How to Build Pecky Cypress Shelves

Let me tell you a story. A couple months ago my girlfriend and I decided that we wanted to have the family over for Christmas. While I’m not a drinker, her family is. And with the new place we wanted to make sure to include a small bar area. Now of course, I didn’t want it to just be any bar area. Boards on some angle brackets isn’t my style. And so I came up with a plan. Pecky Cypress glow-in-the-dark epoxy shelves.

I had seen many build videos and beautiful pictures of the results online and on Pinterest. But this time we wanted to do it for ourselves. What follows is an approximate build documentation. The shelves were going to be our dry run before the full documentation and video effort. My little brother is also doing a pecky Cypress table for his computer which we will document more fully

Choose a Board

The first thing you have to do is choose a pecky Cypress board. We found a veritable treasure trove at a second hand store, but you may have to search around a bit to find what you’re looking for. You’ll find that these boards vary wildly in their amount of figure(rot). The boards we chose we’re almost falling apart. The ones that my brother got for his table only had a smattering of holes.

The main thing to remember is that the more holes you have, the more epoxy it will take to fill them. Also, the board will be much weaker until you actually fill it with epoxy. We almost broke one of our boards accidentally stacking things on top of it. I will include pictures below of the range you can expect to find.

Prepping Your Board

Every loose bit of scrap, whether that be dust, splinters, leaves, or even wood chips will potentially mar your epoxy pour if you’re not careful. They can float to the surface. This was not as big a deal for us since we were not doing clear epoxy. We added a significant amount of colored powder. This hid a lot of the junk we missed while cleaning.

Since I did not have an air compressor, I was unable to blow away the particulate from the board. This is a step I suggest you take your time when doing. Don’t be like me. I know it’s exciting but spend the time and clean. This will also help you in the future and save you sanding and epoxy.

Take an air compressor and a gloved hand/brush and rough up every inch of bored. As you go particulate will fall off and blow that away with the air compressor. Make sure there is nothing loose over the entirety of your board. This includes the edge.

The board that we purchased had a live edge. I was able to peel away most of the loose bark but I relied on the fact that we were completely encasing the edge in epoxy to make it stable. This hasn’t backfired so far but follow my example with caution

Prepping to Pour

This was another step that I skimped on. The first pour we did was directly onto corrugated plastic. This was a mistake. Corrugated plastic is not the same thing as Lexan or Plexiglas. It will not be easy to release. Learn from my mistake.

If you don’t want to spring for a full large sheet of Plexiglas or Lexan I found another solution that works fairly well.

Start with the corrugated plastic I condemned above. It’s the same stuff that yard signs are made out of. You will also want to order some aluminum sticky tape and some ac Johnson Paste Wax. Once those arrived use hot glue and form your mold. Once the glue is cool and dry you will need to line the inside with aluminum foil tape. Make sure to not leave any exposed surfaces.

Once that is complete, use a paper towel to dig up a chunk of paste wax from the tin. It has the consistency of a hard beeswax. You’re going to want to spread a thin layer over every surface. This will allow the epoxy to release from the mold without too much trouble.

Congratulations. You won’t have to waste time grinding off your mold.

Choosing and Mixing Epoxy

Now that you’ve completed the form into which you will be pouring your epoxy, there are a couple things to consider when making a large epoxy pour. Drive time, dry temperature, color / opacity when dry, expense, etc. I went with a fairly standard well-reviewed epoxy on Amazon. Here’s the affiliate link. It worked quite well and my only problem with it was caused by my inability to be patient

Now’s the time you’re going to want to break out your electric drill and paint mixer. Epoxies come packaged in two separate parts. A resin and a hardener. The first time around we tried to mix them by hand and about 2 minutes in, I thought my arm was going to fall off. Using electric drill will allow you a better consistency. While saving your shoulder for sanding.

Make sure to mix the two parts thoroughly and do so for 3 to 4 solid minutes. You may need more than one battery pack if using a cordless drill

When the hardener and resin are mixed completely you can add your coloring agent. We used colored powder. Specifically a pearl a light blue and a sea green. This allowed us to get a depth of color that almost seemed to flow and swell. This is one of the main benefits of using a powder instead of liquid coloring. While liquid coloring will give you a more uniform look, the powders don’t mix completely and therefore give 3D quality to the pour.

This is also when we added our glow in the dark powder. Don’t skimp on the amount of powder you use. The more the better. If you are doing a clear pore this may affect the opacity of the hardened product, however. I would suggest you do a smaller test run to see how much of the UV powder that a clear pore can handle before it becomes too milky and opaque

The Pour

A note before we start. Please make sure to wear respirators and to perform the below steps In an area with plenty of ventilation. Heating up the epoxy will cause it to off-gas which can be quite toxic. I could feel the fumes displacing the oxygen and became quite dizzy. It made me start hyperventilating. This one is a no joke.

So your board is prepped, your epoxy mixed. The colors are vibrant and you’re ready to start. One thing you want to make sure you have plugged in nearby would be a hair dryer or heat gun. This will help the epoxy run and flow into the cracks in the board. It will also help you pop any bubbles that start to come to the surface.

What happens when you don’t bring all bubbles to the surface

This step is when it really helps to have another set of hands so that while one person pours, another can use the hair dryer or heat gun.

The next half hour to 45 minutes of your life will go like this.

  1. Pour epoxy in holes and gaps until it begins overflowing.
  2. Run hair dryer or heat gun over area allowing epoxy to flow and bubbles to pop
  3. Pour epoxy in holes and gaps that have now appeared because you heated up the epoxy and allowed it to run deeper into the board
  4. Started step 1 and repeat until you’re out of epoxy or the board is saturated

A hint that should help with larger porous boards is to start in one corner and saturate that area before moving on. This will help when you run out of epoxy and need to mix more. That way you can also gauge how much you are going to need to complete the shelf/table. You can even let a smaller pour harden for a couple days while you get more epoxy shipped in.

Expect this step to take some time. The viscosity of your epoxy will greatly affect how much time it will take, however a lot of that will be based on ambient temperature. A difficulty we faced was that we were trying to complete our project during winter. We didn’t have an external building to work out of. We had to do our pores outside in the afternoon/evenings and so our epoxy quickly began to cool and hardened making it much more difficult to pour

Opacity caused by pinhead air bubbles

There is no rushing removing air bubbles from the epoxy. Just keep heating it up over and over again. Allow the air bubbles to work their way out. This includes the smaller pinhead bubbles as well. It will make the epoxy look hazy if you allow it to dry without removing them.

The Hardening

This is another step that requires patience. Don’t try to rush it. Like we did. Epoxy takes time to dry especially when in a cooler climate. Give it plenty of time to set up and harden before removing it from the mold

Because of your prep work the epoxy should pop off fairly easily. If there are any tough spots you can heat them up with your hair dryer / heat gun which will help to get the epoxy to release.

Now at this point if there are any blemishes or problems with the surface you will need to give the epoxy a few more days in the open to allow it time to handle sanding. If you rush, the sanding will begin to melt the epoxy and just smear a tacky substance around the surface.

Admire your handiwork. A lot of the hard work is now done. If you put UV sensitive powder in the mixture grab a black light or take the board outside in the sun for a while. Once you bring it in or shut off the lights the board should glow. This is one of the things that we are super proud of with our board. It is absolutely beautiful as it glows in the dark.

Sanding

If there are any problems or blemishes with your board you may need to sand the surface. Now that the board is hardened it shouldn’t be too big of a deal. Take a random orbit hand sander or belt sander and make sure to completely get out any problem areas. We used a planer to even out the surface.

Once that is done work your way up to 400 or 600 grit sandpaper. Don’t worry! Right now I know it looks like you’ve scuffed the surface and that there is no hope of fixing it. I panicked a bit myself. The next step will fix all that. Just make sure to polish the surface nicely and get it is clean and smooth as you can

Final Sealer Coat

Now that you’ve removed all the blemishes and polished the surface, you’re going to mix up and pour your final sealer coat. This will remove the milky surface that you created while fixing the problem areas

In the exact same way that you mixed your previous batch make sure both your resin and hardener are completely combined. Spend a good couple minutes with your drill getting all the corners. Finally, you’re going to want to place you are bored outside or on a pair of saw horses that are covered in plastic. Cover the floor and anything below it you don’t want to get epoxy on.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to perform this step indoors or even in a paint booth that would be ideal. It will prevent dust and debris from blowing into your pour.

Using some cheap paint sponges and your heat gun, pour the final coat over the middle of the board and allow it to begin to run towards the edges. If it is cold you may have to help it with the brush. Make sure to get a thin, even, coat over all surfaces

Run the heat gun continuously over each surface to allow the epoxy to smooth out and run freely. This will also get keep it from getting clumped up or being uneven.

Like the previous epoxy step make sure to take your time with this. Get every air bubble you can find. The more meticulous you are with this step the clearer and cooler the final product will be.

Final Hardening

Once again this is a waiting game. Don’t rush and accidentally touch you or finish before it’s hardened. Give it a day or two maybe even three or four if in cooler weather.

When the final product is hard and no longer tacky to the touch you’re awesome pecky Cypress project is done. Add legs, supports, hangers, etc and enjoy.

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