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Making An Epoxy River Top Lift Desk

So for a long time now I have been trying to get at the office set up in the new shop. As most of you know building things for people is only part of what I do being able to put out content like this is a massive part and not having my editing computer and all of my office supplies here at the shop with me make things a bit more difficult. Being split between two different places and having to go back and forth just do simple editing tasks really made for a complicated and drawn-out process so I have been trying to get set up in the new shop with an office for some time.

 With that in mind I reached out to a company called AutonomousAutonomous makes and sells many different office products including electric uplift desks, ergonomics stools, orgonomic chairs,  and much much more that you would need to build a modern ergonomic working environment. As I spend much of a day doing editing and at the computer being able to have good ergonomics is something I really strive toward it makes working much easier and enjoyable.  I decided on one of their two leg electric uplift desks and after speaking with the company was able to get my hands on one of their bases. They do sell kits that you can assemble and are ready for use when they arrive but I wanted to do something special.

When the desk arrived the first thing that I noticed was that it was an all steel and aluminum construction with very few plastic parts it was well made and the assembly went quite easy.

With all of the parts going together easily and all of these screws being self centering and everything lined up really nicely. There was no feeling like I needed to press the parts in the place or hold them specifically just to get them to hold steel everything went together extremely  smoothly. The instructions were well written adding the top of the desk supports first with 2 hex head screws followed by the supporting arms for the top of the desk.

 Then followed by the two joining rails that span the length of the desk this was a really nice touch and that you can adjust the width of the desk for whatever tabletop or desktop you would like it to fit.

 After that assembling the legs and feet were as simple as 4 hex head bolts on each foot rail of the desk.Pretty much everything had a place to go and fit perfectly it is almost a foolproof process as the pieces cannot be interchanged with other parts are places and can only go together in one way.

I knew I wanted to do something special and not just make a standard wood top for this desk like a lot of people have seen before so I came up with an interesting idea using some spalted Maple and would be doing a Live Edge epoxy River top. With some interesting octagon hugs and Rings within the river in the center of the desktop. So to get that started I placed one of the pieces that would be used for the Octagon pugs and rings on to the I2R-8 UCCNC

If making only solid octagon-shaped pugs to go into the center as with many desks that I’ve seen before That have  Hexagon-shaped pieces symmetrically spaced within an open area and then the voidz filled with epoxy. This pattern usually does turn out looking really nice but I wanted to do something different for this particular desktop. So I came up with the idea of not only making solid octagon-shaped pugs but also octagon shaped rings that would then be filled with a contrasting color of epoxy.

Using the  I2R-8 UCCNC just process not only much quicker and more accurate but also allowed me to have a much less waist  as I could nest of the plugs and Rings within each other as the differing sizes and instead of getting somewhere between 7 to 10 and possible solid plugs of the same size out of one board I wound up getting somewhere right around 20 separate pugs and rings of differing sizes.  I want to also say that if any of you guys are interested in getting it to C&C woodworking check out the link here: i2rcnc.com Head over to their website and check out their machines use code JPAYNE10 at checkout and you will receive up to $200 off of an i2r UCCNC machine. This is a special offer that not only helps me out and supports  this page and content. But is also an offer that not many people can offer being able to take so much off the price of such an awesome machine.

After the octagon rings have been cut on the CNC I started prepping the boards that would make up the body on each side of the epoxy river. Using the track saw I cut the boards down to length squaring off the ends at the same time. Wow I knew roughly the size I wanted for the desktop I knew that the boards would need to be cut slightly shorter as I wanted to completely encase them in epoxy. so they would need to be trimmed to fit within the bottom of the mold that would hold the epoxy.

 After trimming the boards to length I then used a wire wheel and drill To remove any excess debris on the ends and edges of the board. This is an essential step that you should not skip if making something like this. Having debris or dirt on the edges of the board would not only contaminate the epoxy and give a less clean look with debris being seen but also could affect the Integrity of the bond of the epoxy and weaken the strength of the table in the end.

For the mold I was going to be using some pieces of MDF. to breathe the epoxy from sticking to the MDF I coded every inch of the interior of the mold with clear packing tape. While applying the packing tape make sure to layer the pieces of slightly overlapping the edges and making sure there is no gaps between the tape and MDF that epoxy could seep into. Once all of the pieces are completely covered with packing tape. move on to assembling the mold while doing this apply a bead silicone between each of the panels to seal off all of the seams  of the mold. Are then used a brad nail gun To nail the pieces into place making sure to add plenty of nails not only for straight but also to tighten the joint where the boards meet up this will help to prevent leaks out of the mold. After all of the pieces of the mold were assembled  I then applied another thin smooth bead of silicone to all of the interior corners of the mold. This is just an extra precaution to ensure that no epoxy can leak out of the mold.

I then applied some masking tape around the edges of the boards on what would be the bottom of the desktop. This would give me a clean surface to apply a smooth gapless bead of silicone all the way around the bottom of each board near the edge. This is to stop epoxy from going underneath the boards and not only possibly leaking if you screw the board to the mold from the bottom  but also will prevent the board from possibly floating within the epoxy and causing placement issues. What all the silicone would have been applied I then used for screws through the bottom of the mold to pull the boards down tight to the mold insuring a tight seal with the silicone. 

After the mold was completely built and the boards fastened into place it was time to place the octagon rings and plugs.  I found out quickly that I thought this was going to be a very simple process and this honestly took way longer it was much more difficult than I expected. Not any way that it was difficult physical work but finding a pattern that I liked and thought would fit the shape and style of the  build seem to be a bit more difficult once all of the rings and plugs were there in front of me. After many many many attempts I finally came up with a suitable layout that I thought looked well with the table and would go well with the color scheme I had decided to go with. With all of the pieces laid out and what would be their final position I then applied hot glue to the bottom of each of the rings as well as a couple of drops to each of the plugs to secure all of them into place. And also to seal the bottom seam each of the Rings as I would be adding a contrasting color inside of each of them.

 The final step of the mold was to use a level to ensure that the mold itself was sitting perfectly level from each side both of wits and lengthwise. This would ensure that once I poured the epoxy the epoxy would not all flow to one end or corner and pool up.

 Now that everything was ready to pour I could taking measurements needed to figure up exactly how much epoxy I would be using. To do this take multiple measurements alone the opening that you will be pouring the epoxy into. Measuring the width in multiple places. Then find the average of those measurements then multiply that average by the length of the river and the steps you would like the epoxy to be in the end. This will give you the area that will be filled with epoxy. Now that measurement will need to be divided by 144 to give you a total of board feet of epoxy that will be needed to achieve the depth you were looking for in your river. one thing to also keep in mind is that not all epoxies cover the same. Refer to your manufacturer’s specifications as to how much epoxy will be needed to cover one board foot to properly calculate how much epoxy you will need.

For this particular desktop I wound up needing around 2 and 1/2 gallons total. and would be splitting that into 2 equal amounts as this would be a two color desktop.  I would be using totalboat deep set epoxy  in the colored portions of this desktop. This would be around a 1 inch deep single pour and this Particular epoxy from Totalboat works really well and is designed to be used in these type of applications. Having a really slow set in allowing all of the trapped gases to escape and the epoxy to completely flattened and level before hardening.

While pouring epoxy is pretty straightforward when doing a two colored pour that you would like to meet in a certain spot on the river or on the desktop or if trying to achieve a specific look our goal with the melting of the two colors it’s not as simple as just dumping the epoxy into place. Why you can do this and pour each color simultaneously from each end of the river and they will meet somewhere in the  middle if the people pouring the epoxy do not pour the epoxy at the same speed or flow rate one color could possibly overtake the other. So to prevent this I have found it is easiest to work from the center of the tables out pouring slowly into the center and then working your way toward the edges of the table. That being said that this color combo is that I went with for this table looks amazing together and while doing the poor I got really excited to finally seeing the creation in my head come to life. 

After the entirety of the river had been poured I then moved on to filling in the rings that have been to put in place earlier.  I decided to add a contrasting mix to it adding the bright green to the darker black areas and adding the darker black color to the lighter green areas of the river. One thing you may also notice is that I did not fill up all the way to the top of the boards while you can do this and completely run over the edges and then Smooths out the table top giving a really nice smooth look. I wanted to try something a little different for this. I wanted to leave a little bit of a gap between the top of the boards and the top of the colored epoxy. This gap would be filled in  with the tabletop that would be used for the clear coat adding what would turn into an almost 3d effect and not a two-dimensional flat spacing or hard lines between the colors of the wood and epoxy. After allowing the epoxy to set and start to jail for a few hours then used a piece of wire to add in the patterns of the epoxy to make it look as if the epoxy were flowing. This is done by simply stirring the epoxy once the epoxy has become somewhat of a gel state. This lifts the pearlessence within the pigments and creates the swirl patterns that then are held into place due to the timing in which you add the swirls to the epoxy. if you attempt to do this too early the swirls will simply disappear as the pearlescent pigments sink and try to do this too late can damage the epoxy in that it will not have enough time to completely flatten and level back out after adding the patterns. Now let the epoxy completely set and harden before moving on to applying at the table top coat.

For the clear coat only desktop I would be using Totalboat  table top epoxy. This epoxy is designed to be spread in thin layers over the top of table tops countertops or whatever you would like and leave a smooth glassy crystal clear finish. Just like before you will need to calculate how much epoxy you will need the main difference being that this epoxy should be poured in multiple thinner layers allowing around 4 to 6 hours of set time between each layer. also well doing this after making of the pour of the table top You should then also use either a heat gun or torch to remove air bubbles that will be embedded into the epoxy during the mixing process. If done properly there might be a little bit of hase once initially poured But using proper technique with a torch or heat gun will remove all of the small air pockets leaving a crystal clear layer. Once the final layer has been applied and all of the bubbles have been pop allow the epoxy to completely Harden before moving on.

At this point you can begin to demold the desktop once the epoxy is completely cured. This is where a true test of how well the packing tape player had been laid out onto the inside of your mold will be seen. If the  layer of packing tape has been applied properly the epoxy will cleanly release and easily come off of the mold. Leaving little to no residue behind. After removing the table top inspect the bottom remove the tape and silicone and if needed use a leveling jig and router or Sanders to flatten the bottom of the desktop. In this case the silicone seams underneath the boards did their job well with extremely small amounts of epoxy getting under the boards so only a small amount of cleanup was needed.

 I  then was able to round over the corners of the desktop using the trim router As well as a roundover bit from bitsbits.com Go check these guys out as their bits have a proprietary Astro coating that helps to increase the durability and longevity of the cutters of all of their CNC and router bits. I have been using these bits for a good while now and love them I would highly recommend them to anyone. Click the link above go take them out and use promo code JPAYNE15  to receive a discount at checkout. Again this helps me out and shows your support not only to this channel but gives you some amazing bits at a discounted price and you can’t go wrong with that. 

I then moved on to sending in the epoxy down  this is an essential process to get a perfectly glassy smooth finish. Even though the epoxy doesn’t level out quite well and gives a beautiful shine there is still small unlevel areas so sanding with an orbital sander and starting off with around 600 grit sandpaper I wet sanded the entirety of the desktop until the epoxy was extremely smooth.  I then moved on to using 800 grit and then 1500 Grit sandpaper on the sander. Before moving on to hand sanding using a sanding block at  2000 grit then 4000 before moving on to 12000 grit wet sanding the entire time to keep down scratches within the epoxy.

After all the sanding was completed I didn’t used the buffer and simple buffing compound  to buff the epoxy to a high shine. While doing this process you apply firm pressure in the beginning at a bit of a slower speed and as you start to see the clarity of the epoxy increase UWE slowly decrease the pressure and increase speed before having only light pressure and a high speed of the buffing pad to give a glass like clear finish. After this is finished simply wipe away and clean all of the residue to finish the polishing of process.

Placing the desktop onto the stand and centering is a standard process making sure to have equal distances from the stand all the way around the bottom of the desktop. Then connecting all of the electric wires from the electric lift stand to the control box that is supplied. This is a very simple process and is actually foolproof as they can only clip into specific areas and cannot be mixed up or inserted into the wrong clip.

 Once you have the control box wired place the control box on the bottom side of the desktop and secure and place with the supplied screws. there is also Supply the wiring clips that can be used for any extra wiring organization you would like.

 The final step in assembly is to attach the controller at the front of the desktop this will be used to lift or lower the electric lift desk. Also by holding down the m button on the controller add whatever specific height you would like until the controller  lights Flash you are then able to press whatever preset button you would like that specific height to be at allow you to set multiple specific heights depending on your workflow as well as how standing or sitting is most comfortable to you.

How does top come out was even a surprise to me starting off projects like this you have a picture in your head but to see it come to life sometimes it’s a little more than what you expected which is always a good thing to me. I love how this came out and the colors look amazing especially with this spalted  Magnolia wood that is used with all of its beautiful character lines and Spaulding. The 3-D effect from the technique of having a deeper amount of clear table top looks amazing to me it’s almost as if you could jump into the center of this river and swim around.

Wow putting in my computer and other electronics into place I thought I would also Jazz up the desk a little bit by adding some LED lights throughout shining down and through the epoxy. This gave an awesome look especially at night when only a handful of lights are on in the shop and gives an amazing glow to the desk. It’s almost like you’re walking up to Emerald City when all of the green lights are going.

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So guys there is the build of the electric lift desk from Autonomous I am really loving the desk that is a really nice capability to not have to sit down at all times while doing your work and being able to stand and stretch as well as move around a little bit and get the blood flowing. So I’m really happy with this build and I hope you guys have enjoyed seeing how I made this crazy  Desktop. I am thinking about making a few of these as a limited edition run they could be purchased by custom order if this is something you would be interested in please contact me using the contact form here on the website. Also please go check out our sponsors or any of the links throughout this article it really does help me grow and helps me put out more and more content for you guys as this  content is quite time and money consuming but I really do love doing this and getting to teach people new things as well as make some insanely cool project. Make sure you go subscribe on YouTube and four more videos and pictures follow me on Instagram at @Jpaynewoodworking. I hope you had fun and learned something during this article and like always I will see you on the next one! 

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