Resin is a type of plastic that is manufactured for use by crafters. A two-part solution, you mix it then pour into molds to create everything from cabinet knobs to earrings. It's lightweight yet sturdy. Resin pieces can be cast alone in molds or used as a protective coating on pendants and table tops. Resin is usually available at most craft stores or for purchase in large quantities at hardware stores.
You need a two-part epoxy casting resin, available at most craft stores. Epoxy resins have less odor and are easier to work with than the polyester versions. Resin brands come packaged with a bottle of resin and a bottle of hardener that you will mix together at home.
Mold release helps loosen the completed casts from their molds. It comes in a spray. You spray it directly on the molds then allow it to dry before casting. If using actual resin molds, mold release makes it easier but is not vital to the process.
Molds made specifically for cast resin are of non-porous translucent plastic. They are similar to soap or candy molds but have a perfectly smooth surface and aren't as flimsy. They are available in a variety of shapes. Silicone molds for model-making can be substituted, as can silicone ice cube trays. Always use a spray release if the mold isn't made specifically for resin use.
Resin is clear. Change the color with resin dyes. Mix these in when the resin is still liquid before casting. They are similar to food coloring but have no water content--you mix them in one drop at a time until you achieve the desired color. Powdered chalk pastels or acrylic paints can also be used but will not offer the same vibrant or translucent colors.
Prepare your molds with resin spray. Make sure there is no dust or debris in the cups. Set them on a sheet of cardboard or a cookie sheet set aside for only this purpose to aid in transport. Wear gloves when working with resin, cover work surfaces to protect, and work in a well-ventilated area.
Mix one-part resin to one-part hardener. Use plastic disposable cups to mix and measure. Fill the cup first with resin and mark the level with a marker, then pour into an second cup. Fill with hardener to the marked line, then pour in with the resin in the second cup. Stir for two minutes with a craft stick scraping the sides as you mix. Pour into a third cup and stir for an additional two minutes.
Mix in any dyes with a new craft stick. Pour the resin into the molds, filling to the top. If adding inclusions such as a small charm, fill the mold halfway, then add the inclusion and finish filling. Cover the mold tray with an upside-down box and set where it won't be disturbed for 24 hours. This keeps the dust from settling on and ruining the pieces.
After 24 hours, lightly touch the surface. If it is no longer sticky, the cast pieces are ready to remove. If still sticky, let cure for an additional 24 hours. Turn the molds upside down and lightly tap the back of each piece to loosen. Turn the mold back over and push in the center of the back of each mold to pop the finished piece out.
Tips and Tricks
Make the cast resin in a swirl pattern. Add 2 to 3 drops of dye or acrylic paint to resin already poured in the mold. Swirl around with a toothpick. Or dye the resin one color, pour and then add a drop of contrasting color and swirl.
Inclusions are one of the reasons resin is a desirable medium for projects such as jewelry. Any non-porous material can be an inclusion--candy sprinkles, plastic or metal charms, and foil glitter or confetti. For loose inclusions like sprinkles and glitter, let them settle to the bottom of the mold for two or three minutes, then top off with more glitter. Fill the mold the rest of the way to finish.
Prepare paper--such as photographs--and include in resin. Coat the paper on both sides with decoupage glue. Use another coat of decoupage glue to affix the photo inside a metal, plastic or wood bezel with sides. Pour the resin on top. This gives the effect of glass over the piece and there are no molds to mess with.
Bubbles often form in the resin before curing, most often a result of air getting stirred in when mixing. Let the mixed resin settle for five minutes before casting to cut down on bubbles. Poke bubbles in cast pieces immediately before curing with a straight pin or lightly blow on the surface to pop.
Cast resin pieces may be rough around the edges. Wet sand to smooth and shape after hardening. Use a clamp and hand held drill to put holes through cast pieces. Always wear a face mask and eye protection to avoid injury from resin dust.