DIY Epoxy River Rock Desk That GLOWS

4 Materials
$250
7 Days
Medium

In this HT post, I show you how to make a DIY Epoxy River Rock Desk that glows in the dark. This same procedure can also be followed to make a serving tray, wall art, or whatever else you can imagine.This tutorial contains resin and woodworking tips and techniques I often use to make and sell my handcrafted tables.I realize some folks don't own the tools or have the experience to build this table themselves. If you think you are one of these people, I still recommend and encourage you to read this post. In order to accommodate a broader audience, I worked hard to come up with alternate tool options and easier techniques most DIY'ers can handle.So, let’s roll up our sleeves and get started!
Introduction & BackgroundIn order to provide a bit of background, this transparent epoxy river desk was a custom order from one of my customers in California. As I do with all my custom table orders, I create a 3D model of the item and send it to my customer for approval.My customer requested a reclaimed cypress wood desk with a glowing epoxy river and embedded blue rocks. The dimensions of the desk were 48"x28"x28"x1.75" (LxWxHxThickness). Furthermore, this table resembles my epoxy resin river table with blue fire glass, but a bit larger in size.
Wood SelectionThe wood selection process intimidates most folks b/c they don't want to make the wrong choice. Without going to deep down the endless forest of wood species pros/cons, I'll keep it simple.For a table, I recommend choosing a hardwood. An easy way to differentiate a hardwood vs softwood is as follows: a hardwood tree has leaves while soft woods do not. In general, hardwood comes from a deciduous tree which loses its leaves annually and softwood comes from a conifer, which usually remains evergreen. Hardwoods tend to be slower growing, which make them more dense.Hardwoods such as walnut, oak, maple, and many more are very dense with tight grain patterns. Consequently, this makes them tough enough to withstand the abuse most tables receive. In addition, hardwoods are more stable and are less susceptible to wood movement based on moisture levels in the air).Keep in mind, there are exceptions to softwoods and hardwoods.I'm using reclaimed cypress wood, which is classified as a hardwood but it's characteristics also resemble a softwood. It's not particularly dense and it grows quickly. I'm using cypress b/c it's plentiful where I live, pest/rot resistant, and, most importantly, my customer specifically requested this species.Mill WoodDue to various reasons, I sold all my stationary power tools and elected to use mobile power and hand tools for all my projects.So, my local hardwood dealer mills the wood for me when I purchase wood for free or for a small fee. If you want to get into woodworking, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a jointer, planer, drum sander, etc to mill your own wood. Most hardwood dealers are more than happy to mill the wood for you.The reclaimed cypress I purchased was 4" thick. My hardwood dealer resawed the 4" slab to two 2" slabs. Next, they jointed and planed the 2 slabs for me in order to get 1 straight side and one flat side.
Cross Cut WoodOnce I arrived home, I cross cut each 2″ cypress slab. In other words, I cut off a small amount on each end of each 2" slab to get a perfectly square end. I used a circular saw for this step, which is an inexpensive power hand tool. A hand saw or jig saw will also work as long as you reference it against a straight edge.To ensure a straight cut, I referenced the flat side agains the rail on my work table and cut one side.Then, I flipped the wood over and measured from the side I cut first 3 inches longer than the final dimensions.
Epoxy Desk MouldThere are many ways to make an epoxy resin mould and I’ve tried most of them.Ultimately, I build my resin moulds based on what I have available in my shop. Most often, I have scrap wood, packing tape, and furniture wax available. So, I used these materials to build the resin mould. If you don't have furniture wax, vaseline works just as well.First, I place the wood on a flat and level surface. Next, I completely covered the scrap particle board with packing tape and covered it with furniture wax.
Clean Live EdgeSince the cypress wood slab was resawed and planed by my hardwood dealer, I only sanded the live edge. Most live edge wood slabs contain bark or debris which need to be removed.A soft sanding pad with 220 grit sandpaper works well to clean up the live edge without changing the shape or natural contours.You don't need a power sander to perform this step. You can use sandpaper or a sanding block to do this. An orbital sander is a relatively inexpensive tool and very useful for a variety of applications. I recommend buying one if you have the means to do so. Any random orbital sander will work fine.
Secure Slabs to MouldAs a final step before the resin pour, I positioned the cypress wood slabs on the resin mould.I like to position the slabs 2″ wider than the final dimensions. This allows me 1″ on each side to trim later in the project.By the table being wider and longer than the final dimensions, I don’t have to worry about damaging the ends or sides during the build process.Next, I cover 2 pieces end pieces of scrap wood with tape wider than the width of the river. I secure them to each end of the riverThen, I seal around the perimeter of each wood slab to prevent leaking.Lastly, I use scrap 2x4s with clamps to secure the wood slabs in place. I make sure to perform this step immediately after sealing in order to compress the silicone caulk for a better seal.
Epoxy Resin for Thick PoursBasically, the 2 main types of epoxy for table projects are classified by the depth, or thickness, that can be poured at one time.This classification method suffices for epoxy river desk or table projects, but it is grossly oversimplified.Deep pour epoxy cures slower and normally mixes at a 2:1 mixing ratio.Thin pour epoxy cures quickly and normally mixes at a 1:1 mixing ratio.Furthermore, deep pour epoxy speeds up the build process by reducing the number of pours. For this project, I used Liquid Glass 2.0 Superclear Epoxy as it allows for 2″ to 4″ pours.The thickness variation of 2″ to 4″ accommodates various environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. Warm, humid environments speed up the curing process while cool, less humid environments slow down the curing process.Remember, slower cures allow for deeper pours while faster cures do not.
First Epoxy PourFor the first epoxy resin pour, I used multiple mixing containers and a total of 192 ounces of epoxy.The multiple mixing containers make it easy to properly mix large batches with 2:1 mixing ratios such as this epoxy.First, I poured 64 ounces of part A in 2 containers for a total of 128 ounces of part A.Next, I poured 32 ounces of part B in 2 containers for a total of 64 ounces of part B.Then, I poured 1 64 ounce container of part A and one 32 ounce container of part B into 1 large mixing container.I repeated the process for the other containers. So, I ended up with 2 96 ounce containers for a total of 192 ounces.As a quick epoxy mixing tip, always mix the material until it turns clear as this is a sign it is ready to be poured.The container at the top of the picture below has not been mixed.Conversely, the container below it has already been mixed and very clear.
Mix Glow PowderOnce each container was mixed, I added blue epoxy glow powder to each mixture.This fluorescent blue glow powder is blue while at rest and produces a blue glow. Other glow powder colors tend to be a pearl white at rest and turn colors while glowing.First, I poured roughly half of the 8 ounce bag in one resin batch.The epoxy glow powder clumps together at the bottom and releases bubbles which produces a satisfying look.I mixed the material in each container for roughly 3 minutes.My favorite epoxy mixing technique starts with 3 circles clockwise. Then, 3 circles counterclockwise followed by 3 bottom scrapes.Once I finished mixing the epoxy and glow powder, I poured half of one container in the other.Then, I mixed the half full container to make sure no blue glow powder stuck to the bottom. Next, I repeated the process with the other container.
First Epoxy PourAfter the glow powder and epoxy were fully mixed, I poured each container to from the base layer of the transparent epoxy river desk.Next, I removed the bubbles with my mini torch. Surprisingly, this deep pour epoxy did not produce many air bubbles at all.
Add Acrylic RocksI used acrylic rocks for this epoxy river desk. The acrylic rocks will be covered with transparent clear resin to create a unique visual – especially when the epoxy river desk glows.After the base layer cured for 48 hours, I spread the blue acrylic rocks on top of the epoxy glow powder layer.This transparent epoxy river desk with rocks required to bags of blue acrylic rock to cover the surface of the river.
2nd Epoxy PourAfter I evenly spread the acrylic rocks and they were about 1″ below the surface of the table, I started the second pour.First, I labeled my buckets from the first pour.It may be an issue if I use the part B bucket from the first pour for part A in the second epoxy pour.Next, I mixed 96 ounces of resin using the same procedure as the first epoxy pour.I poured the resin on top of the acrylic rocks.While pouring the resin, I noticed the acrylic rocks floated to the surface. I’m not sure why I didn’t anticipate this happening.Consequently, I will need to stop about 1/2″ from the top and perform an extra pour to reach the top of the wood slabs.A paint stick worked perfectly to spread the rocks evenly across the transparent epoxy river desk with rocks.After I spread the rocks, I used my mini torch to remove the small amount of air bubbles.Since the acrylic rocks float, I used my level to make certain I didn’t have a protruding rock on the surface. Also, I used the 4′ level to make sure the epoxy river desk was level.
Final PourAfter 24 hours, I prepared the final epoxy pour.I mixed 192 ounces of resin and filled the remaining 3/4″ until the epoxy was level with the surface of the wood slabs.This epoxy covers the surface well and it is very clear. I really enjoyed working with it.
Sanding5 days later, I removed the table from the mould and started sanding.Keep in mind, a random orbital sander is needed for this step and any will work fine.I started at 40 grit and went up to 320 grit. 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, 150, 180, 220, 320.I use a pattern when sanding with each grit to prevent swirls and other sanding mishaps.First, I choose a 3 foot by 3 foot section.Next, I sand from east to west and overlap about an inch.Then, I sand from north to south with the same amount of overlap.Finally, I sand in roughly a 6″ circle and move to the next 3′ by 3′ section.
Trim to Final DimensionsThis step is optional if you don't have a circular saw, but I recommend it to provide a straight edge and sides. The final dimensions of this transparent epoxy river desk is 48″x28″x28″x1.75″ (LxWxHxTH). First, I cut one end using my Festool TS75 track saw to get a perfectly straight cut. I cut the table down to 50″.Any hand saw with a straight edge will work.Also, I use an older saw blade to cut resin as it dulls saw blades very quickly.Next, I measured from the side I just cut from each side of the table and made a mark to the final dimension of 48″.I laid my track on the 2 marks, clamped the track, and made the final cross cut.Then, I trimmed off 1″ from each side using the same procedure.
Clean Table and Soften EdgesTo soften the edges of the transparent epoxy river desk with rocks, I used a router with a 1/2″ roundover bit. Alternatively, an orbital sander or normal hand sanding with 320 grit sandpaper works as well to soften table edges.After I performed the roundover, I removed the dust from the table top.
Install Desk LegsYou will need a simple household drill to perform this step.I prefer to attach the legs and complete all work on the underside of the table before applying the finish.First, I flipped the table over and placed the hairpin legs on each corner. Next, I used a nail punch to mark the holes.Then, I marked the depth of the screw with a piece of tape on a 1/4″ drill bit. I used my drill and gently drilled on the marks up to the line.As a last step, I placed the hairpin legs back on the table and slowly screwed them in place. I find it best to tighten the 2 inside screws first and then the 2 outside screws.
Apply FinishFinally, time to apply finish to this epoxy river desk with rocks. For this table, I used Rubio Monocoat Oil Pure.This is a 1-step finish. In other words, only one coat is needed if applied correctly. I’m not a fan of the glossy finish because I like to feel the texture of the wood. In fact, I believe the best finish gives the appearance there is no finish at all. First, I mixed rubio monocoat according to the instructions and poured it on the table.This stuff goes a long way, so I didn’t mix too much.Next, I used a plastic spreader and worked the material across the epoxy river.Also, I allow a small bead of finish to drip over the edge of the table to cover the sides.Then, I used a microfiber towel to remove the excess as best as I could.Finally, I used my Festool RO 125 with the polishing pad and sheepskin in coarse mode to buff away any finish left behind by the towel.As an alternative, any car buffer works as well as buffing by hand. Treat this finish the same as car polish when removing.
Glowing in the DarkHere is a picture of the table glowing in the dark. The glow powder gets charged by natural or artificial light and then glows for 6 to 12 hours depending on the charge.. By the way, it's difficult to take pictures in the dark with my camera, but I did my best.
In conclusion, I hope this epoxy river desk with rocks project provided you with value.If you like this project, visit my  online store to purchase it or similar items.Consider subscribing to my YouTube channel by clicking here for useful DIY project videos.
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Jeremy Hoffpauir

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2 of 15 comments
  • Lisadoll
    on Jan 22, 2020

    Wow! Gorgeous.

    Jeremy, I think this is the best tutorial I have EVER read ( and you didn't say '"you guys'" even once.)

    I am so intrigued by resin art and have been dying to try some .

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    I definitely WILL start much smaller.



  • Momma Stark
    on Jan 25, 2020

    Awesome!


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