Aaron4324

Restaurant Table Tops

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Hi everyone! I just recently received a promising inquiry from a restaurant wanting a big quantity of table tops made with an epoxy layer surface. I've never made restaurant style tables or worked with epoxy but the offer is too good to pass up. I need some advice on how to properly build the table tops and use epoxy to allow for wood movement.
 
I was planning to glue a layer of reclaimed pine/oak on top of an equal sized layer of MDF or furniture grade plywood to create the thickness needed. Then, to hide the joint and MDF I would place the same wood material mitered around the edges. To finish, I planned to pour a 1/8th thick layer coating of epoxy around the top and edges only. There will be no epoxy on the bottom of the MDF, just top and edges.
 
Will I have any problems with this construction and wood movement? Will wood movement affect the layer of epoxy, potentially leading to cracks?

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1 hour ago, Aaron4324 said:

I was planning to glue a layer of reclaimed pine/oak on top of an equal sized layer of MDF or furniture grade plywood to create the thickness needed. Then, to hide the joint and MDF I would place the same wood material mitered around the edges

Welcome.

That will be a disaster. The top will curve up & down with humidity changes because the wood will move across the grain while the substrate will not (or at least much less). And the trim mitered around the edges will come apart when the wood moves. Even encapsulating in epoxy won't prevent wood movement. Better to either use solid lumber or build with plywood & use veneer on top with wood trim around the edges.

Asking on this forum is a good way to learn more about wood movement. I'm sure others much more knowledgeable than myself will join in the discussion shortly. Also, check out The Wood Whisperer for some great videos on woodworking & dealing with the way wood reacts with humidity changes.

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1 hour ago, drzaius said:

Welcome.

That will be a disaster. The top will curve up & down with humidity changes because the wood will move across the grain while the substrate will not (or at least much less). And the trim mitered around the edges will come apart when the wood moves. Even encapsulating in epoxy won't prevent wood movement. Better to either use solid lumber or build with plywood & use veneer on top with wood trim around the edges.

Asking on this forum is a good way to learn more about wood movement. I'm sure others much more knowledgeable than myself will join in the discussion shortly. Also, check out The Wood Whisperer for some great videos on woodworking & dealing with the way wood reacts with humidity changes.

That's what I was afraid of. The client insists on having an epoxy layer on the top, so I'm just unsure how to accomplish this in a way that will hold up over time and not crack. If you build with plywood and use veneer and then coat with epoxy, would the chance of issues decrease because of how thin veneer is? 

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10 minutes ago, Aaron4324 said:

That's what I was afraid of. The client insists on having an epoxy layer on the top, so I'm just unsure how to accomplish this in a way that will hold up over time and not crack. If you build with plywood and use veneer and then coat with epoxy, would the chance of issues decrease because of how thin veneer is? 

And as far as solid wood......I do think this is the best route but will coating a solid wood top on the surface and edges also not potentially crack the epoxy because of movement? I see this done a lot on bar tops but never see anyone address it.

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Another option in my mind is to have the solid wood of the top be thin and essentially a veneer (with a complimenting layer on the bottom to even out movement) with a thick strong substrate that will basically immobilize the veneer.

Either that or make the tops solid and do away with the substrate and frame all together.

I believe the coating epoxies are flexible enough to allow the wood to move beneath them with out problems. West systems 207 is used to topcoat on wooden boats after all.

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Honestly, I don't have any experience with epoxy as a thick pour-on finish because I hate that plastic look it gives things. So I don't know if it would crack or not. I just know that wood moves way more across the grain than it does with the grain. Ply & MDF will move as well, but the same in both directions & very little, about as much as long grain movement. Veneer is thin enough that it'll just move with whatever it's glued to. I would think that the thicker the epoxy finish is, the more tendency there would be for it to crack.

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Thanks for the help guys! I appreciate it a lot. I believe I'm going to suggest a different approach to the table tops or just pass on the opportunity. It's too large of a contract to get wrong. Especially having only used epoxy to fill minor voids. 

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The best way to proceed is to use mdf for the top with thin veneer on the top, bottom, and sides. Use “bar top” finish on all surfaces, with a thicker layer or two on top. They should out last the restaurant unless a lot of children are carving up the tops.

Wood moves, but the thinner or smaller the board the less of an issue movement is. Plywood is considered a stable product and it is simply layers of thin wood that have been glued together-each layer cross grain to the layer above and below.  Well made veneered furniture lasts for centuries  

Just make sure you have a vacuum bag system big enough or other way to apply even pressure when gluing the veneer to the substrate.  

Good luck with the commission.

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Go look at the tables at most steak houses. A row of boards glued-up with either end grain showing or a flat mitered frame surrounding it. Then its screwed to a steel base, and they dump epoxy on it. Thats commercial work for ya. I bet they were all built in a day with nothing but a tablesaw, chopsaw and a few clamps.

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On 2/26/2018 at 5:07 PM, Aaron4324 said:

Thanks for the help guys! I appreciate it a lot. I believe I'm going to suggest a different approach to the table tops or just pass on the opportunity. It's too large of a contract to get wrong. Especially having only used epoxy to fill minor voids. 

As an amazing percentage of restaurants fail within the first year, your fears may be unfounded! “ Bobbie Sue, Take The Money and Run”!

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On 2/27/2018 at 8:16 AM, sheperd80 said:

Go look at the tables at most steak houses. A row of boards glued-up with either end grain showing or a flat mitered frame surrounding it. Then its screwed to a steel base, and they dump epoxy on it. Thats commercial work for ya. I bet they were all built in a day with nothing but a tablesaw, chopsaw and a few clamps.

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If you don't know why make replies...

 

On 2/27/2018 at 8:16 AM, sheperd80 said:

 

 


 

 

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K  Cooper is correct.  I sold restaurant equipment and supplies for about 4 years.  80% fold within a year, some as early as 6 months.  Had one Mexican restaurant fold within a month.  We had a Santa Fe Steakhouse here that recently folded after about 4 or 5 years.  Seemed to have good business so I can't understand why.

What is the latest on the restaurant?   I would go 50% down before starting to help cover materials and labor and 50% upon delivery.

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On 2/26/2018 at 11:57 AM, Aaron4324 said:
Hi everyone! I just recently received a promising inquiry from a restaurant wanting a big quantity of table tops made with an epoxy layer surface. I've never made restaurant style tables or worked with epoxy but the offer is too good to pass up. I need some advice on how to properly build the table tops and use epoxy to allow for wood movement.
 
I was planning to glue a layer of reclaimed pine/oak on top of an equal sized layer of MDF or furniture grade plywood to create the thickness needed. Then, to hide the joint and MDF I would place the same wood material mitered around the edges. To finish, I planned to pour a 1/8th thick layer coating of epoxy around the top and edges only. There will be no epoxy on the bottom of the MDF, just top and edges.
 
Will I have any problems with this construction and wood movement? Will wood movement affect the layer of epoxy, potentially leading to cracks?

You'll have to epoxy the whole thing.....

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If you used epoxy on all sides, wouldn't that prevent the wood from changing it’s moisture content, or at least significantly reduce it, minimizing wood movement to the point of it being a non-issue? Or is epoxy not *that* impermeable? 

 

I’m new to this, so I may well be missing something, but it seems like this would be the case. 

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Works in our business..We have a 1 year warranty with IHOP, Chillis, etc. Haven't had any problems.

That being said....If your not 100% confident in your project I would walk away.. Easier to sleep at night this way...

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Commercial work is a whole nother animal.

The stuff I've seen blows my mind. Most of it is like a magical act, in which the cheapest plywood is used for all but the veneers. Build something up in a day or two, install that week.

 

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2 hours ago, Llama said:

Commercial work is a whole nother animal.

The stuff I've seen blows my mind. Most of it is like a magical act, in which the cheapest plywood is used for all but the veneers. Build something up in a day or two, install that week.

 

Chinese plywood. $23 a sheet. We us anywhere between 3-5 bundles a weekon one shift,,

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I've never eaten in a restaurant, where you can see how the table is made, with anything that I considered to be a well made piece of furniture.  Like most every other kind of building, that I don't have anything to do with, fast and cheap is what is wanted.

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I have a table coming up that will be seen. I believe I was told a foosball  table like 20' long for restaurant here in KC. Haven't seen the prints yet. Interesting...

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