Friday, August 26, 2016

How to Work out What Resin to Use for Jewellery Making

Resin beginners are often confused by what resin to use. When you're faced with a number of different types of resin to choose from, it can be daunting to work out which one will suit your needs best. I've been working with resin for more than 10 years and at last count, I've worked with at least 20 different types/brands of resin. That's a lot of resin and a lot of casting and it's given me a good understanding of what each resin is capable of.

So, let's take a look at the pros and cons of each resin type so you know how to choose the right resin for your project. As a sidenote, there are so MANY different types of resin out there and they are all formulated differently. It's not possible to cover them all but this will give you a general guide to help you understand what each resin is best suited to.

Firstly, let's start with the most readily available types of resin:
  • 2-part resins - this group includes Epoxy, Polyurethane (aka urethane), Polyester and epoxy clays.
  • 1-part resin includes the very easy to use UV Resins

Versatile Epoxy resin

Epoxies are very easy to use and they are usually mixed in a 1:1 or a 2:1 ratio. The benefits of epoxies are the ease of measuring, mixing and colouring. They generally have a longer gel time so that you don't need to rush when adding colourants and embedments into the resin. Curing is often slower too and can take 12-24 hours, with full hardness achieved after 72 hours. These resins are usually very low in odour or no odour at all and are very easy to work with. The drawback is that finished epoxy pieces may yellow as they age. If you've added colourant to the resin, this won't be noticeable.

Epoxy resins are versatile: they're available as either casting resins (meaning that you can pour them into a mould to create objects such as bangles and coasters) or coating resins which are used to coat surfaces such as bar and table tops. Some are formulated so that they can be mixed in small batches for working on small scale jewellery items like pendant bezels. They can sometimes be used as a doming resin too.

Quick Curing Polyurethane Resin

Stack of square black and pastel coloured bangles amongst a group of scattered licorice allsorts.
When you need something to cure fast, this is the resin to reach for. They are sometimes measured by volume (1:1) and sometimes by weight. The polyurethanes we use in jewellery making are usually casting resins and they are best suited to being used in silicone moulds. Many gel in under 5 minutes and can be demoulded in as little as 10-20 minutes. On the downside, they are very moisture sensitive and will almost always bubble. The "clear" versions of polyurethanes are usually more amber than clear. You can also buy polyurethanes in some basic opaque colours such as white, black and flesh. Because of their quick gel time, they are not well suited to embedding but you can still add colours and glitters before mixing the two parts together. Learn how to make fun bangles like this Licorice Allsorts bangle stack in one of my beginner's resin classes.

Water Clear Polyester Resin

Most commonly used in the boat building industry as a laminating resin but it's also formulated as a casting resin, making it suitable for jewellery making. Where epoxy and polyurethane resins are measured in a 1:1 ratio, polyester resin uses an MEKP catalyst which is added by number of drops per millilitre/ounce of resin. Working out how much catalyst to add can be tricky - not only do you have to take into account the volume you are mixing, but also the thickness of the casting, the humidity and the air temperature. Too much catalyst and it could flash (ignite) or crack as the resin cures. It also has a very nasty odour so it needs to be worked with outside. But the attraction of polyester resin is its clarity - it is crystal clear, as you can see in this souvenir I picked up in Singapore.

Bottlecap magnets filled with 100s and 1000s

UV Resin - the User-Friendly Resin

These are the most user friendly resins of all because there is no mixing, no measuring: you just pour the resin and then place it under UV light and it cures in about 10 minutes. No odour, no wastage and no clean up. And it is fabulous for doming. You can cure the pieces under a UV nail lamp or in the sunlight. The drawback of this resin is that it is a coating resin so it's only suitable for surface coating or for working in thin layers. You'll find the project instructions to make these fun fridge magnets here.

Epoxy Clay - for Creating Dimensional Jewellery
As the name suggests, this resin is a clay so once mixed together, instead of pouring it into a mould, you push it into the mould or bezel. It's mixed together in equal quantities and can be coloured using dyes and powders. Because of it's strength, it is an excellent adhesive and is perfect for creating pavé jewellery where the crystals will be permanently embedded once cured. It can also be sculpted, sanded and painted, making it suitable for home decor items too. You'll find two gorgeous Pavé-style jewellery tutorials here and here.

Now that you know a little more about the types of resin, use the flow chart below to work out which resin(s) will be suitable for your project.

Which resin to use for making resin jewellery Flowchart.

Download the flow chart and print if off and then have some fun experimenting with resin!

And for even more information, watch the video below:

'Til next time.....

If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on this topic. This is really helpful and informative, as this gave me more insight to create more ideas and solutions for my plan. I would love to see more updates from you.

    Elcometer 224


Thanks for stopping by today. Your comment is really appreciated.