DIY Penny and Epoxy Kitchen Countertop

4 years ago
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Last September, we finished our butcher block countertops, but we didn't do our bar area. I mentioned in that post that I was open to suggestions and got the great idea to cover it in pennies and epoxy. Well, EIGHT months later, it is finally finished! p>

Penny countertop before and after

I started in December when I got the supplies for Christmas. Then it was one of my No Spend February goals. Then it was one of my projects for the contest over at Every Creative Endeavor. Then we finally finished it in April, and I put off blogging about it because I didn't want to write the post. And that brings us to now.

This is one of those projects that if I were to do it again, it would be super easy. I now know exactly what not to do, which means I'll fly through all the other penny countertops I have planned. Oh, wait ... no, this was the only one. Sigh.

However, if any of y'all want to make a penny countertop, then you are going to LOVE me for saving you a headache. LOVE ME. So here we go ...

First we de-laminated the countertop to make it easy to get to the nails to remove it ... except that there was NO WAY that sucker was coming off. Turns out that installing this counter was one of the few things the builders of our house took the time to do right. New plan: Keep counter installed, add penny countertop on top.

Step two was painting the countertop black, since you were going to be able to see bits of it between the pennies.

Next we had to figure out how we wanted our pennies to look. We bought a bunch from the bank, but I didn't like that some of them were really nasty looking. I wanted some color variation, but I also wanted all of them to be at least semi-shiny. I did some research online and saw that people recommended Tarn-X for easy penny shining, so I picked some up at ... Home Depot? HEB? I don't really remember ... it was a while ago now.

Anyway, Tarn-X didn't work, it just turned my pennies a dull, pinkish color:

So I went about finding a new way to shine pennies:

So what's the best way? Soak the pennies in vinegar and salt (just a few good shakes of salt, not a ton), let sit for about a minute, then shine with a baking soda/water paste.

Then I set out to shine all 30+ dollars' worth of pennies one by one.

Ha ha, just kidding. No way was I going to shine pennies one by one! What I actually did was go "buy" $50 worth of pennies from the bank (they come in HEAVY $25 boxes), pick out the clean(ish) ones, and deposit the dirty ones back into our account. So what do you do when you have a ton of pennies to sort? Offer free food, of course!

Then the gluing began.


(As a special treat, here I am and I'm NOT in my painting clothes ... a real rarity around here.)

I know there is a bottle of wood glue next to me, but don't be fooled: It doesn't work. We used Gorilla Glue.

Here is where it gets messy. I wanted the pennies to wrap around the countertop and look all modern and awesome. To do this, we had to cut A LOT of pennies. It's not easy to cut pennies, by the way. I couldn't do it; Adam and his brother Taylor did all the grunt work there. They used "end snips" to do this; you can see them sitting next to the bowl in the picture below.

Now, for whatever reason, the pennies kept not lining up. We would do a whole section on the side, then start on the top … and the pennies wouldn't fit. You can't try and force them, either, because the pressure just causes pennies elsewhere on the countertop to pop off like popcorn. Super annoying.

We came to the conclusion that we couldn't have the pennies wrap around the edge. It was a very sad moment. Not quite as sad, though, as the moment I realized that I had to pry all my carefully glued pennies off, one by one.

So after about a week of working on it, we were back to an empty black countertop. We brainstormed about what kind of edge to use and decided on copper flashing (to keep it copper/modern on the sides.) Then I went online to buy some, and saw that it costs about $1,000 a foot. Okay, so it's not quite that much, but you get the gist ... it was too rich for our blood. So we fell back on ol' reliable: cheap rustic cedar.

After adding the edge (with about a 1/8" lip), we filled it with pennies. We didn't use glue or anything; it was super easy. WHY OH WHY did we not just do this in the beginning?

Then it was time to epoxy. I only have pictures of the prep work, because the rest of it was really time-sensitive and messy.

The epoxy was actually fairly easy. We just mixed according to instructions, poured, and spread with a putty knife. The epoxy was self-leveling, so we didn't have to be too exact. We did get a ton of bubbles, so we went over it with the blow dryer to bring them to the surface. Whichever ones we didn't get with the blow dryer, I popped with a toothpick. We let it sit overnight, and in the morning it looked glossy and perfect!

The end, right?

Not quite. We noticed that the epoxy wasn't quite deep enough, and some of the pennies were still exposed a bit. That's no bueno.

Since the epoxy was so easy, we decided it was worth another coat. Baaaaaad idea—the second coat was a disaster. It didn't self-level, so it was super wavy and looked terrible. Lesson learned: When doing epoxy, make sure you do a THICK coat. Thin ones don't turn out well.

The box said you could get a satin finish by sanding and waxing, so we decided to go for that and see if we could even things up. Here it is sanded. You can see where it was still uneven after sanding.

Waxing didn't help; you could still see shiny parts and dull parts. At this point I was over working on the countertop, so I decided to just give it a coat of polycrylic and call it a day (month). It worked perfectly ... well, perfectly enough for me!

We seem to have a lot of unique brown surfaces going on around here ...

From the other side. I just can't lead you on and let you think it's all beautiful and perfect ... not yet, at least!

Whew, I'm glad this post is written and I can stop thinking about it! I do love the countertop, though. It's one of a kind. I like that the color is similar to our counters in a totally not similar sort of way. Also, it's indestructible. Really, it can take a beating ... you can leave water on it (it's where my dishes dry) AND it's easy to clean. Perfect :)

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