Update: April 26, 2012. The store is open again and the penny countertop is back - only far, far better.
Update: January 6, 2012. We built the penny countertop for my friend's store, Shop Adorn. On January 2, 2012, an electrical fire burned everything inside. Read about it here.
My friend, Nicole, is expanding her Portland boutique and decided to go with an eco-industrial decor for the new location. We've both been scouring Pinterest for ideas and she fell in love with the penny countertops and flooring.
I found an amazing step by step guide which provides a complete run down on materials, timing and instructions. We did make some small changes such as using only one coat of resin but our surface didn't need to be kitchen counter-grade.
It's hard to know exactly how many pennies you're going to need unless you're able to do math (ahem, cough cough). We eyeballed it and fell short by around $30 worth which necessitated several trips to the bank.
Then we needed to prep the pennies which were washed and half were then rinsed in Tarn-X and then laid out to dry.
Note: after spreading them out to dry from the Tarn-X, make sure the pennies aren't stacked on top of each or they will turn green. In our case, Nicole loved the aged patina of the green so it was a happy coincidence.
Laying them out on the countertop was surprisingly quick (took us less than 4 hours). We didn't have a design in mind - just a varied mix of dark and burnished. And we threw in a few Canadian pennies here and there for fun. I think there's close to $60-70 worth of pennies here.
Right before we poured the resin.
We bought a lot of extra plastic containers for mixing and Ethan labeled them to eliminate mistakes. Those resin gallon containers on the left were $150 for the pair which was enough for exactly one layer.
We were too busy spreading and smoothing out the resin to take any photos in action! The focus was on covering the pennies and nooks and crannies. We used clean cardboard to spread the resin - oddly similar to spreading icing on a cake. Luckily, the resin took care of the leveling so that wasn't a concern.
The next stage recommended a blow torch to get out the thousands of tiny bubbles. It was a little nerve wracking before Ethan lit the torch but nothing went up in flames (pun not intended!).
And then a few hours of "pop the bubble" with some finishing nails. While the blowtorch took care of the tiny bubbles, it wasn't as useful for bubbles that gradually appeared as each penny slowly settled, releasing a pocket of air. This took place over a period of several hours so it was just a game of patience. And oddly relaxing. But it could have just been the fumes at this point.
In the end, it was exactly what Nicole wanted: a completely custom, unique, beautiful cash wrap. It looks like it's illuminated from below.
And now, I know how to make a penny countertop from start to finish! For those of you who are interested, this didn't really take all that long.
Prepping the countertop: 2-3 hours. Ethan installed some crown molding around the edges that also served as a lip to contain the resin. The counter was already black so we didn't have to paint it.
Prepping the pennies: 30 minutes to wash and a few hours to dry (do this overnight so they're dry in the morning).
Arranging the pennies: 4 hours for the 2 of us laughing and taking breaks to eat.
Resin mixing, pouring and spreading: 30-45 minutes.
Resin smoothing: About 20-30 minutes with the blowtorch and then about a few hours just periodically popping new bubbles.
And then you wait 24-36 hours for the resin to cure and you're done! Unless you want another layer. From start to finish, I think the three of us spent 2 days working on it with all the everyday normal interruptions.
Things that we learned too late:
1. Make sure to buy enough pennies in advance. Banks only stock around $40 worth of pennies and they are loathe to give them all to one person.
2. Seal off any areas where the resin might leak through. Because it will leak. Eep. If in doubt over a joint, use clear caulk. Definitely, definitely use caulk.
3. Don't let Ethan choose the radio station. ;)
4. A sense of humor and patience is a must. Actually, we knew this in advance. Just reiterating!
And here's the finished countertop in its new space - Shop Adorn.