Sunday, August 23, 2009
How to make a bottle cap table
Over the last year or so, every so often I write a blog that I actually spend a substantial amount of time writing, and every so often, I also write a blog that has nothing at all to do with music. This blog is a combination of those two things.
These guidelines are not about "the" way to make a bottle cap table, but rather, the way that we made one.
Step one: Find a table, preferably not a huge one, and preferably not one that is very expensive. We found a nice $5 table at Savers that turned out to be just perfect.
Step two: Create a border around the edge of the table (because we were planning to use pour-on high gloss finish). This part proved to be a bit more problematic, and after sorting through a few various options, we decided to use wood trim to line the edges of the table. As it turns out wood trim options are not widely abundant at most places, and thus, I had to go with what was provided. I wanted something just slightly taller than the height of a bottle cap, and luckily found just what I needed for that. If you have capabilities to create your own trim to specifications, you are probably in the best shape on that front.
Photos skip the first few steps, but here's the table with the trim border finished. (Click any photo for larger size.)
Step three: Paint the table. Spray paint is fairly easy if you've got a place to do it, but also not the most economical, as it took us 3 cans to finish the table. Probably one can of paint with a paintbrush would have done the trick.
Step four: The bottle caps. This proved to be another situation where we had some various options and ultimately made our own judgment call. The key is to make the bottle caps into little tiles, and you don't want them to be empty because the air will cause problems when you do the pour-on finish. We decided against plaster, thinking it would be too heavy, but it could probably be viable if you can find a lightweight plaster fill. We finally decided on using hot glue to fill all of the bottle caps.
Caps filled with hot glue and, after drying, placed to determine spacing/design, etc.
We filled them to the brim and left them to dry. When we got them all filled (and dried), we placed them on the table to determine exactly how we wanted them to be arranged. Once we figured out the arrangement, we put just a little more hot glue on the bottom and stuck them down, trying to keep them in a tight pattern the whole time.
After all the filled caps dried, we put a small dot of glue on the bottom and set them on the table.
We got lucky that the inside of the table area was 15 bottle caps square. Thus, we had 225 caps on our table. Bottle caps that were not twist-off sometimes required a little encouragement as they were bent out of shape, and given the glue filling, they could be bent fairly easily on the bottom side to make them fit. We found that the bottom could be squared off just slightly enough to make them fit, but not enough to make them visibly disfigured from above.
Getting to this point was pretty nice, and everything went so well that we were apprehensive about putting the finish on for fear that something would get messed up. In theory, we could have left the table as is, with all the bottle caps secured. However, the surface was slightly irregular, and we also knew the hot glue would not hold forever, and probably within a year, they would begin to come loose, especially if they got wet, which is inevitable with a table.
Step five: The final stage for us, besides some touch up painting, was to pour the high gloss finish over the bottle caps and create a clear smooth surface. Having researched this a bit, I found that a product called Kleer Koat is often used to fulfill this purpose, and is usually what restaurants and such use when they make tables with various items inset in a table or bar. However, I found that this product is somewhat expensive, and not that easy to get. Neither of my neighborhood home improvement stores carried it, so I didn't pursue the issue much further. I also expect that Kleer Koat has fairly hazardous chemicals that need to be used with extreme caution.
Not an endorsement, this is just the gloss we used.
Instead, we chose the one product that was carried at our neighborhood store, a clear high gloss finish of sorts called Envirotex Lite. This material still requires a lot of safety precautions, but I didn't find them unreasonably hard to follow. Further, I'm not certain that it is designed exactly for the purposes we used it for on the table, and by that, I mean I'm not sure that it is meant to be as thick as we have it on our table. This sized box was enough for all 3 of our coats.
After a month or more of hemming and hawing, we finally went for pouring the stuff over our table. It was surprisingly easy, as long as you mix it very thoroughly and have the proper tools available. If you use this stuff, please follow their instructions completely (read the instructions multiple times), and use all the safety equipment they recommend, etc. etc. Don't just try to wing it with this stuff.
With our table, we made the first layer probably slightly thicker than they recommend, but we wanted to fill in all the space between the bottle caps first. Then we poured one more coat to try to level it out. Most can probably get away with just two coats, although we ended up doing a third coat to make the surface flush with the edges of the table. With each coat, we first put painters' tape around the edges to keep the gloss from getting on the sides, and then peeled it off and put new on for each coat. One could also pour so that the gloss went all the way out to the edges, but that seemed a little messy for our tastes.
The top of the table after the first coat.
The table top after 3 coats. Smooth as...high gloss finish.
And finally, the view from the top.
As you can see, I'm not an expert, but please let me know if you've got questions about how we made our table. I seriously doubt I can do much to help you troubleshoot any other problems that arise. Overall cost of materials (besides the beer) was probably between $75-100.