Whew! This is it! There are several different ways we could finish off the river. It doesn't look bad now, but after all of the work we've done so far, why skimp on one of the most important features of these boards. You could just paint the river with a high gloss varnish. If I go that route, I like an acrylic based varnish that is made by Minwax. This varnish cleans up with water so you don't have to mess around with turpentine or mineral spirits to clean your brushes! The more coats you paint on, the better the effect.
However, an even better effect and my first choice can be obtained by using a pour-on resin. I use Envirotex Lite, but there are other brands of this type of material. This is like building up fifty coats of varnish in one shot (it says so on the box). It dries crystal clear (but we can muck that up - details later) and the finish is as solid as a tabletop. It is very important to follow the mixing directions on the box to avoid a finish that cures poorly or remains tacky!
Since we are going to be pouring stuff into our riverbed, we have to cap the ends to keep the stuff from rolling out onto the floor! Back out comes the hot glue gun! I carefully place a continuous bead of hot glue on the edge of the board around the riverbed and stick a piece of plasticard to it, being careful to ensure a tight fit. The glue will act as a seal and prevent the "varnish" from leaking through. Just be safe, I also folded a strip of tinfoil around and the under the section as well and secured it with tape. You do not want this stuff to get out! After the Envirotex is dry, you can easily peel the plasticard away and remove any remaining glue if necessary.
You want to pour the Envirotex on a level surface. Check both ends of the board and use magazines or something similar to make the boards as level as possible or you will wind up with one end deeper than the other (which won't really be a problem unless the difference is dramatic - just get it as close as possible).
Ok, after carefully following the directions for mixing the two-part resin, we are ready to pour it on. Start by pouring it down the middle of the river. This stuff is like thick maple syrup and will slowly flow to level itself across the riverbed. Be careful not to pour the stuff over your reeds!
At this point, you can't hurt this stuff by mucking with it so you can use an old brush to spread it across any small gaps that might remain. Sometimes a tiny ridge occurs along the shoreline and I try to break that up by pulling it very slightly up the bank with a brush. You can see the amazing reflections you will get with Envirotex below! If you are satisfied with the results you can stop here!
Obviously, I am never satisfied. My river was still a little too bright to suit me so I set out to pour another coat after letting the first one cure for 48 hours. This time, I added a drop of blue ink to the mix. You could also use brown or green depending on the effect you are trying to achieve, you initial river color, etc. One drop is all it needs because it goes a long way! I just poured another layer on top of the first and the effect was to create a much deeper appearance. If you want to ad color to your Envirotex, I recommend always pouring a clear layer first. I don't know the physics as to why it looks better - something about the way light refracts, but I have found that a clear coat followed by a tinted coat looks better than just one or the other.
The only thing I regret is that I didn't get to texture the river surface. You need to wait six to eight hours after pouring the resin into the banks and then drag a spatula or brush handle back and forth through your river about a zillion times! It will look as though you are positively ruining your lovely work, but the resin will settle back and round your defacing to create great ripples and eddies. If you do it too soon, you will see all of them disappear! I was unexpectedly called out and gone during the period when then should have been done.
I hope these articles have been helpful and if anyone has any questions feel free to drop me a note.