Saturday, May 2, 2020

Top 10 Tips for Success with Resin

Image shows hand with thumbs up on a pale pink background with text that says Tips for Success with Resin

Creating with resin is hugely rewarding but it does come with its challenges. It's a more technical medium to work with than most and it's a bit particular about you doing things right so that you get great results every time.

Here are my top 10 resin tips to get you started on your resin journey.

1. Get your Workspace Ready

Clear your workspace and then protect it. Lay down a sheet of plastic or a few sheets of newspaper to keep your table free of sticky resin. I also recommend that you work on a non-stick material like a Teflon craft sheet, silicone mat or a sheet of waxed paper (resin won't stick to it). It's so easy to peel cured resin off these surfaces or to wipe off uncured resin with methylated spirits (denatured alcohol).

2. Prepare your moulds beforehand

Once you've mixed your resin, the clock is ticking. And that goes for slow curing epoxy as well as quick curing polyurethane. You really want to pour that resin straight away. If you don't have your moulds prepared and you have to run off to get them, or clean them up, or spray them with mould release, you're wasting valuable working time.

If you've chosen silicone moulds to pour your resin into, then make sure they're clean and free of dust. This article on "how to clean silicone moulds" is the easiest and most effective method I know of!

But if you're pouring into plastic moulds instead, it's essential that you spray them with mould release so it's easy to demould the resin castings once they're cured.
Spraying a plastic resin mould with mould release

3. Measure the resin accurately

It's really important to measure out the resin and hardener accurately, in the ratio recommended by the manufacturer. If you're off-ratio with your measurements, you will have curing problems. If it says to measure by volume, then use cups with graduated measurements.
Pouring resin into a small plastic cup with graduated measurements

If the instructions say to measure by weight, use a pocket digital scale with .01gram accuracy.
Digital scale on a pale pink background

4. Follow the mixing instructions

Some resins are a bit vague with their mixing directions and just tell you to mix the two parts together until they're combined. But some give very specific mixing instructions and you should follow them to the letter. Each manufacturer uses a different formulation so follow the instructions they provide because that will give the best results with their resin. Partially mixed resin leaves sticky spots on your castings so make sure you mix it thoroughly.

Top 10 Resin Tips Cheat Sheet mockup

5. Avoid Bubbles by mixing resin slowly

Mix the resin slowly. If you're working with a slow curing epoxy, it's OK to take your time. Keep in mind that you're not making a cake so you don't need to whip or beat the resin to combine the two parts. That will just give you mixed resin with a lot of bubbles that you'll have to deal with. But if you mix really slowly, you'll minimise the bubbles that are incorporated. Follow these tips for bubble-free resin.

6. Room Temperature

When it comes to room temperature, resin is a bit like Goldilocks and The 3 Bears:
Too hot and it will reach gel stage really fast.
Too cold and it will take a LOT longer to cure than stated in the instructions.
But when the temperature is JUST RIGHT, it will behave the way you expect it to.
Thermometer with both Centigrade and Fahrenheit markings

Work in a room where the temperature is around 20°C-24°C or 70°F-75°F. Your resin kit should have more details so take note of the ideal room temperature and try to keep within that temperature range.

7. Personal Safety

Glove up! Resin is super sticky and you need to keep it off your skin.
Putting on a pair of black nitrile gloves

And while you're at it, wear goggles and wear long sleeves to protect your arms from sticky resin. You might feel like it's overkill, but you can't take your own personal safety seriously enough. You want working with resin to be a fun experience so be sure to take PPE seriously.

8. Ventilation

Most epoxies and polyurethanes are very low odour whereas UV resin often has a strong odour. Whether your resin has an odour or not, what you can't see or smell is the vapours. Craft resins are formulated with the home user in mind so as long as you follow the manufacturer's instructions for working with the resin, they should be safe to use. That means, working in a well-ventilated space. Try working near an open window and use a portable fan to blow fresh air past you to the outside.
Retro desktop fan on a pink background

9. Use a Dust Cover

Once you've poured your resin pieces, place a cover over the top of them to keep dust, pet hair and flying insects out of the resin. "Flying insects?", I hear you say! Yes, it's true... I have had insects deposit themselves in my freshly poured resin but haven't noticed them until the resin gelled. They're hard to remove at that stage so make sure you cover your work!
Flying insect stuck in the resin

10. Be Patient

Waiting is the hardest part of resin crafting. You just can't hurry curing up and no amount of prodding or poking to test how the pieces are going will make them cure any faster. So it's time to walk away. They'll be cured enough to demould in 24 hours.
Retro green alarm clock on pastel pink background

Bonus Tip!

If you really can't resist checking how the resin is going, leave a small amount in the mixing cup. You can prod and poke this as much as you like. When it has cured, you'll know you can safely demould your castings without damaging them.

Pin These Tips!
Resin Tips that Beginners Need to Know inspiration sheet

'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

Friday, April 17, 2020

How to Make UV Resin Look Like Dichroic Glass or Brilliant Opal

Attach a playful penguin to your key fob and turn it into a FUNKEE keychain. This anodized penguin has a belly filled with iridescent flashes of brilliant colour giving it the look of dichroic glass or a dazzling opal. But you don't need glassmaking or lapidary skills for this project...

You can easily create this dichroic glass look with UV resin and iridescent mylar flakes

And it will only take you around an hour! 
Silver penguin keychain/bottle opener filled with resin and iridescent mylar
I've used an ultra-fast curing UV resin in this project. But you can use regular UV resin and still get the same results. The benefit of using this faster curing resin are that it has a lot less odour than regular UV resins, it cures FASTER and it only needs a low-wattage lamp (like a UV torch or mini UV lamp) to cure it. 

Project Shopping List:

  • Penguin (or other animal) anodized bottle opener/keychain (this one is similar). Tip: If you wish to use the key chain as a bottle opener, choose one where the bottle lever is separate to the body opening.
  • Fantasy Film in your choice of three colours. Prepare it by cutting off a strip and applying heat to it with a craft heat tool. This wrinkles the film and adds extra iridescence. Then, cut it up into small, irregular shaped pieces. Alternatively, choose iridescent mylar flakes for nails. These will still give you an iridescent look but the pieces will be finer.
  • New Upgrade UV Resin (clear hard type) - recommended
  • Black UV Resin Dye
  • CLEAR Packing Tape 
  • 12 LED UV Torch or 9W UV nail lamp or 6W mini UV lamp
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Teflon craft sheet - I cut mine into small squares to make it easy to work with
  • Toothpick

A Note About UV Lamps for Curing UV Resin

There are a lot of different wattage lamps available and it can be confusing to know which UV lamp to choose to cure your UV resin.

If you choose the same resin I used, then you can use any of the nail lamps I've suggested and get extremely quick results. This is a much faster curing resin than other UV resins. All these suggestions are very low wattage lamps but they will all cure this resin in 1 or 2 minutes (when working in layers).

If you choose a different type of UV resin, you may need a 36W lamp and allow your chosen resin to cure longer.

I used a 9W UV lamp in this project because it's mains-powered and it doesn't have a timer. The benefit of not having a timer is that you can put the resin under the lamp and walk away and you won't have to keep switching the lamp on when the timer runs out. It might seem like a small thing, but you'll soon see why it's better to not have a timer when you've had one with a timer!

The 6W mini UV lamp comes with a USB cable and it needs to be connected to a power bank or device in order to work. It has a timer which you will need to switch on each time you put the resin under it to cure.

The 12 LED UV torch runs on 3AAA batteries. Because this resin cures so quickly, holding the torch above the curing resin for a minute or two at a time is not too arduous, but if you're using one of the other UV resins, it can become very tiresome holding it for 5-10 minutes whilst the resin cures. Plus, you'll need to replace the batteries frequently if you're using the torch for 5-10 minutes at a time. But this won't be so much of an issue using the recommended UV Resin.
Five anodized penguin keychains filled with resin, iridescent mylar, gold leaf and glitter.

Preparing the Bottle Opener

Remove the keyring (and chain if there is one) from the bottle opener.
Silver penguin bottle opener and keychain ring

Place a piece of packing tape over the back of the opening. It's essential to use clear tape and not coloured tape for this step or the back of the piece will not cure. The tape will act as a temporary backing to hold the resin inside the penguin's belly. Burnish it well, especially around the inside edge so the resin will not be able to leak out.
Burnishing the tape on the back of the keychain with a wooden stick

Creating the Faux Dichroic Glass Look

Pour out a small puddle of resin onto the Teflon square and add one drop off black dye to it. UV resin needs to be slightly translucent to cure so don't overdo the black dye or the resin won't cure properly.
Adding black dye to the UV resin

Mix the colour through the resin completely. You can use a toothpick, a wooden stir stick or a plastic spatula... whatever works best for you.
Using a toothpick to mix the resin and dye together

Pour the resin straight from the Teflon square into the base of the penguin.
Pouring the black resin from the Teflon square into the belly of the penguin

Cure the resin using the handheld torch...
Curing the resin in the penguin's belly with a UV torch

or the nail lamp... or the mini UV lamp, whichever one you choose.
The penguin keychain being cured in a UV nail lamp

Squeeze a small amount of uncoloured resin in the centre of the penguin. You only need a very thin layer... something for the mylar pieces to stick to.
Pouring a clear layer of resin over the cured black resin inside the penguin

Dip the toothpick in the resin and use it to pick up a piece of mylar. Place it into the resin. Continue adding pieces of mylar to the resin, overlapping the edges to create different colours. Because this is a shallow bezel, use only one layer of mylar pieces.
Adding a piece of iridescent mylar to the clear resin using a toothpick

Cure the resin under the lamp.
The iridescent mylar in the resin being cured under a nail lamp

The surface will still be lumpy with small bits poking through.
Looking at the penguin from side on, you can see the bumpy surface with the mylar flakes protruding through the resin

Add another layer of clear resin over the mylar and cure it. If needed, add a fourth layer of resin to make the surface smooth and dome it slightly. Cure the resin.
Adding another clear layer of resin to cover the mylar completely

Turn the piece over and cure the black resin. This extra step to cure the back of the piece will make sure the black resin is cured. Once it's cured, you can remove the tape.
The back of the penguin facing backside up in the nail lamp to cure the back of the piece.
Wipe off any tape residue with methylated spirits (denatured alcohol).

If the back is slightly hollow (mine was), apply just enough clear resin into the back to fill the hollow so that it's flat and cure it.
Adding a layer of clear resin to the back of the penguin to fill the hollow.

Open the keychain ring and insert it back onto the bottle opener.
Using split ring pliers to open the split ring and re-insert it through the top of the penguin.

And that's it! Your faux dichroic glass keychain/bottle opener is now ready for use.

Pin this Project!
How to make a resin-filled key chain bottle opener inspiration sheet

'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

Friday, April 10, 2020

How to Clean Resin Tools

Every hobby requires you to outlay some money, whether it be on tools or on consumables. In resin crafting, you really can't avoid spending money on the consumable items like resin, colourants and moulds. They are the things that you will have to replace as you run out. But there are items you can save money on; things like mixing/measuring cups and stir sticks.

When you first start out on your resin adventure, you'll most likely use disposable plastic cups and wooden stir sticks. They're inexpensive, convenient and very easy to find. But after a while, you start to see how many of these items you are throwing away and start thinking, there has to be a better way.

And there is!

You can replace the disposable cups and stir sticks with reusable ones made of polypropylene (PP). Why polypropylene? Because resin doesn't stick to it and it's sturdy so it can be re-used.

You can tell if a cup is polypropylene by the recycling symbol on the bottom of the cup.
The recycling symbol used for polypropylene plastics
Apart from their reusability (good for your pocket and good for the planet!), you'll also find that polypropylene stirring wands produce dramatically fewer bubbles during mixing, so switching to PP stirrers is a WIN-WIN.

Another option is to choose silicone cups and stir sticks.

Both polypropylene and silicone are safe to use with resin and because resin doesn't stick to either of them, tools made of these two materials are the ideal choice for working with resin.

Whether you choose PP or silicone cups and stirrers, you can be assured that you'll be able to use them over and over before having to replace them.

But now that you know why it makes sense to switch over to these materials, you need to know how to clean them so that they can be reused again and again.

Cleaning Mixed or Unmixed Resin from PP Stirring Wands

Keeping your mixing tools clean and ready for use is essential so that you don't get contaminants in your next batch of resin.

And this is best done when the resin is still liquid (you'll understand why further down).

You'll need a square of toilet tissue and some methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) and gloves. Fold the square of toilet tissue so you have a couple of layers and wipe the resin off both sides of the stirrer.
Wiping a smear of yello resin from a plastic spatula across a piece of tissue.

Double a fresh square of toilet tissue and wet it with the methylated spirits. Now place the stirrer inside the layers of tissue and run it back and forth to clean off the rest of the resin.
Wiping the plastic spatula clean with a piece of tissue that has been soaked in solvent

Leave it dry for a few minutes and it's ready for re-use. Easy!
A cleaned plastic spatula ready for re-use.

Cleaning Cured Resin from PP Stirring Wands

My preference is to not allow the resin to cure on the stirring wands. But there are times when you get distracted and forget to clean them straight away. When this happens, let the resin cure completely. You'll need to use a sharp knife to lift an edge so you can peel the resin away.
Using a utility knife to lift the edge of cured resin from a plastic spatula

Once you've got it started, you can pull the resin off. If it's thin it will probably tear so you might have to do this a few times to completely clean it off. And this is why it's best to clean the stirrer whilst the resin is still liquid.
Peeling off all traces of cured resin from the plastic stirrer.

Nevertheless, this method works and will return your stirrer to good condition so that it's ready to re-use.
A utility knife, a cleaned plastic spatula and the cured resin that has been removed

Cleaning Resin from Silicone Stirrers

There's nothing to stop you from cleaning silicone stirrers whilst the resin is still liquid but I'm always cautious about using alcohol on silicone because it can dry the silicone out and that will shorten the life of the silicone. I also find that lint from the tissue can stick to the silicone after cleaning. But if you need to use the silicone stirrer again straight away and you have bits of lint left behind, you can clean the fluff off easily with a piece of adhesive tape. 

My preferred method for cleaning silicone tools is to let the resin cure on the silicone. Cured resin is easy to remove from silicone which is why it makes such a good mould material.

Here's how I do it:

Leave the stirrer standing upright in the cup to cure. Once the resin has cured, squeeze the sides of the cup to release the resin.
Gloved hand holding a plastic cup with a silicone stirrer standing up in cured resin

Remove the stirrer and the resin from the cup.
Removing a silicone stirrer standing in a cup of cured resin

Hold the resin plug in one hand and the stirrer in the other and wiggle it until it comes free.
Removing a silicone stirrer from the cured resin left in the bottom of a cup

If there's any resin left behind on the stirrer, press a piece of adhesive tape firmly across the resin.
A hand holding a silicone stirrer with a piece of adhesive tape pressed across the silicone

Peel the tape off the stirrer and the resin will come with it.
Pulling a piece of adhesive tape off the silicone stirrer along with the cured resin

Repeat until all the resin is removed and the stirrer is completely clean. Now it's ready for your next casting session.
Polypropylene cup, silicone stirrer and a cured plug of resin sitting on a Teflon craft sheet

If you've made the switch to polypropylene or silicone measuring cups, see this article for How to Clean Your Mixing Cups.

Pin this Tip!
Inspiration Sheet showing small plastic measuring cup with silicone stirrer being held in a gloved hand on a wooden table top

'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

Thursday, April 2, 2020

How to Mix Resin Without Bubbles

One of the biggest challenges when working with resin is bubbles.

There are plenty of ways to deal with them if you have any in your project. If you're looking for tips on how to do that, here's a post that shows you 7 Ways to Eliminate Bubbles From Your Resin.

But what about eliminating them right from the outset?
Gloved hand holding a small plastic cup filled with clear, bubble-free resin

Is it possible to mix resin WITHOUT incorporating bubbles into the mix?

One sure-fire way to minimise bubbles is to mix the resin slowly. But even still, no matter how slowly you mix it, you're likely to end up with some bubbles.


Ditch the wooden stir stick! Yes, that's right... ditch it! Wooden stir sticks are a major cause of bubbles being introduced to the resin during mixing.
Bundle of wooden popsicle sticks with a red circle and cross overlayed on top

Whilst your stirring technique will definitely have an effect on the amount of bubbles that you get, many of the bubbles that occur when you're mixing resin are caused by the rough surface and the cellular nature of the wooden stir stick. The resin penetrates the cells in the wood and displaces that air back into the resin. And the slightly rough surface of the stick also causes bubbles to form as it's stirred through the resin.

So instead of using a wooden stir stick to mix your resin, switch to a polypropylene (PP) mixing wand. The smooth surface of the plastic glides through the resin and mixes it without introducing bubbles.
Stirring the resin with a plastic stirring wand

You will still have to stir the resin slowly whilst mixing but you'll notice a dramatic decrease in the number of bubbles you've stirred in during mixing.

So YES, you can mix resin without bubbles... the secret is in what you stir it with!

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Mix resin without bubbles inspiration sheet

'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