How To Prep and Pour a River Table With Deep Pour Epoxy

River tables and waterfall tables are blowing up the internet and the woodworking industry. I'm sure you've seen videos of these fascinating pours on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. If you haven't, you can check out this one here:

There is something so satisfying about watching these pours. Everyone is getting in the game as these tables are in high demand and they are worth a pretty penny. That being said, their higher price tags are well deserved and with good reason. It takes a lot of time, hard work and money to complete a project like this. We want to be transparent about that before you dive in. If you're ready to get started with your river table project, let's first talk about the supplies you will need.

Purchasing Your Tools and Materials 

First and foremost, you are going to need to purchase any essential materials you might not already have, as well as the wood, epoxy, and any color you might need. Here are a list of items you will need:

  • Epoxy
  • Graduated mixing cups
  • Paint sticks or power mixer
  • Pigment or dye
  • Frame or mold
  • Gloves
  • Drop cloth
  • Heat gun or industrial torch

Choosing Your Deep Pour Epoxy Resin

Choosing the right epoxy is crucial to the quality of your table and how well it turns out. One of the big debates is between using a table top or coating epoxy versus a deep/thick pour epoxy. Truth be told, you can actually use both. The difference is that a coating epoxy is going to take multiple pours/layer in order to achieve your desired thickness. This is because most can only be poured up to 1/4" or less per application.

Alternatively, you can use a thick pour casting resin that allows for thicker pours, usually 1" - 2" per application. This means you can usually pour your entire river at once. Incredible Solution's Pourable Plastic Clear Casting Resin is a great choice for river tables. This epoxy allows for pours up to 2". It is also one of the more affordable options, especially when buying in bulk, and shipping is usually very quick. 

Build Your Frame

You will need to build a frame for your river table. Its important that it is sealed so that the resin does not seep out through the cracks, potentially creating a giant mess and causing you to lose resin from your river pour. You will want to use a product to seal the edges that will not adhere to the epoxy, such as a seaming tape, like Tuck tape, or silicone. We also recommend using wax on your frame so that the table will lift from the mold with ease. 

Apply a Seal Coat

There is some debate about whether a seal coat is necessary when working with deep pour epoxy. This is because the epoxy is so slow curing that bubbling isn't as much of an issue. However, we recommend always applying a seal coat because the last thing you want is to end up with bubbles in your river and it isn't worth the risk. You can use a coating epoxy to seal the edges and porous areas, like Incredible Solution's Crystal Clear Table Top Epoxy. You may already have this one hand if you plan to do a top coat on your river table. You will want to wait until it is fully cured (at least 12 hours) before you begin your deep pour.

Measure, Mix and Pour Your River

Measuring accurately and mixing thoroughly are the most important steps in achieving a successful pour when it comes to working with epoxy. Be sure to follow the instructions to a T before you begin your project. Use graduating mixing cups to ensure an accurate measure (do not just eyeball it, trust us on this). Mix thoroughly, scraping the sides and bottom of the container while mixing. The length of time to mix varies with each brand, but usually at least 5 minutes of mixing is required. Once mixed, you will want to add your pigment or dye (if you are using one) and mix again until it is evenly dispersed. NOTE: Be sure that your selected color can be mixed with epoxy, as some can cause reactions in the epoxy. Finally, you can pour your river!

Allow Your River to Cure 

Thick Pour Casting Resins can take a couple of days to cure, sometimes longer depending on the mass you poured and the room temperature. We suggest pouring between 70-85°F, but refer to the instructions of your epoxy for temperature recommendations and cure time. Because it is so slow curing, you will want to ensure your project is in a dust-free environment and you may wish to cover the top so that bugs and dust do not get in your finish. 

Remove From Frame & Complete Your Table

After your river has fully cured, you can finally remove it from the frame. You will want to inspect it for any imperfections you may need to sand or buff out. Then decide if you want to coat the entire top with a table top epoxy for a high gloss finish. Alternatively, you can go for a more natural finish, using something like Odie's Oil. If you do choose to use a coating epoxy, we suggest scuffing the surface of the river with 320-grit and cleaning it thoroughly with Isopropyl Alcohol 99% to allow the epoxy to properly adhere. Finally, you can add legs to your table and admire the results of all of your hard work!