Building Glowing Resin River Nightstands

For this build we went all the way from raw lumber to finished furniture. The first step was picking out some slabs. To start, I trimmed off the ends, eyeballing the best angle to make the best use of the natural shape of the slab.

When I’m measuring a slab and I’m trying to get a fairly square edge, I measure it from multiple points at the top and make measurement marks across the width of it. Then, I connect the dots to get an edge that is more square than if I tried to use my square reference on the raw edge.

With the slab trimmed down, It was time to pull off the bark with a draw knife. Then, I planed down each piece into a workable board. We had almost a dozen boards to do, and within two passes with the first slab, our planer completely jammed. So, we moved over to the drum sander and it just … wasn’t the same. Also it would have taken a very long time.

That meant it was time for a home depot run to buy a new one. We went with the Dewalt planer, and we had it out of the box and working perfectly within 5 minutes. We immediately threw it through the ringer, planing down all of our cherry slabs in no time.

After that, we chose a slab with a nice curved edge that we liked for the resin river tabletops. I cut it into two strips on the table saw.

I sanded up the live edge on the slab to a 220 grit, and then started constructing the mold. I lined a thin piece of plywood with shurtape so it would release when it hardened. Then, Brooke started securing both sides of the cut slab into place, being sure to set them far enough apart that the  finished piece would have the right dimensions for the nightstand tabletops.

After making sure it was level, we started mixing up the resin. We’re using total boat thick set for this. For color, Brooke used a mix of pearl pigment and a light blue kind of glittery pigment to get a pale silvery blue color. We were careful to add enough pigment so that you wouldn’t be able to see through it into the top drawer, but not so much pigment so that it wouldn’t diffuse the light well. Then, we poured the initial thin first pour of resin.

We may have had a bit of a leak…

It’s a possibility that it was a large spill.

A resin Niagara Falls. Of sorts.

When working with a light-duty mold like we were, the right thing to do is to pour the initial thin layer of resin and let it thicken up significantly if not harden all the way. That way it can seep into and effectively plug any potential holes and cracks, as well as add extra sturdiness, before pouring in the bulk of the resin and adding that extra pressure to things.

It was 2:00 AM and we were on a time crunch, so our dampened decision-making skills decided to throw caution to the wind. It went as expected, and we ended up staying at the shop until 4:30 that morning cleaning up, and we were exhausted the day after due to the unintentional all-nighter. The good news is that we were able to salvage our floors and tables, and we ended up with that thin layer of hardened resin I recently mentioned. We know… we should have just done it right the first time and avoided all of this.

We came up with a bit of a franken-mold so our unmolding process was a bit unconventional. A lot of the unmolding was done by hand, pulling off all the resin covered clamps, rubber gloves, and hot glue.

It had quite a bit of wobble to it so we leveled it on a sled, so that we could pass it through and remove as little material as possible. I was not worrying about the level too much at this point.

We opted to use the drum sander for this, even though it’s a lot slower than a planer would be. This was based on two reasons: 1) at this point it was too wide to fit in the planer. 2)  there was so much junk on it we didn’t want to clog up our new planer, and our drum sander has a disposable belt.

When the time was right, Brooke removed the remaining plywood mold, and I re-leveled it on the sled to make sure we were removing a nice even slice of material off the top, so we could maintain as much thickness as possible.

Then, it was time to design the wireless charging beneath the surface of the nightstand. Brooke did a quick layout of the resin river to scale in illustrator so she could ensure that the design stayed completely on the wood side of the panel, and not the translucent resin. She needed to be precise with the thickness she set for the circular pockets, otherwise charging wouldn’t work.

Brooke calibrated an air carve on the CNC router before cutting to see where the bit would go on the panel before making any permanent changes to it. It looked all good, so she sent it through for the real carve.

Brooke also had the CNC router carve out the border of the tabletop too. We usually don’t set it to carve all the way through, because we find it just as easy to trim things off with a bandsaw at the end as it is to deal with tabs. Brooke then sanded it up to a 220 grit and set it aside.

At this point, we went back to the original batch of plain cherry, and ran one edge of a few slabs through the jointer, and then re-sawed them down the middle on the bandsaw.

To add more surface area for the glue-up, Brooke added a rabbet to the flat end of both sides of each book-end pair. Then, she prepped the floor to leave all the glue-ups overnight. We set each pair of panels on two parallel bar clamps, and liberally glued them together.

After drying overnight, I popped them out of the clamps. With a clear idea of raw material, we could sketch out a design with real dimensions.

I ran one side of each of the panels down the table saw to give me an idea of what I was actually going to be able to work with. I tried to remove as little material as possible. I also made a square edge on the bottom of each panel so I could measure off of it. I cut the panels 1 ½ inches larger than what I had envisioned for the final piece so I could have a little wiggle room. From here, I could get a square cut on the final edge.

Then, It was time to drum sand each panel flat. Brooke scribbled with pencil on both sides of the panel. This is our method for an easy visual so you know when you’ve sanded each side completely flat. Also of note, Brooke did each panel at the same time in an assembly line to ensure each panel was of the same thickness.

Once I finished, I used total boat 2:1 epoxy with a medium hardener to fill in any spots that needed it, and let it dry overnight before sanding the next morning with a random orbital sander.

From here, using the known flat edges on each panel, we could cut the panels into our final dimensions.

We saved a section of plain cherry slab and took a moment to cut it into 1-inch strips. These will be the supports for the drawer slides, and the structure of the night stand

I started with two side pieces and sketched where I wanted them to be. I clamped them into place and measured exactly how long my horizontal pieces needed to be, and then I cut a bunch.

Using my pencil marks, we glued everything precisely into place. For the horizontal pieces where we didn’t have clamps to reach, we used a combo of wood glue and CA glue. The CA glue dries instantly and served as a clamp while the wood glue dried.

To secure the corners since there was an offset in the thickness of the board, I 3D modeled a set of custom brackets and 3D printed them on a 100% infill in black PLA filament. These fit perfectly as dividers between each drawer. I then screwed everything into place.

From here, the back panel of the nightstand easily glued into place, fitting snugly into a ledge we measured when placing the interior break pieces. Then, I used corner clamps and let the stands dry overnight.

At this point, I sketched out dimensions for the drawer interiors and quickly cut the sides from ¾ inch plywood .For the drawer bottoms, we used ¼ inch plywood. Using the router table, we added a ¼ inch notch to the side boards to ultimately slide the bottom into, as well as rabbets to each edge to create area for the next glue-up.

Next, I sanded everything well. Using painter’s tape as clamps, I assembled three sides to the outer frame of each drawer, and then slipped the drawer bottom into place. This was all going to get sanded again anyway, so I focused on getting everything glued thoroughly than I did on being neat or tidy about it. Lastly, I locked it all into place by gluing the final piece of the outer frame.

The next day, I removed the tape and gave each piece a final thorough sand. Each one will be covered with a drawer face, but we still wanted each one to have a soft feel.

We decided we wanted a half moon design on the bottom. I sketched roughly where I wanted it to sit, and then I made a stencil using chipboard and a bucket. I sketched the shape on each side using the stencil, and then I cut it out with a jigsaw. I took this opportunity to check if everything was square before cutting the drawer faces down to size.

Once I confirmed that they fit perfectly into place, I added a routed edge to each face. I used the same router bit to soften the edges of the tabletop for visual continuity.

It was time to install the drawer slides. It’s not that hard to do. It just takes some focus. First screw the slide in at one point. Then, using a magnetic level for reference, pivot the drawer slide until it’s level and add a second screw. After that, it will sit nice and level as you add the rest of the screws.

We got all of our slides into position, and then it was time to attach the drawers themselves. We used a similar level technique to keep everything lined up. And, ultimately, if the drawers slide smoothly, it’s good.

First, we 3D printed some brackets to hold the wireless charging firmly up to the roof of the nightstand so that it’ll stay safely within range to charge a phone set on top. The largest part I printed will stay on top of the wireless charging station. It’s shaped to hold the power pack and an extra length of cords for the USB ports. Because we did not want to embed the LEDs into the resin pour in case we ever don’t want them or in case they have a break, we 3D modelled a basic pocket that will hold the LED strip sideways. We could cut these and mess around with their orientation to best fit the curve of each resin river for even lighting.

The wireless charging stations fitted perfect into the pockets I had routed out. To keep these snugly fit in, we screwed in our 3D printed bracket.

Confident that the electronics in the tabletops worked, we could add the finish. We went with Osmo- it’s a favorite of ours. Its intended use is on floors, so it is nice and durable. It still has a soft and natural look when it dries. I found it provided a really cool contrast with the resin river. The best way to apply is dipping a rag directly into the Osmo and saturating your wood, and immediately after applying use a bone dry cloth to wipe off any excess and let it set. Multiple thin coats is the best way to get a desirable finish. I ended up using 3 coats.

At this point, we had finished the tabletops and all of the drawer faces. Each nightstand was then set up with 4 USB ports in the back. I designed a quick file to perfectly fit each square port and laser-cut it in cherry to match. Then, I cut out a window on the back of the nightstands to glue the square into.

The drawer faces needed to be installed very precisely. Any crookedness would be obvious. Because of the design of the front. We went slowly and used a scrap of ⅛ plywood as a spacer between each drawer face, then, we popped a screw into each pilot hole to secure each drawer face perfectly into place.

Then, we cut one last strip of cherry to top off the set of 3 drawer faces and routed it to match everything else. We intentionally left this to cut at the very end, so that it could serve as the very last puzzle piece and be cut to fit perfectly.

Then, the nightstand was ready to get its own few coats of Osmo. It was difficult to film, but the interior got two coats as well for the sake of durability. Then, I screwed the power holder under the bottom side of the table tops, over where the wireless chargers were nestled. I also cut down and placed the LED brackets at this point and installed the lights.

After that I positioned the tabletop onto its base to make sure everything fit properly. I added pilot holes to the top rim using a power drill. I then did the same to the underside of the tabletop, and added a screw.this would have been a tight squeeze to start, but the added electronics made it even more tight.

The LED lights for the resin river have a remote to control their brightness. We thought this should be mounted to the outside, so we drilled a hole for the chord to go through. Then, snapped the USBs into place as well.

As you can imagine, at this point, the interior was a mess of chords, and nobody likes that. We tidied it up with zip ties and made sure to position the chords in a way that did not interfere with the drawer slides or cast a shadow on the resin river when it lights up. When we flipped it over, the exterior still looked nice and sleek.

It seemed like the time for a tech demo, and the glowing resin river was working perfectly.

After slipping all of the drawers into place installing the drawer hardware was the final finishing touch. I made another chipboard template to help line things up, drilled the holes, and screwed each handle into place.

We really knocked this one out of the park considering the difficulties with the resin we experienced during this build.

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