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How to use two-part epoxy resins

epoxy resin 800
Epoxy resin adhesives, above, are available at hardware stores. 
Safety First

Before you use any resin product, read the manufacturer’s product instructions and the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). If the MSDS was not included in the packaging, you should be able to download a copy from the manufacturer’s Web site or at www.msdssearch.com.

Most epoxy resins are nontoxic, organic compounds that, once cured (hardened), do not irritate the skin. However, in the liquid state, both the resins and hardeners are skin and eye irritants. Follow these precautions when you’re working with epoxy resins:

  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Invest in a respirator with appropriate filters if you plan to do a lot of work in this medium.
  • Wear safety glasses and latex or nitrile gloves.
  • Wet-sand cured resin to minimize resin dust.
  • Use disposal methods that are recommended by the manufacturer.
Key Terms

Resin: Part 1 of two-part epoxy formula

Hardener: Part 2 of two-part epoxy formula; manufactured in thin or thick formulations

Mixing ratio: The precise proportion of part 1 and part 2 as indicated by the manufacturer 

Cure time: The length of time required for the mixed formula to completely harden

Pot life: The amount of time that elapses before the mixed formula begins to thicken

High viscosity: A liquid state that resists flowing; thick liquids

Low viscosity: A liquid state that flows easily; thin liquids 

Epoxy resin adhesive: A formulation typically used as a glue; examples include Epoxy 330 and Devcon 5 Minute Epoxy; available at hardware stores

Characteristics:

  • quick cure time
  • short pot life
  • high viscosity
  • noticeable chemical odor 

Epoxy resin: A coating or casting formulation; examples include Colores and EnviroTex Lite; available from jewelry suppliers and select craft stores

Characteristics (compared to epoxy resin adhesives):

  • longer cure time
  • longer pot life
  • lower viscosity
  • minimal odor
epoxy resin bottle
Pourable epoxy resin formulations from jewelry suppliers and select craft stores.
Working with epoxy resins
Epoxy resins come in two parts: resin and hardener. The two parts must be mixed in the precise ratio given in the manufacturer’s instructions. Imprecise measuring and mixing prevents the epoxy resin from curing properly. For small batches, plastic medicine cups work well for measuring the resin and hardener. For larger quantities, it’s helpful to use a digital scale.

Use a toothpick or wooden craft stick to thoroughly mix the resin and hardener. Stir gently to minimize the formation of air bubbles.

TIP: To pop air bubbles, pierce them with a pin. Or, exhale over the surface of the resin; carbon dioxide pops the air bubbles. Another option is to blow warm air over the resin, using a craft heat gun set on low.
colors
Add color to resin

When experimenting with color additives, combine them with epoxy adhesives, which cure more quickly and are less expensive than epoxy resin formulations for casting and coating. We’ve had success with the following additives:

  • Eye shadow
  • Acrylic paint
  • Mica powders
  • Alcohol-based inks
  • Gold foil

TIP: Adding colorants to resin can affect the resin-to-hardener ratio, so be sure to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines before you add pigments.

 
Floating bubbles resin pendant 7
PHOTO 1
Photos/Christopher Glass
Floating bubbles resin pendant 8
Photo 2
Step-by-step

Mix the epoxy resin. Wearing latex or nitrile gloves and following the resin manufacturer’s instructions, add the proper proportion of hardener to resin, being sure to account for any modifications in mixing ratios that the manufacturer lists for adding colorants.

Use a wooden craft stick in a figure-8 motion to slowly mix the resin and hardener [PHOTO 1]. 

Add a colorant. I used a colorant that I purchased from the resin manufacturer.

Use a toothpick to add just a dot of color and mix thoroughly. 

TIP: A tiny amount of pigment goes a long way. Add pigment sparingly, just a little at a time, until you achieve your desired translucent or opaque color.

Pour the resin into the bezel. Avoid pouring resin in the openings of the tube components. Hold the pouring cup stationary while you pour resin in one area of the bezel [PHOTO 2]; this minimizes the creation of air bubbles. Pour until the resin domes slightly and is even with the top edge of the bezel wire. Repeat to fill the other open area of the bezel. 

Remove air bubbles. Use a pin to pierce any air bubbles that formed from pouring the resin.

Cover and cure the resin. Place a box over the assembly, and allow the resin to air-cure according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

TIP: When pouring resin, leave a layer of resin in the pouring cup. You can then use this leftover resin to check if the resin is completely cured, instead of making test pokes into your jewelry piece.

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