinker cypress was relatively flat because it was planed by my hardwood dealer; however, it was still a bit rough. I ran each piece through my planer a few times. I removed 1/64″ on each pass.
Next, I sanded each piece of sinker cypress with my orbital sander. I sanded the faces, sides, and smoothed out the live edge where I removed the bark. I started with 120 grit, 150 grit, and finally 220 grit.
Quick Tip: For a very smooth finish, wipe down the wood with a damp cloth and sand again with your highest grit. The water lifts the grain a bit and helps remove the excess.
I used my miter saw to square each end of the sinker cypress. It was only necessary to remove about 1/2″ from each side to get it square. This worked out because I may need to square it again at a later step and I would have 1″ remaining. Remember, I cut the piece at 50″.
The melamine box is a very important step for the LED Epoxy Resin River Table. Epoxy resin doesn’t adhere to melamine, which makes melamine a perfect material to contain the epoxy resin. I constructed the melamine box to the exact dimensions of the table in order to prevent the epoxy resin from seeping on the sides and ends.
The bottom of the melamine box needed 2 pieces of melamine because I didn’t have a piece wide enough. I glued the 2 pieces together using spray adhesive with activator. This will create a strong enough adhesion to hold together.
Ultimately, the sides/ends of the melamine box would provide the necessary stability.
The melamine box bottom was 20″ wide, 49″ long. I cut the sides at the same length as the bottom and they were 2 7/8″ high (wood is 2″ thick, melamine 3/4″ thick).
Next, I attached the sides with screws after drilling a pilot hole.
I placed the sinker cypress pieces on the bottom and measured the ends to get an exact measurement. The ends were 21.5″ wide.
Quick Tip: Tape measures are great, but use the board itself for a more accurate measurement.
Seal Melamine Box
I used my hot glue gun to seal the melamine box on the sides and corners for the LED Epoxy Resin River Table. Next, I put a generous coat of Johnson Paste Wax on the bottom, sides, and top of box where the particle board was exposed. Johnson Paste Wax further prevents the epoxy resin from adhering to places it should not.
Then, I placed the pieces of sinker cypress into the box and sealed around the edges and corners to prevent the epoxy resin from seeping out.
I put down a thin piece of silicon caulk down the seam of the melamine box bottom. This wasn’t necessary, but I decided to do it anyway.
In case you were wondering, the silicon caulk did not adhere to the seam. Why? Because I put the Johnson Paste Wax on the bottom – smh. I amaze myself at times! This didn’t hurt anything because the caulk wiped off easily.
Quick Tip: It is very difficult to prevent the epoxy resin from getting under the wood, but it is worth the effort to prevent it as much as possible.
Epoxy Resin First Pour
Before I mixed the first batch of epoxy resin for the LED Epoxy Resin River Table, I used 6 blocks, 3 2x4s, and 6 f-clamps to hold the sinker cypress in place. This helps with minimizing the epoxy resin from seeping under the table.
Keep in mind, it is so important to follow the instructions precisely regarding mixing and applying the epoxy resin. This stuff is not cheap and if you think you can skip an unimportant step – think again!
I mixed the epoxy resin at a 1:1 ratio (1 part hardener, 1 part resin) at a total of 16 ounces. Sixteen ounces is sort of my ‘sweet spot’. This amount is easy to handle. When the material is first mixed (not whip b/c that causes bubbles) it will turn cloudy. After a few minutes of mixing/stirring the material it will begin to ‘break’ and become easier to stir. Then, it will turn more clear and that’s when it is ready to pour.
Quick Tip: In order to remove as many bubbles as possible, it is important to use the heat gun every 2 to 3 minutes for about 20 minutes.
Epoxy Resin Second Pour
Once the first pour cured, I removed the f-clamps, 2x4s, and 2×4 blocks from the LED Epoxy Resin River Table. The second pour repeated the same process as the first pour with the same amount of material (16 ounces total).
Fire Glass and Epoxy Resin Third Pour
I wanted to embed crystals in the middle of the epoxy layers on the LED Epoxy Resin River Table because, well, it’s just looks cool. Once I checked the prices of crystal, I quickly shift my focus to alternative materials. I found fire glass as an alternative. Fire Glass is used in outdoor fire places, which is why it is called Fire Glass.
I poured the fire glass on top of the second layer of epoxy resin and made sure the height of the fire glass was below the height of the table. Next, I poured a layer of epoxy resin to cover the fire glass. I used my heat gun to remove the bubbles.
Remove Melamine Box
The melamine box was very easy to remove. Honestly, it is a pain in the rear to prep the melamine box with wax, hot glue, etc., but it is very much worth the time.
So, I removed the sides, back/front, and then the bottom. I had a surprise when I lifted the bottom because I didn’t anticipate that much epoxy resin to seep under.
I used my electric hand planer to remove 1/64 of an inch per pass. It took quite a few passes to remove the excess, but it worked. I rarely use my electric hand planer, but I’m certainly happy I have one. They are really cheap and work well for applications like this.
The electric hand planer is not perfect as it leaves some ‘run marks’.
Next, I used my Lie Nielsen low angle jack plane to flatten out the bottom of the LED Epoxy Resin River Table. This hand plane is one of my favorite tools in my shop. It is a bit expensive, but quality tools are worth the money in my opinion.
Alternatively, the wood river low angle jack plane and I hear it is a great low angle jack plane. You can check it out here.
Sanding & Wood Prep
Just when I think I am done sanding for a while, it is time to sand again. I loathe sanding in case you haven’t noticed. I sanded the table and epoxy resin very lightly with 220 grit sandpaper. It’s perfectly fine to sand on top of epoxy resin as long as you plan to apply another coat.
Finally, I used my worx bench, straight edge, and circular saw to remove 1/2″ from each end. This makes the table exactly 48″ wide. A few of my friends make fun of me because I don’t have a woodworkers workbench. I’m sure they are awesome, but I don’t want a 4oo pound workbench in the middle of my shop. The stuff I have in my shop works for me. 🙂