Category Archives: Casting & Pouring

Tips for Clear-Finished Wood

By Don Gutzmer – GBI Technical Advisor

The beauty of naturally finished wood on a boat is appealing to many boat owners, but the maintenance of clear wood finishes is an ongoing task. One way to reduce this task is to stabilize the moisture content of the wood with epoxy. Residents in Michigan or Florida may need to varnish their clear-finished wood surfaces yearly. In this article, we share expert tips for applying epoxy and fiberglass to wood surfaces for a clear, bubble-free finish.

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Epoxy casting can be done in many colors and depths

Casting Epoxy

By Rachael Geerts – GBI Composites Materials Engineer

Casting epoxy is really catching on. Live edge tables with bright centers, clear coasters with stones, wood, or shells intricately placed, or even beautiful jewelry can be made with WEST SYSTEM Epoxy. With so many people venturing into using epoxy this way, I will address common questions about casting depth, colorants, bubble removal, and finishing. Continue reading

aluminum honeycomb embedded stool

Honeycomb Embedded Furniture

by Antony Elliot, Designer and Woodworker

I am a designer/woodworker based in Yorkshire, England. I love using pieces of wood with interesting character. While a lot of people will avoid knotty, cracked and highly figured pieces because they can be difficult to work with, I embrace these imperfections and make them into a feature. However, it’s important to stabilize some of those features.

Embedding Aluminum Honeycomb into Epoxy

I started getting ideas about embedding high-performance aluminum honeycomb into epoxy to make more of a feature of the larger holes in timber that often need to be filled. Aluminum honeycomb is the same product that is supplied to the world’s top composites engineering, aerospace, and motorsport manufacturers.

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Nuts cast in epoxy

Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut

By Tom Pawlak — GBI Technical Advisor

Epoxyworks 47

Cover Story, Epoxyworks 47, Fall 2018

Some years ago I had the curious idea of cutting a dried black walnut in half on a band saw. That first look at the exposed insides of the nut grabbed me as very unusual, even surreal and not at all what I expected. I decided to seal the cut surfaces in epoxy which made them look even more unusual. I’ve made many since and love to see the reaction from people looking at them for the first time. I’ve been told they look like brain scans, polished geodes, and ink blots. Continue reading

The Marita

The Marita

Epoxyworks 45, Fall 2017

Cover Photo: The Marita live edge coffee table by Steve Pomerleau.

The Marita is a modern, live edge coffee table made out of a solid 2.25″ thick slab of Canadian Black Walnut salvaged from Essex County, Ontario. The void in the center of this curly black walnut slab was filled with broken safety glass and WEST SYSTEM Epoxy. The table is lit from below with a wireless RGB LED to allow for any color light to be selected. One-of-a-kind, this coffee table is an eye catching conversation piece. Continue reading

bibble-free casting

Bubble-Free Casting in Knotholes and Cracks

By Don Gutzmer – GBI Technical Advisor

Customers often ask us to recommend a WEST SYSTEM product for filling cracks and knotholes in wood. The best choice is 105 Resin and 207 Special Clear Hardener. Used properly, this product combination produces a strong, transparent casting. I will use large logs with huge voids to demonstrate the best practices for achieving a clear, bubble-free casting with 105/207. Continue reading

Epoxy bowl

Epoxy Bowls

By Joe Llewellyn

I am a woodturner working on a wood lathe making various round objects from bowls to bottle stoppers to pens. This includes epoxy bowls.

I started turning irregular pieces of wood like burls and became frustrated with all the defects in the rotten or punky wood, and the various holes that needed to be filled or stabilized in order to keep the piece together. I began using WEST SYSTEM 105 Resin and 207 Special Clear Hardener as recommended by the WEST SYSTEM technical advisors. Continue reading

Bubble-Free Epoxy Coating

By Mike BarnardDon Gutzmer

WEST SYSTEM® Epoxy has long been a popular choice for clear coating tabletops, and for these applications, you’ll want a bubble-free epoxy coating. Epoxy works great as a buildup coat and a moisture barrier. It also showcases the beauty of wood grain and fiber weaves. Formulated with boat building in mind, WEST SYSTEM Epoxy is not intended as a final finish coating. You may find it a bit more difficult to achieve a perfect surface with epoxy than with a coating formulated specifically for final finishing, such as varnish. Here’s how to make sure your epoxy coating is bubble-free.

However, WEST SYSTEM offers some distinct advantages. It builds up quickly: a single coat of 105 Epoxy Resin® with 207 Special Clear Hardener® offers about four times the thickness of a typical coat of polyurethane varnish. WEST SYSTEM epoxy is also an excellent moisture barrier, stabilizing the surface so your final finish coat will look beautiful longer.

When coating a surface that will be used outdoors, it’s important to put a UV-resistant clear coating over the epoxy. While 207 Special Clear Hardener contains a good UV inhibitor, it will still need additional UV-resistant coats to withstand the degrading effects of sunlight on epoxy.

Since you will need to sand down the epoxied surface and coat the epoxy with varnish, getting a perfect coating isn’t strictly necessary. But the better shape it’s in, the more easily you will achieve a beautiful, bubble-free finish. The key is creating the smoothest, flattest epoxy surface possible. This will save you a lot of sanding later.

Last summer here at the Gougeon shop, we laminated a 35-year-old conference table with carbon fiber and WEST SYSTEM 105/207. We experimented with different methods of achieving a smooth, even, bubble-free epoxy coat to reduce the need for sanding prior to the final finish coating. (Editor’s note: 10 years after this article was written, that carbon-fiber conference table still looks terrific.)

Prepare the surface

Proper surface preparation is one of the most important steps in using epoxy. Make sure the surface is clean of contaminants such as wax and paint. Sand the surface smooth. Avoid using solvents immediately before applying the epoxy.

Eliminate dust

Getting a perfectly smooth surface starts with clearing the air of small particles. These particles may seem harmless, but once they are on a glossy surface it will not look nearly as good as it could. Avoid using tack rags. Vacuum the surface before coating.

Understand outgassing

Before coating bare wood, heat the wood and apply the epoxy while the wood is cooling. During cooling, the air in the wood contracts, drawing the epoxy in for a bubble-free epoxy coating. The opposite happens if you coat wood as it’s warming (such as in the morning, in the sunlight, near a heater or anytime ambient temperature is rising). The air in the wood will expand and “outgas” while the wood’s temperature is rising, resulting in bubbles in the curing epoxy coating.

Applying over stains

Be careful when using WEST SYSTEM Epoxy over commercial stains. Some stains prevent epoxy from penetrating into the wood. The result can be epoxy that fisheyes or peels off after final cure. Always perform a test before using epoxy over a stain.

Avoiding blush

It’s easy to avoid the inert, waxy residue that is sometimes a byproduct of the curing process and is commonly called “blush.” Simply use WEST SYSTEM 207 Special Clear Hardener. It cures blush-free. It’s also formulated for excellent wet out and self-leveling. It cures extremely clear and without color.

If you are using WEST SYSTEM 205 Fast, 206 Slow, or 209 Extra Slow Hardener, blush might develop on the surface, depending on working conditions. It’s easily removed after the epoxy cures with plain water and a light scrubbing with a Scotch-Brite™ pad. These hardeners are not normally recommended for clear coating.

Rolling and tipping

The only recommended way to coat vertical surfaces with epoxy is the roll and tip method. Roll the epoxy on with a foam roller, then “tip” by dragging another roller across the surface to smooth the epoxy layer.

Tip off wet epoxy with a roller cover brush using long, even overlapping strokes. This will leave a bubble-free epoxy coating.

Tip off wet epoxy with a roller cover brush using long, even overlapping strokes. This will leave a bubble-free epoxy coating.

Flow coating

This is the best method for encapsulating items in a bubble-free epoxy coating. The fewest bubbles result if epoxy is poured from the bottom of a container. A word of caution: Never pour a single layer of epoxy thicker than ¼”. Thicker amounts can quickly overheat or “exotherm” during cure, resulting in quite a mess on your lovely surface. If you want a final thickness greater than ¼”, wait until the first layer is cured to the point where it’s firm and about as “tacky” as masking tape then apply the next coat on top of that.

If encapsulating items such as coins, medals, bottle caps and photos on a flat surface, affix them in place with decoupage glue such as Mod Podge® (readily available at craft stores). It’s compatible with epoxy and will prevent your items from floating around. Use it to pre-seal photos and other paper items.

Propane torch

This method of achieving a bubble-free epoxy finish has been used for years by technical advisors at Gougeon Brothers. Not only is it effective for removing air bubbles from the surface, it also lowers the viscosity of the surface and flattens it out a bit. Be very careful when using this technique because leaving the flame over one spot for too long could cause bubbles to appear. We don’t recommend using a propane torch over epoxy-coated bare wood. Doing so may cause outgassing into the epoxy layer.

A thick coating of epoxy with bubbles in the coating.

A thick coating of epoxy with bubbles in the coating.

Pass a torch flame quickly over wet epoxy to warm the surface, reduce the surface tension, reduce viscosity slightly and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy finish.

Pass a torch flame quickly over wet epoxy to warm the surface, reduce the surface tension, reduce viscosity slightly and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy finish.

After a quick pass with a torch, the bubbles are released and the coating begins to flow out.

After a quick pass with a torch, the bubbles are released and the coating begins to flow out.

Denatured Alcohol

Spraying a fine mist of denatured alcohol over the surface will pop air bubbles as well as lower the viscosity of the surface and flatten it out. There is little risk in this method because denatured alcohol evaporates fairly quickly and does not cause air bubbles to propagate. A fine mist is critical. To get the fine mist we purchased a bottle of hair spray with a push button pump (a Windex™ sprayer is not fine enough) and replaced the hair spray with denatured alcohol.

A fine mist of denatured alcohol will reduce surface tension and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy coating.

A fine mist of denatured alcohol will reduce surface tension and release air bubbles, resulting in a bubble-free epoxy coating.

custom bar top laminated with 207 Special Clear Hardener

Building a Custom Bar Top

My Biggest Project Ever

by Nelson Niederer

We’d talked about building a custom bar top for my old friend Tim’s rec room for years. Finally, I got the word it was time to “bust a move” and start building. Continue reading