DIY Epoxy River Table Using Deep Pour Resin

One very common project for epoxy lovers is the River Table. River tables and deep pour epoxy applications require specific epoxy and preparations. Generally, these requires a thick coat of epoxy, which cannot be done with all epoxy types. This is where you have to decide if you are willing to use multiple layers of 1/8-¼" each or a thinner epoxy. A thinner epoxy can accommodate thicker pours. 

Prepare Your River Table 

Before beginning any epoxy project the surface must be prepped first. With both live edge river tables and basic coffee tables with a “man-made” river, you will need to contain the epoxy. This often means figuring out how to create a dam at both ends of the river and underneath. Without a proper seal/frame, the self-leveling epoxy will flow out of the river. 

A dam allows the epoxy to stay where desired, despite the self-leveling properties. If using a coating epoxy, it will self-level to somewhere between 1/16-1/4 inches depending on how thick the mixture.

The dam should be constructed or coated of material that will not adhere to epoxy. A common mistake for beginners is that they use wood to create a dam. This is not recommended as epoxy will stick to wood and you will have to beat, wedge, pry, and sand to save the project.

Instead of wooden dams, most pros recommend you use silicone or certain types of tape. Packing tape is a cheap yet effective solution as epoxy does not adhere to epoxy.

In the event runoff is anticipated, protect the floor and other areas of the frame. Cleanup may still be necessary, but at least the run over should be contained. 

Thick Pour Epoxy Resin

Choose Your Epoxy Wisely!

When creating a river table, choose the epoxy that will be easiest work with and perfect for the specific project. This often results in deciding between deep pouring resin or coating epoxy resin.

Using Deep Pour Epoxy

If you have a 2” thick table, you could end up pouring as many as nine times to build the river up. Coating epoxies self level at an average of 1/4-inch thickness with each coat. This can be very time consuming and with each layer and the added risk of dust exposure.

This is why many choose to use casting resin for river tables. Casting resin is designed for thicker pours. These resins offer a thinner viscosity and a lower heat (exotherm), meaning that it will not crack the way that coating epoxy may if applied too thick.

The downside is that casting resin takes much longer to cure. Thick pour resins can often take 36-48 hours to cure, which can provide opportunity for bugs, dust, hair, and other foreign material to drop into/onto the project. Thinner epoxy resins also require a dam that can hold back the epoxy. These thinner epoxies tend to sneak through crevices a lot easier than coating epoxy and may not be held back by tape.

Dam For Deep Pour Epoxy

Coating Epoxy Using Thin Layers

On the other hand, coating epoxies cure much faster, but can only be applied so thick. Table top and bar top epoxies often require thin pours of 1/16-1/4". In order to achieve a desired thickness of say 2", many layers must be applied over time. 

However, this makes it easier to correct a layer that is 1/8 inch than it is to repair something 1.5-inches deep. A sander can usually fix the problem if it is shallow, but in deep layers, it could easily mean starting the project from scratch.

After deciding on which epoxy to use, the surface/material which the epoxy will be applied must be prepped. Most people use wood for river tables, which is very porous. This can increase the likelihood of bubbling. To help, it is recommended to apply a thin seal coat of epoxy before attempting to pour a layer with either casting or coating epoxy. Air will easily rise to the surface and bubbles will ultimately pop. 

Thin Pour Bottle Caps

Coating Vs. Casting Epoxy

There are pros and cons to each type of epoxy and choosing coating vs casting often depend on the job at hand. 

Coating Epoxy

  • Provides a Faster Cure
  • Allows Thin Pours (1/8-1/4")
  • Has a Shorter Working Time
  • Needs Multiple Layers (for River Tables)
  • Works Well with Pigments

Casting/Thick Pour Resin

  • Allows Thick Pours (Up to 2”)
  • Has a Longer Working Time
  • Single Layer Applications
  • Works with Pigments
  • Dries Slowly

Finishing Your River Table

Once poured and properly cured, it is important that you remember one very important detail; river tables MUST BE SUPPORTED. Epoxy, when cured, is not a flexible material. If projects are torqued or bent in the slightest way, they could crack. A live edge river table is even more susceptible to cracking because the epoxy is holding two slabs of wood together. In order to prevent river tables from cracking cross members, bow ties or other support techniques must be implemented.