Tables with character: "River tables" made in Canada

Furniture made from wood and epoxy resin

Canada, land of endless forests, national parks and home to the family business Rustic Designs by Rich. This is where local wood and epoxy resin come together to form unique items of furniture.
The maple leaf has adorned the Canadian flag since 1965. It's a symbol of Canada's extensive forests and national parks. At Rustic Designs by Rich, the maple leaf also holds a special place in daily work. Rich, who founded the small family business that bears his name, his wife Andrea and his son Griff specialise in a very special way of machining wood: They combine local maple wood with epoxy resin. We visited the company's workshop in Hamilton, Ontario, to discover how these two materials come together to create unique items of furniture.

Getting to the root of the matter – the wood

Our day at Rustic Designs doesn't start at the workshop but rather at a nearby timber merchant. Griff shows us where the materials come from that the company works with every day. We enter a gigantic warehouse in which stacks of squared timber and planks are piled high. "We only use local wood. That wood comes from maple, black walnut or poplar trees. Walnut is the most popular choice with our customers thanks to its rich, dark colour. But for most orders, we try to recycle materials like old doors. Others might see these materials as rubbish – but for us, the wood can be sustainably reused despite its age. All you need is the right tools," explains Griff. We make our way through the warehouse, passing between the piles and enjoying the scent of wood. It's almost like breathing in the very scent of Canada's forests.  

"It takes more than a day's work to make these tables. From the first cut to completion, the whole process takes around four to seven days." 

Rich - founder of Rustic Designs by Rich

From a garage to their very own workshop

Andrea and Rich are waiting for us at the Rustic Designs workshop. They have been managing the company since 2014 – initially working from their garage. But soon enough, demand was so high that they simply had to establish their own workshop. Finally their son Griff joined the family business and brought with him the idea to incorporate epoxy resin with the wood. Rich leads us to a large tabletop secured in place with a Festool lever clamp: "It takes more than a day's work to make these tables, so we've prepared a tabletop for you into which we can pour the epoxy resin. From the first cut to completion, the whole process takes around four to seven days."

The first steps

"Our customers love the combination of epoxy resin with rustic wooden elements. The resin gives each piece of furniture its unique character," says Griff. "First, we cut the wooden board to size with the TS 75 plunge-cut saw. The cutting depth of 75 millimetres is perfect for these thick boards of solid wood. Then we use the cordless drill to assemble a frame around the table which will keep the liquid resin in the mould. All that has already happened on this table in front of us, so we can get started right away," explains Rich about the first work steps.

Keeping a cool head

Before we start, we get to choose the colour for the epoxy resin. Not an easy task – Rustic Designs offers as many as a hundred different pigments. We decide on a lush green, which we then stir into the resin with the Festool MX 1200 stirrer. Now it's time for the exciting part: The resin is about to be poured into the table mould. All around us fans start to whir and the temperature in the room noticeably drops. Griff explains why this is necessary: "The fans are important to keep the temperature consistently cool. If the resin gets too hot, it can lead to huge problems like deformations and bubbles. This is the most exciting part for us as well, because everything has to happen very quickly."

Like a river through wood

Finally Rich pours the resin into the cut-outs in the wood. It slowly meanders into every gap. "The resin looks like water making its way through a riverbed. That's why we call our tables "river tables". These days we are pretty good at estimating how much resin we'll need just based on the size of the cut-out," says Griff, keeping an expert eye on the process. Once the resin has hardened, it's time for the ETS 150/5 EQ-Plus eccentric sander to come into play. Griff uses the Festool GRANAT abrasive with a grit of 400 to smooth out the last few uneven spots and give the table a perfect surface finish.

Maple treats on maple wood

As our visit comes to a close, Griff and Rich lead us out of the workshop. Outside, their most spectacular project yet is waiting: A bench with legs made from epoxy resin. "This is definitely one of our favourite pieces. We had to be particularly careful to ensure an even flow of resin so that there were no deformations. That's the only way to guarantee the bench will stand securely," explains Griff. We take a seat – a little cautiously at first. But it soon becomes clear that there was no need to worry as the bench easily supports our weight. Shortly after, Andrea comes out carrying a charcuterie board laden with food. "These boards are another big hit with customers!" she declares proudly. "We Canadians like good, hearty food and lots of it – so the boards are a little bit bigger as well. Help yourselves!" We gratefully accept and while away the end of the day enjoying Canadian delicacies – true to form, served on a charcuterie board adorned with a maple leaf.

You can find out more about Rustic Designs by Rich and the products on the company's Instagram profile or website