Wondering where I have been and what I have been up to?  Well, a LOT of my free time has been poured into this project.  (And I do mean a LOT.)  I know I usually keep this blog on point with tech talk, but I figure a glimpse here and there into my non-work life isn't such a bad thing.  With that in mind, here's my latest non-work project -- my coffee table.

I have been looking for the perfect coffee table for some time now.  I couldn't find anything that I thought was just perfect.  I found this awesome coffee table on eBay.  The guy that had it had dirt in it and was thinking about making it into a planter of some kind.  That sounded good to me.  But, once I actually got it, I realized I could do more.  Why settle for a planter when I could make something really, really cool? 

Before Pictures:

before1  before2 before3

I started out by taking out all the dirt, fake plants, etc.  I started thinking "terrarium."  My original idea was to just create a terrarium with some plants and a little waterfall or something.  But, then, I started doing some research and I found this site about keeping Poison Dart Frogs.  These guys have some serious terrariums.  (Of course, since they have animals living in them, they call them vivariums.)  That got me to thinking that I could do something unbelievable with this coffee table. 

The Process:

First step for me was to make sure the inside was waterproof.  That meant a lot of silicone and elbow grease.  (Not to mention fumes.)  I coated the entire inside in black silicone.  (You should see the caulking gun I used during that process.  Looks like something straight out of The Toxic Avenger.) 

Once I was fairly sure it was waterproof (oh, I hope it is, oh I hope it is), it was time to create my water feature.  I was thinking a river running through it with a waterfall would be cool.  In order to make the river, rock walls, etc., I used Great Stuff expandable foam.  A lot of it.  I got the whole river done, the walls, etc., then realized that I had made it WAY too high.  A little work with a knife and a razor blade and I had myself a decent, foam colored riverbed.  A little more silicone and I had a nice, black, waterproof riverbed. 

Since I was creating the river and waterfall, I would need some kind of false bottom to hold the water reserve.  I found this stuff called hydroton that they use in hydroponics.  It's a lightweight, expanded clay aggregate.  Basically, it is similar to gravel, but weighs like 1/10th of what gravel weighs.  In order to keep the substrate (basically, the dirt-type stuff that the plants will grow in) from falling down into the false bottom and making a mess, I used fiberglass screen over the top of the hydroton.  Then, to keep the jungle feel, I used eco-earth on top.  It's basically shredded coconut husks.  It works like dirt, but looks like jungle floor.  It's what is also on the walls -- black silicone covered with eco-earth to make jungle-looking walls.  Let me tell you -- I inhaled enough silicone fumes to choke... well... me.  :)

A bunch of plants, some moss, a hidden pump, and wah-lah.  My very own jungle-in-a-coffee-table.  And, since I don't want to write a million words, how about some pictures?  I used Microsoft Photosynth to create this. 

My Coffee Table! (in case the embedded viewer above doesn't work)

Now that this project is complete (and I've gotten over the fumes), you can expect to see me back to my old blogging self.  :)