Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 147, November 2017Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
The Down to Earth Woodworker
By Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin

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Epoxy For Woodworking

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I get a lot of questions via email, the comment area on YouTube, and even via Facebook. One of the most prevalent is about using epoxy to fill voids and cracks in natural, live-edge slabs. Beyond "What epoxy do you use?" the most frequent question is about eliminating the bubbles that often get trapped in the curing epoxy. Simply, epoxy generates heat while curing, and that heat can cause gases in your wood to release. Those gases will bubble up through the epoxy and can be trapped as the epoxy cures. Unsightly bubbles in otherwise nearly clear epoxy can ruin the appearance of a filled crack, knot, or split.

To alleviate this problem, first apply a thin coat of epoxy to the surfaces of the wood where you will be filling a crack, knot, or void. A thin coat will seal the wood, not allowing bubbles to escape when the void is filled with epoxy. Just remember, you will need to finish filling the void within 18 hours, otherwise the cured epoxy will need to be sanded so that the subsequent coats can adhere properly.

Figure 13 - This little magazine comes out a
couple of times a year and is chock full of ideas,
tips, and tricks for using epoxy... and it's free!
It is also a good idea to not fill deep voids with more than 1/4" of epoxy at a time. A large mass of epoxy can generate substantial heat and can discolor the epoxy and even the surrounding wood. Again, if it is necessary to make several applications of epoxy to fill a void, apply those successive fills less than 18 hours apart. I shoot for about 8 hours, since the epoxy, in my shop, takes about 6 hours to fully set up.

Lastly, it sounds a bit like voodoo science, but quickly passing a propane torch over the freshly laid epoxy works. The heat breaks the surface tension of the epoxy allowing the bubbles to burst. Just be careful not to overheat the epoxy! Too much heat and the epoxy can smoke and discolor.

Epoxy is a wonderful "tool" in the woodworker's arsenal. An invaluable source of additional tips, techniques, and some outstanding creative ideas is the magazine "Epoxyworks®" published a couple of times a year by Gougeon Brothers, Inc. in Bay City, MI. You can subscribe for free at their web site, epoxyworks.com.

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Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis (although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his adult life). Steven can be reached directly via email at sjohnson@downtoearthwoodworking.com

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