The way we decorate our homes tells a lot about who we are. When you have everything just right, your house truly starts to feel like home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t redecorate. When I wanted to spruce up my home in Alabama, I knew that an epoxy river table would be just the thing for my dining room. Sure, I could just buy one from a department store and call it a day. Instead, I thought to myself, “how can I make it work for me?” Then it hit me, the perfect opportunity!
Many years ago, I was introduced to a gentleman by the name of Blair Wrye. Blair lives in Paducah, Kentucky, a small town in the crosshairs of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. He worked as a police officer when we first met, but he also ran a business on the side doing woodwork. Looking at his projects on Instagram, it was obvious he was talented. I saw his tables and other projects he made for a variety of personal clients, even event restaurants, and he made every piece with exceptional craftsmanship.
I never forgot his work, either. So 5-6 years later, when I got inspired for a new table, I approached Blair about working with me to build the perfect piece for my home. He was excited about it, ready for any excuse to do what he loved, but he was also hesitant. He told me the materials were costly and, since it would be an original design, there would be no telling how expensive it could get. He still believed himself capable of making my ideal table and so did I. So, I told him I would be his guinea pig, I would purchase whatever materials he needed and he would provide the labor pro bono. The project ended up better than I could’ve ever expected, here’s how we did it:
What are the Basics?
First, we needed to plan everything out: how long? How wide? Where was it going and how did it fit in that space? All these things had to be considered to make sure it was perfect for my home. In the end, it turned out a little over 9 feet long and about 40 inches wide, giving us plenty of space for 10 people to sit comfortably.
What Kind of Material?
Next, we had to make a base for the legs of the table. Something strong and sturdy that adds character. A wooden base would have added a rustic feel, while steel gave a modern twist. In the end, I chose steel. We wanted something heavier, and that matched the personality in my house, even if we decided to redecorate later on. We decided to forgo the shiny silver of the base later in the process, opting for black. Black was a perfect choice since, let’s face it, black never goes out of style.
Choosing the right type of wood is key in deciding the character of the table. Each type has a totally different look and feel. We ended up choosing wood from a tree native to Paducah, called black walnut. Black walnut is known for its deep and rich colors with soft undertones, making it an ideal choice for furniture and other accent pieces. Once he had the slab in person, he used a track saw and cut down the middle of the slab, creating two separate pieces that would contrast the epoxy river in the final stages.
What Will it Look Like?
From here he placed the pieces of walnut in the layout he wanted the table to look like. Designing the table’s style takes time, he took special care to incorporate the design, shape, and feel of everything to imagine what the table would look like in the end so it would be perfect. He and I spoke on the phone two or three times, reviewing pictures and brainstorming before we finally came up with a final design.
How is it Prepared?
Next, he needed to make a mold in order to pour the epoxy in. The way this works is you have to make the mold the exact size of the table and once the epoxy is set, you can remove the mold, leaving just the tabletop itself. He used a special tape that keeps the epoxy from sticking to the mold so the table didn’t break once they removed the frame. After the mold was made, he took silicone caulking and carefully sealed all the cracks and crevices so that the epoxy couldn’t find a hole or crack to settle into. That would be an expensive mistake! He then placed the wood pieces into the mold and used clamps to keep them in place while he poured the epoxy. This was the most creative part of the process, and one of the most critical. Blueprinting and designing how the table will look gives you so much freedom, but if you don’t prep it right, you could ruin the whole thing!
This is the most expensive and most important step. I didn’t want a traditional river table. I felt like the bright turquoise and blue-colored epoxy that people usually use would not be something we loved a few years down the road. So, I choose to go with caviar. It’s so dark and rich it almost looks black and against the cool shades of the walnut, it looks amazing (and my wife loves it, so we knew that was the best choice).
This is a tricky step and hard to get right since there are so many things to consider. How long is the table? How wide? What is the ideal thickness of the table? This is a math thing that carpenters and crafters can figure with ease, so it’s best to trust their judgment. We ended up using about 16 gallons of epoxy in total.
You get what you pay for when it comes to epoxy. I wanted this table to be strong enough to be used daily and still be in good condition to hand down from one generation to the next. So, I decided to go with the best I could find. We went with Ecopoxy and, now that the table is finished, I can say we have loved it so far!
How Long Does it Take to Cure?
Now that the form is put together and the wood clamped in, it’s time to pour the epoxy. Blair could only pour 1 inch at a time, so this process takes a while. In the chemistry world, curing epoxy is what’s called an exothermic reaction, meaning the mixture releases heat and if poured too thick too quickly, the epoxy could get too hot and not cure properly. So, Blair had to pour the epoxy over the course of about four days, giving the layers two days to cure before adding another.
How Does it Seal?
Once the epoxy has cured properly, it’s time to break the mold and reveal your creation! The table is formed, of course, but it still needs to be smoothed before finishing. Blair placed the tabletop on his flattening jig and ran a router across to get a perfectly flat, smooth top. Next, he sanded it to remove any unevenness or rough edges. After sanding, he applied Rubio Monocoat, an oil and wax mixture to seal and finish the table.
The Finished Table
All in all, it turned out to be an astonishing table that is perfect for my home and I am confident will last for generations. I enjoyed working with an old friend and I knew he would be able to accomplish what I was hoping for. If you are interested in your own custom table or furniture from Blair, you can contact him on Instagram or website or email him with the information down below!
Facebook: Blair Wrye Designs
I would love to answer any questions you may have or suggestions for new projects.
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