2-Part Epoxy Resin Basics for Beginners
All you need to know about 2-part epoxy resin before getting started.
If you're a beginner looking to work with clear 2-part epoxy resin, well this article is for you.
There are many different types of resins to choose from, and this can be confusing if you’re just getting started. Knowing ahead of time about what type of resin you'll be using, how it functions, along with a few tips and tricks, can save you a whole lot of time, resources and “creative heartbreak”.
So if you’re interested in trying out this super versatile medium and create amazing pieces, here are 11 important things you should know.
1. What is 2-part epoxy resin?
This is a craft medium that involves two liquids combined to activate an exothermic chemical reaction, where the liquid cures or hardens into a plastic like material.
Because of its versatility, it is a very popular medium in the arts and crafts community. It can be used to create molds for jewelry charms, figurines, model pieces and a whole lot more.
Many painters use it to coat or laminate their pieces done on canvas for that glossy finish, or create resin paintings. 2-Part epoxy resin can even be applied to table tops and bar tops to add that amazing shine or to simply create amazing wood pieces.
2. What are the two liquids?
The two different liquids involved in making this medium are the hardener and the actual resin. The hardener is the chemical that is used in the process to activate the resin to cure.
Now each brand may have their own specific mixing ratio. However, some of the most common ones are the 'one to one' ratio which means equal parts and the other is the 'two to one' ratio. For the two to one ratio, the resin is the higher number and the lower number is the hardener.
Also depending on the brand, it can be measured either by weight or by volume. It is vital for you to read the instructions carefully for the brand you’re using and follow through on their specific recommendations.
3. Resin specifications
One important thing to know about 2-part epoxy resin is it’s 'pot life' also known as work time or working time. This means the duration in which the resin after being mixed, is still in a workable or liquid state. As once the two liquids have been mixed, the curing begins immediately. Again depending on the brand, the duration of 'pot life' varies, this can range from 20 minutes to a few hours.
The moment the curing begins, the resin’s viscosity will change and get thicker and thicker, eventually it will be too hard or thick to work with.
If you want to suspend your inclusions like your: glitter, pigments, stickers or even heavy bits that tend to sink, items that will float like wood foam, without having them sink to the bottom, It is vital for you to know when your resin will start to get a little thick.
Another specification you should pay attention to, is the cure time. This can take between 6 to 24 hrs, depending on the brand, to get to a tack free stage, meaning that it’s not sticky when handled or touched. However, you do not want to be handling it when not fully cured and this can take between 48 hrs to 7 days to be fully cured, any marks or indents at that stage is permanent.
4. Resin flexibility
Some brand of resins will cure with some level of flexibility and with some self-healing properties. On the other hand, others will make it rock hard. Resin that’s flexible, most times becomes even more flexible when heat is applied, whether it be direct heat like body heat or indirect heat like the ambient temperature.
The degree of flexibility the resin has will vary based on the brand. Depending on the application and personal desire, you may want a finish that has a bit more flexibility to it with self-healing properties or you may want a hard glass like finish.
5. Color and UV stability
First thing to know is that color and UV stability are basically the same thing. The second thing you need to be aware of, is that despite what the brand and or manufacturers advertise, epoxy resin will generally yellow over time.
However, exposure to UV rays and heat can accelerate the process, taking into consideration the brand you’re using as well. For some brands, this could take years while others in a matter of weeks.
6. Water contamination
Water will directly prevent the reaction in resin, once water comes in contact with the resin it will affect the curing which leaves you with uncured, sticky or soft resin.
Avoid this by ensuring that the materials you’re using or adding has no trace of water or moisture, this includes the pigments and dyes you’ll be adding.
When adding color to your resin, it’s best to stick with powder oils, or alcohol based pigment and dyes. Some resin crafters have used acrylic paints which are water based paints in their pieces without issues. But the curing may be inhibited, so if you do plan on using it, use with caution.
It’s always best to use professional grade paints that are high in pigment, with less water content. These paints tend to have a thicker texture over some of the cheap craft paints with too much water.
This is the same when using food coloring to add color, try to stick with powdered and oil based versions.
7. Hot climate versus cold climate
Resin and heat are great ‘friends’. Resin releases heat during the reaction, so the more heat that is applied the faster the reaction time.
If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll notice that your resin will be curing a lot faster. While it’s the complete opposite for those living in colder climates, the resin will cure a lot slower.
A colder temperature slows everything down and increases your ‘pot life’, while the warm temperatures will decrease your ‘pot life’.
Other components that will affect the resin’s heat is the total amount of resin you’re mixing. With greater volume of the chemicals, the stronger the reaction. This can be dangerous if not done properly. You could be mixing a large batch in a warmer temperature and it starts to heal too quickly, causing it to smoke and melt your mixing cup and stir stick.
While this is not to scare you, as this doesn’t happen to this degree in all brands… it’s still good to be cautious and mindful about the amount you’re mixing and the ambient temperature in which you’re working. The best temperatures to work in, would be between 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
8. Sourcing resin
Resin is broadly available on platforms such as eBay and Amazon, with an endless amount of brands to select from. If you live in the United States you can find it locally in your local craft stores, in hardware stores or your major department stores like Home Depot.
9. Protective gears
Resin is considered to be a hazardous material, so it’s always important to take the proper precautions when using it by wearing and using protective equipment.
Some brands of resin will release fumes or ‘VOC’, which means Volatile Organic Compound. So it’s imperative to work in a highly ventilated area, if working indoors make sure to crack a few windows to let some of that out. You can also try to find resin brands with little to no ‘VOC’.
If you are sensitive to the material you will need to wear a mask or respirator. Some people will develop an allergic reaction or have skin irritations when working with resin, so having some nitrile gloves should be one of your protective gear. Nitrile gloves are a lot more durable in withstanding chemicals and are a lot more tear resistant than vinyl or latex gloves.
Wearing an apron will also protect your clothing from spills and splashes, as once the resin gets on your clothes it’s impossible to remove it.
Your work surface should also be protected as well. Working with resin can quickly become messy, so you want to protect your tables from uncured resin, that can permanent damage your furniture. You can do this by lining your work table with non-porous liners like plastic sheets, wax papers or freezer paper. Extra large silicone mats are great for your work table when using resin, as the resin is not able to adhere to the silicone, making cleanup quick and easy.
10. Leveled surface
Resin is self leveling, so whatever surface you are working on should be leveled or you will have a piece that is uneven. If you’re uncertain about the level of your work area, use a leveler and adjust accordingly.
11. Basic store supplies needed
Some of the basic materials you’ll need for resin crafting are: a graduated measuring cup if you’ll be measuring it by volume. If you’re measuring it by weight you’ll need a small scale. You will also need a few Pp 5 or polypropylene plastic cups for mixing, as resin doesn’t stick to the plastic making them reusable.
You can also purchase HDPE and LDPE plastic containers as well.
Popsicle sticks, coffee stir sticks for stirring, a plastic cosmetic spatulas is also a good tool to have, you can simply wipe away the resin after each use. You will also need a lighter or torch to help get rid of bubbles in the resin.
Also having baby wipes and ISO probable alcohol around to wipe away uncured resin, is a must!
There you have it! 11 important things you need to know about 2-part epoxy resin...and now that you know, go have some fun and create!