As the son of a woodworker, Dylan Thomas grew up in and around his dad’s woodshop, The Black Forest Wood Company. He began learning the craft and eventually started working at the company, but never expected his epoxy-on-wood experiment to become a viral trend.

By the time Thomas was 14 years old, he was teaching a build-your-own skateboard class. This is when Thomas learned how to use epoxy.

“I was very into longboarding, and I had figured out with my dad, who owns this business, how to make them” Thomas explained. “So we taught a course on that, and in that course, we would laminate fibreglass on the bottom of the boards, and you have to use epoxy.”

Thomas worked part-time until he graduated high school. He then decided to become a full-time employee at his dad’s shop, The Black Forest Wood Company.

Brad Thomas, Thomas’ father and the founder and owner of the company, did not expect to be working with his son. But, he is glad Thomas took an interest because “he is gifted in several areas, I think he’s found a niche and a home for himself here.”

Thomas is passionate about woodworking and also saw how effective social media could be when promoting a business – so, he created an Instagram page on behalf of the company.

During the Christmas holidays, Thomas made a video of himself working.

“We were giving our staff a lot of time off, and I run the Instagram, so even though there was nothing in the shop, I still had to post something,” Thomas said.

He decided to experiment with some scraps in the shop.

“I found some pieces of wood we had lying around and built them in a frame, put them in a mold and we also had this brand new epoxy product, which was not meant to be combined with wood at all,” Thomas said.

“[The epoxy] was actually meant for just pouring solid-plastic pieces. But I thought, ‘Why not? Why don’t I try and pour it in with some wood?’”Employees of Black Forest Wood Company mix colour with epoxy for a new creation. Photo by Chevine Holloway
The video showed Thomas pouring epoxy between two pieces of wood until the space was full. From a bird’s eye view, the epoxy streak looks like a river, so he called it a river table.

To Thomas’ surprise, the video went viral overnight, with 140 million views.

Business was booming after that and river tables were on high demand, but there were still challenges ahead.

His first project after the winter season cost him $10,000 because the warm weather caused the epoxy to boil and suck the moisture out of the wood.

Because of this, Thomas had to learn how to work with epoxies in different settings. He soon discovered that temperatures affected the result and process of the epoxy drying on to the wood.

To solve this, Thomas teamed up with some scientists to create an all-natural epoxy.

“We hired some chemists in the UK where they have very strict safety regulations, and we now have the only resin on the market that has a non-toxic certification, so we’re proud of that,” said Thomas.

Today, river tables are The Black Forest Wood Company’s best sellers. Thomas has even made and installed a table for Zedd, a well-known record producer who resides in Los Angeles.

“We got to design this piece for him, build it, and then he actually let us fly down to L.A. and go deliver it to him at his house,” said Thomas. “It was really neat, especially because I got to see it right from the beginning to the actual final product in his house.”

Garon Riffel may not be a music producer, but he’s been a loyal and happy customer of The Black Forest Wood Company for two years.

Riffel owns a woodshop as well and, two years ago when a customer asked him to make an epoxy table, Riffel reached out to Dylan and Brad Thomas for help.

The Thomas’ were more than willing. “They actually brought myself and my entire crew in and at that point they gave us a two-and-a-half hour teaching,” Riffel said.

From the first stage of preparing the wood, to mixing and pouring the epoxy, right to the final polish, the Thomas’ taught Riffel and his crew everything they needed to know about making river tables.

Most companies wouldn’t help their competitor to this extent, if at all, but Brad believes in the sharing of knowledge.

“We just feel that when you share knowledge with people you expand in business for the greater good of all, as opposed to keeping it to ourselves.”

The value of sharing is something that the Thomas practices as well. He teaches multiple classes on woodworking at The Black Forest Wood Company, including one with epoxy on wood.

“The people who I’ve seen learn the skill and go and do it, they get a lot of fulfillment from it, and a lot of them even do end up selling it to their family members and stuff, too. So it’s really cool to see that and people find their new passion.”

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Editor: Isabelle Bennett | ibennett@cjournal.ca