How to transform an old table with buttons

button table.jpgThis fabulously simple yet effective idea from Marianne Kirby proves that putting buttons on almost anything will dramatically improve its looks. At least, this certainly turned out to be true in the case of an old table she picked up for $5 at a yard sale. Marianne told us how she did it:

"One Saturday afternoon, at a yard sale, I had one of those moments. One of those moments when the heavens parted and a ray of sunshine fell on an item I just couldn't leave behind. Sometimes this happens to me at yard sales. This particular ray fell on a small side table, about knee-high, with angled legs and a slightly recessed top. After some smart bargaining, the table went home with me for the low, low price of $5.

My next step was to start combing ebay for buttons. Buttons can be purchased in bulk lots for between five and twenty dollars, plus shipping. I ordered two bulk batches for a total of 1600+ buttons in a green and white mix. Always order more than you think you'll need for a project like this. The table I was working with had about 2 sq feet of surface area and I had around 100 buttons when I finished.

When you've picked a color scheme for your buttons, and you are waiting on them to arrive, take the time to sand and paint your table. I used a white semi-gloss spray paint and applied three thin coats. Thin coats are always better!

Once the paint is dry and your buttons are in hand, it's time to start applying the buttons. I used a basic tacky craft glue to affix my buttons. Spread a thin layer of glue on your surface and start applying your buttons. Nestle them up close to each other, but don't go too crazy. It's easy to get a bit obsessive with this sort of project but the random spacing is part of the charm of the finished object. Make sure your buttons, if you are using a table with a recessed top, do not rise above the top of the lip that goes around the edge of the table. Snip the shanks off of any buttons that do not have flat backs.

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It makes life a lot easier if you start at the corners and work your way in to the middle. Cover small areas at a time and take breaks if you start to feel a little crazy.

When you have covered the surface of your table with buttons, allow the glue to dry at least overnight. The glue must be totally dry before you move on to pouring your resin.

Resin can be a little tricky to track down locally. Try your major craft stores and home improvement stores. You are looking for casting resin, not fiberglass resin. I use a brand called Envirotex because it is super easy to mix and use.

You're going to need resin, catalyst (sold as part of the Envirotex kit), two containers, and a mixing stick. Add you resin and catalyst in equal parts (or according to the directions that came with your kit) to one of the containers and mix vigorously, as if you were mixing cake batter. Because it is essential for the resin and catalyst to thoroughly mix, pour the mixture of resin and catalyst from one container into the other. Use your mixing stick to continue vigorous stirring. After about a minute, you should be ready to pour.

Ideally, you will pour your resin in thin layers (just like with spray paint, thin layers are better with resin, too). Don't pour layers that are more than 1/8 of an inch thick - you'll wind up with improperly cured resin and a lot more air bubbles.

Make sure, as you pour the first layer, that you use your mixing stick to spread the resin out like cake frosting - just don't lick the spoon. Air bubbles will begin to rise to the surface. As they reach the surface, blow on them. The carbon dioxide in your breath will help release the bubbles. Just be careful not to inhale the fumes.

Allow your resin to set for a few hours. The setting time depends on temperature and humidity. Hot, dry climates will need less time than cool, damp ones. It isn't fair, but it is true. When your first layer has set, pour a second layer. Continue this process of pouring layers and allowing them to set until your resin is at the level you desire.

Once you have all of your resin poured, allow the table top to cure for 72 hours. When you're done waiting - which is the most difficult part of this project - you will have a beautiful and level table top encasing a colorful array of buttons. A one of a kind side table is all yours! Now put it to good use.

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How to transform an old table with buttons - Comments

  • jen

    this is FABULOUS! i'm sending it to a few button crazy friends and might post on my BLOG, if that's okay with you! awesome work.



  • Helenah

    I would like to resin a mail box that is on a stand. Will the resin be dripping all over the place when I try to do the stand? It's like a rectangular box on top of a post.

  • PJ

    I've wanted to make a table top like one that I saw in one of my all time favorite resturant/bar. It was over an inch thick of what looked like solid champaign with wine corks suspended in every which way angles and a few bubbles. This table top was clear resin with no frame or wood bottom. I have no idea how they did that. Do you have any ideas of how I would do that? I could live with a wooden bottom, but would prefer no sides. Any advice or how to info. I could check out?

  • Mary


    I know I'm just now coming across this so there's a chance you're not following the comments anymore, but I was wondering just how high or low your table was recessed? I absolutely love this but I can't seem to find a good table for it. I found one awesome one but I'm not sure its recessed enough. Thanks much!

  • Hi, Bill, thanks for your question - you'll need to do a couple of pours to build the resin up to the two inch depth, but the final pour is something you should be able to bring up over those sides. You'll have to baby sit it for about twenty minutes to half an hour. Resin really is more like cake batter than, say, honey. It has a very limited amount of flow. This is idea for situations like yours - it means, on your last pour, you can spread it right to the edge without TOO much worry. I would definitely spread some newspapers underneath and I would have a sponge handy to catch any drips (it doesn't flow much but it DOES flow, if that makes sense). Hang out and keep an eye on things, making sure to catch any drips as they form. Resin CAN be sanded down but it is a pain in the butt. I hope this helps and it sounds like your table is going to turn out wonderfully!


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