More Than I Can Chew
Every middle aged woman who has ever sat at my dining table has immediately remarked that it needs to be refinished. Which is a rude fucking thing to say to someone who's invited you into their home and is actively cooking you a lovely meal, but I have to admit they've got a point. This is my table:
I got her for $15 at a thrift shop in Florida in 2014, and she was already in rough shape. God only knows how old she is, and she wasn't exactly the highest quality craftsmanship to begin with. Still, she gets the job done, and she's the only piece of furniture I bought as a newlywed that's survived the intervening 6 moves. I admire that kind of tenacity. The old girl has a long life ahead of her yet— and I think she deserves a makeover. But if I'm gonna spend a weekend refinishing a dining table, I'm gonna do something rad. I decided to do a resin pour.
My sisters and I have dabbled with resin before, but this tabletop is by far the most ambitious resin project I've ever attempted, and here it is, chronicled for your amusement. I invite you to take encouragement from my success, and education from my failures. But we'll get to those in a minute.
First things first, I had to sand the ever living bejesus out of the dining set. Everything other than the tabletop was gonna be painted black, so I had to get the old finish off of the wood so the paint would stick. This is boring work and it took two days, but it's absolutely critical to the final result. If you fail to prepare, you're preparing to fail! So yeah, I spent a small eternity sanding chairs with my beloved husband and our friend Nick. Incidentally, we discovered that sanding furniture in the yard is a GREAT physically-distanced social activity!
This table contains a "removable" leaf that's a pain in the ass to remove, so we decided to join the three pieces into one unified surface. To do this, we ran a bead of wood glue into the seams and pushed them together tight. Brian screwed in some pieces of plywood on the underside of the table to bridge the seams; this serves to keep them tight while the glue dries, and it also just makes me feel better. Intellectually I know that wood glue is stronger than screws, but in my heart I still don't believe it. On the top of the table, I filled in the seams with putty and sanded them smooth.
I don't know about you, but I call that an eminently prepared surface.
The next day was paint. By 10am I was getting a blister on my finger from holding down the spray paint nozzle, so I lit a beacon to summon reinforcements. My brothers-in-law nobly pledged their aid, and the three of us managed to cover everything in three coats of paint in three hours. The first coat was 99¢/can flat black spray paint. I thought I was doing myself a favor by starting with a layer of cheap stuff on the bottom where no one would see it, but honestly you get so little coverage out of those cheap cans, you may as well pay twice as much for a product that goes twice as far. Anyway the next two coats were a glossy black furniture enamel, which claims to be super durable. It went on like a dream and I'm pretty happy with it. I'd say it's more satin than gloss but hey, life's too short to get your knickers in a twist over satin spray paint.
Once the black was dry, I flipped the table back over to paint the top. I painted the top white because I'm gonna use some translucent colors in my resin and I want to be sure they're nice and bright, not dulled by a dark base coat. For this, I mixed cheap acrylic craft paint with an old latex paint sample I got for free, and it served its purpose just fine.
Since I was working outside in the open, I realized I would need something to keep leaves and things from falling on the paint while it dried. So I used the chairs, some yarn, and an old sheet to construct a giant bonnet over the table to protect it from the elements.
With my surfaces prepped and painted, I arrived at the moment of truth: the next morning, I did The Big Pour. Resin is one of those things where, once you start, there's no going back. I had gotten a two-gallon set of Incredible Solutions Table Top Epoxy, which comes as two separate one-gallon bottles. One bottle contains the resin, the other bottle contains the hardener. As long as they stay separated, they'll stay liquid basically forever— but as soon as they get together, they start to thicken almost instantly. They're also very viscous, meaning you have to stir vigorously to ensure they're thoroughly combined, otherwise you'll get spots that don't cure properly and they'll be sticky forever. Thankfully my sister came over to help, because you really can't have too many hands on deck at this stage.
The plan was to start with a half-gallon pour clear coat to make sure everything would flow nicely, then mix a whole gallon, divide it into quart containers, mix in the pigment, and pour the colors on the table. My calculations indicated that we should have had a half gallon of mix left over, but we ended up using almost all of it. I'm not sure how that happened, it was a chaotic time. As far as colors go, I played it super safe and added a trifling tablespoon of pigment to each 32oz. container of resin— less than half the recommended maximum. This was plenty! The colors all behaved super differently. In particular, the purple was very ornery to mix in, resulting in a speckled final appearance. But overall I was satisfied with my color payoff, so I'm glad I took it easy. This stage of the process was rather a whirlwind, but when the smoke cleared, this is what emerged:
We spent a few minutes going over the surface with a heat gun to release the bubbles trapped in the resin, then re-constructed the protective bonnet. A few hours later, I checked under the bonnet, and found that three or four stupid flies had flown into the wet resin and died like idiots. The resin was still tacky, so I was able to remove the flies with tweezers, but it left little peaks and divots where I had marred the surface. I was dismayed, but not out of ideas.
The next morning, I was pleased to find that the resin had set rock hard. Perfect, other than the few flaws from the flies..... and one corner where the wind had blown the sheet into the resin and it had stuck. Oops. Still; all is not lost! I can work with this!
I had to rip the sheet to unstick it from the table, but a little piece stayed behind. (Hey, at least the resin cured nice and strong.) So I had to saw that off with a knife, then sand away the ridge it left behind. I then sanded down the peaks in the surface where the flies had been tweezed out. I had a little bit of resin still in the bottles, so I mixed up a small batch, adding black and copper pigment until it was very opaque.
I dropped small drips of this into the voids where the flies had been, then leveled them off with an old credit card. On the side where I had sawn away the sheet, I dabbed the mixture onto the edge with the stir stick, and smoothed it out as best I could. Time to let that set for another day.
Meanwhile, 'twas time to concern myself with these cushions. The original cushions were ugly as shit, covered in plastic, and hard as a rock. At some point I had bought these lawn-furniture-style tie-on cushions to make them more comfy, but they're not exactly stylish. I wanted something darker and spacey to go with our dark twinkly tabletop, and I didn't wanna spend a fortune on fabric.
Fortunately I had this old dress. It had ripped right across the tits and was basically unfixable, so I figured I may as well cut it up into cushion covers. I layered it with some purple organza I had left over from another project, and spent the afternoon on the porch stapling them to cushions. Yeehaw.
Next morning the touch-up spots had also set rock hard. The Incredible Solutions website says it can take up to 7 days to fully cure, but that assumes you're working indoors at room temperature, not outside on my hundred degree driveway. Still, I didn't want to ruin all my work by trying to use the table before it was ready. This calls for an experiment.
I'd spilt so much resin on my driveway it looks like I murdered a unicorn, so I decided to use this to test the hardness without jeopardizing my tabletop. I set a brick and a mug of boiling water on the driveway splash, to check its resilience to weight and heat. Hours later, it hadn't affected the resin in the least, so I decided we were good to go. The time had finally come to deconstruct the protective bonnet and take the table inside.
Resin had pooled around two legs of the table.
The table was cemented to the ground.
It was one of those situations where you've thought something 99% of the way through, and you think you're 100% done thinking about it, but then that last 1% bites you in the ass. The table would not budge. I was completely at a loss.
Then, Brian found a chisel.
Oh, your man has chiseled abs? That's nice I guess. My man has a chisel.
I imagine being married to me is a little bit like being married to a video game NPC— I'm all side quests and minigames. Need some XP? Come find me, I'm bound to have some weird task or errand for you. Brian is used to this shit from me, and he set about chipping the table away from the concrete as casually as if he was tying his shoes. Bless that man.
Eventually he prevailed, and we managed to liberate the table from its resiny bondage. Then we simply screwed the cushions back onto the chairs, and voila. One refinished dining set.
Pictures really don't do justice to the sparkle. All the pigments are mica-based so there's an all-over shimmer that's very pleasing.
It was such a relief to have it back in the house, set up safely, partially because I was worried about it and partially because we'd been eating off the piano bench for the past 5 days.
And of course, we wasted no time in hosting an inaugural board game session. After all, the most beautiful table in the world is the one with your friends around it!
This project was an awesome challenge and I learned a lot! Such as for instance, always keep your legs out of puddles, especially if you're a table and the puddles are made of resin.
This was my first crafting-related post, so I hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what you think in the comments! Thanks for reading along!