Learn all about crafting with epoxy resin, and find out what is resin and how does it work and how to use it successfully for your craft projects!
For a long time I avoided crafting with resin because I didn’t know how to craft with resin and I was kind of scared of it. I generally proceed with caution when it comes to chemical reactions, don’t you? Also, it just seems so permanent. That made me nervous. But after talking to a friend and reading a little bit more about how to craft with resin, I felt a lot better and decided to try it myself.
Resin is a fun craft material because it cures hard and clear. You can embed all kinds of things inside resin from dried flowers, to photographs. People use epoxy resin to make anything from ornaments, coaster and keychains to straight up artistic sculptures. You can also add pigment to color the resin which expands your options exponentially.
Anyway, I learned a lot when I tried crafting with resin and it turns out it’s not hard or scary at all. So today I’m going to share with you what I learned so you can get ready to try your very first epoxy resin craft project too!
What is resin and how does it work?
Most people use the words resin and epoxy resin interchangeably but they are not the same. Resin is a naturally occurring liquid that comes from trees and is an INGREDIENT in epoxy resin. (There are synthetic resins in existence as well). Epoxy Resin is what you think of when you think of resin craft projects, it starts off as a liquid and cures to a hard clear solid.
Epoxy resin is made up of two liquids, a resin and a hardener. When you mix them together in a certain ratio, a chemical reaction occurs that changes the mixture into a solid. This reaction (because no one ever told me this) is not instantaneous, it takes a while and the resin mixture remains workable for a while. This is called the pot time. The curing time, meaning the amount of time until it is fully solid, is longer (think hours). Resin cures hard and clear so it’s great for a lot of crafty things.
Resin has been used as far back as ancient Greece, can you believe that? It was used in art supplies, wood preservation and fragrances. Epoxy resin as we know it now, the mixture of natural resin and hardener, was invented in the 1930’s.
What is natural resin?
Natural resin is basically a thick sticky sap that comes from trees. It is usually secreted when a tree is injured and it is theorized that it evolved as a defense mechanism to prevent animals from eating the tree (it tastes bad). Natural resin is an ingredient in epoxy resin.
Is epoxy resin plastic?
I learned so much writing this! I was wondering myself if epoxy resin is a type of plastic. Turns out not everyone on the internet agrees. But here’s what I found based on the best sources I could access:
Resin, the liquid, is a natural substance; a sap that comes from trees. When mixed with hardener (a synthetic substance) it cures and hardens into epoxy resin, a hard clear solid. (Most resin will not harden fully on its own–amber, a type of resin that you may know that comes from conifers, only hardens after millions of years.) Resin on its own is not a plastic.
Epoxy resin (once the resin and hardener are mixed) is a polymer. Plastic is also a polymer. But the kind of plastic you’re thinking of is a completely synthetic polymer that comes from petrochemicals. And, of course there are tons of different types of plastics. All plastics are polymers but not all polymers are plastic.
But is epoxy resin a plastic? I found some sources that say it is a thermoset plastic. And based on the definition of “plastic”: “a synthetic material made from a wide range of organic polymers such as polyethylene, PVC, nylon, etc., that can be molded into shape while soft and then set into a rigid or slightly elastic form.” then yes, epoxy resin is a plastic.
Safety Tips for Working with Resin
- Always go with the motto: better safe than sorry when working with epoxy resin.
- Work in a well-ventilated area.
- Wear safety gear including gloves, eye protection.
- If the instructions say to wear a respirator mask, wear it.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Follow both manufacturer’s and local guidelines for disposing of excess resin and epoxy resin (don’t ever pour it down the drain, for example!)
Is epoxy resin dangerous?
Any craft that requires safety gear and/or chemical reactions makes me kind of nervous. That’s probably a good thing. That’s probably also the main reason it took me so long to try using epoxy resin. There are at least two ways epoxy resin can potentially be dangerous for you:
- Fumes: some epoxy resin produces a lot of fumes. If the instructions for your resin components say to wear a mask, do it. Also work in a well-ventilated area.
- Skin contact: If resin or mixed epoxy resin gets on your skin it can be sticky and hard to get off and some people may get a rash. The recommendation is to clean off skin as quickly as possible with soap and water (not any sort of solvent, that can make a rash worse). I also read that a pumice stone can help get resin off skin if it’s very sticky.
Obviously there are other inherent dangers with epoxy resin that apply to pretty much any other substance and that we would consider just general common sense such as: don’t get it in your eyes or injest it. But when you see it written out like that, it’s not so bad. We wear masks or work outside to deal with fumes from lots of other craft products (spray paint, adhesives etc.), this is really not much different. But do be careful.
Tips & Tricks for Making Resin Crafts
- Cover your entire work surface in case of spills, resin is hard to clean up.
- Make sure your surface is level so your resin settles evenly.
- Silicone molds work well for resin projects.
- Dry and/or seal anything you’re going to include in your resin (ex. flowers).
- If you are putting a photo inside resin, seal it and then glue it down so it doesn’t float (ask me how I know this one!)
- Consider covering your project with a box or dome of some kind while it’s curing to keep dust or pet hair etc. off.
- Mix resin and hardener thoroughly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Pour resin slowly.
- If you get bubbles in your resin, you can use a heat gun to remove them.
- Wear old clothes, if you get resin on your shirt, it’s not coming off.
So, what do you think? Do you have any more questions or are you ready to craft with resin? Yay!
If you liked this, you may also like some of my other posts…