Epoxy River Board

In 2016 we took a wonderful vacation to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It’s a beautiful area with unspoiled beaches and not a lot to do but admire the scenery; think of California Highway 1 with almost no food choices.

Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada

On one of our beach walks we collected a bag of beautiful beach rocks. Someday I would do something with them…

Colorful beach stones  from Cape Breton Island
Colorful beach stones from Cape Breton Island

Fast forward five years and I finally decided what to do; I’d make a “River Table” style cutting board. A “River Style” table or cutting board usually refers to a board with live edge (bark attached) and epoxy resin. Many people fill the holes in slices of burls, roots, or interesting logs to get dramatic effects. Here’s a link to a nice example.

I decided to make mine from spare walnut that I had left over from my charcuterie project. To simulate the live edge I used a grinder and situated the sapwood (a lighter color wood) to be the “bank” of the river.

TechDesignWorks river table
River Table pieces in the mold showing sapwood edge and initial epoxy pour

You can get the general idea of the construction:

  • You make a mold (cut wood, wrap with clear tape, nail together and then waterproof the joints with sealant). You can also buy rather expensive (but reusable) silicone molds.
  • Arrange whatever filler you want into the “river” and dye the epoxy (mine has a slight blue color)
  • Let the epoxy cure for a few days
  • Trim and Polish.

The epoxy choice is important. Epoxy can produce noxious odors, so I spent extra to get “odorless” resin since I was doing the work in the basement. Epoxy also needs heat to cure; the temperature needs to be at least 75 fahrenheit (24C) to cure. To achieve that I built what I call the “EpoxyBake Oven”, which used an aquarium heater in a water bath to raise the temperature an insulated box into which I placed the mold. Because water changes temperature slowly I could gain absolute temperature control. Here’s a picture of the setup:

The "EpoxyBake" Oven. Mold sits on top of the water box
The “EpoxyBake” Oven. Mold sits on top of the water box

After the curing it was off to the CNC to level the surface and make it absolutely flat to the wood:

Leveling the River Table board with my CNC
Leveling the River Table board with my CNC

Then a polish with 600, 800, 1500, 2000 grit paper and automotive polishing compound:

Polishing the River Table
Polishing the River Table

The completed board: I wish I was a better photographer!

TechDesignWorks Completed River Table Cutting Board
Completed River Table Cutting Board