Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday Tips in a Sticky Situation

Resin - Natural and Chemical

Historically and naturally speaking, resin goes back a long way. You might even say it's prehistoric. Amber stones and beads are the fossilized resin of an ancient pine tree, preserved over the ages and found in the Baltic and in Peruvian mountain mines.

Another form of resin is also from a tree, used as incense and known as frankincense. It's the sap, collected from the precious trees, in a few african countries. An aeromatic herbal, used historically in many cultures in religious ceremonials, the trees are rare and cherished.

Both types of resin have had healing and medicinal purposes attributed to them through the ages. Frankincense is said to have natural anti-bacterial tendencies and is used in some cultures as a curative preparation.

The type of resin I've been using, though, is a two-part man-made chemical, created for use as a finish or epoxy, that cures from a sticky liquid state to a hard yet clear or translucent solid through a chemical bonding reaction. Here are a few tips and hints on safely using two-part resins.

1. Be prepared.
Once you mix together the two parts, the resin and the hardener, they immediately begin the process of chemically bonding. Have everything you need available and ready ahead of time. Create a checklist and go over it before starting if that helps. Be sure you mix completely, stirring for several minutes to make sure the two parts are totally combined for a good chemical reaction.

2. Prepare the work surface ahead of time.
This ensures that spills don't become a messy distraction. I use an oversized but lightweight foamcore board, often used for signs and posters, for my base. I tightly cover and wrap it completely with the type of thick plastic found in the fabric store on rolls and used for picnic tablecloths, attached in the back with strong clear tape. Nothing spoils a resin pouring session more than realizing you've got an awful spill to clean up from flooring, clothing, furniture or carpet.

3. Keep alcohol, paper towels and containers of baby wipes handy.
When your inevitable dribbles, drips and spills happen, you'll be ready to clean them up quickly and safely. A word to the wise - keep pets and small children out of the area.

4. Wear double-layer gloves.
I pull on a pair of nitrile gloves that fit loosely first, then top that with a pair of tight-fitting latex gloves on top of the first pair. If you have a really messy situation, peel off the top layer and your hands and skin are still well protected. You can slip another latex glove on and keep working when the clock is ticking and set up time is tight.

5. Before starting with the resin, level your workspace.
Make sure your prepared plastic-covered foam core board is on a level surface, somewhere it can be picked up with your poured resin on it and moved out of the way if necessary. If your work surface slopes, so will your poured resin. Unless you're looking for that type of slanting finish, keep your curing work area flat and level.

6. Always practice good safety habits.
Wear gloves, keep the resin components off your skin, have good ventilation. Breathing the fumes isn't good for you, so be sure you have plenty of fresh air available. Your skin is your largest organ, protect it. Wear goggles or safety glasses, keep splashes out of your eyes.

7. After you pour, ignore!
This is hard to do sometimes. But the more you move, touch and adjust your poured resin, the higher the chance you'll spill, leave fingerprints or make a mess. Pour, then ignore. Cover the poured resin with an overturned inexpensive plastic tray or drape another length of thick plastic sheeting over a support to keep dust and debris out of the curing resin but DON'T touch it for at least 24 hours.

8. Watch the room air temperature.
Most resin cures best in low humidity and temperatures above 65 degrees F - in high humidity or lower temperatures it will cure but it will take much longer to set up. I often leave a floodlight lamp turned on just above the curing surface, to make sure the air temperature stays warm near the resin as it cures.

9. Keep it simple and read and follow the instructions.
Each brand of resin can be different, so read the insert sheet instructions for mixing your resin carefully. Adding colorants, powders and inclusions into your resin mixture can affect how the two parts interact with each other. Don't add too much to the recipe, or you might cause the resin to fail to completely cure and harden.

10. Most important - measure carefully and consistently.
Use a measuring vessel that gives you the ability to make absolutely sure that you have equal parts of the two-part resin, or the mixture may not set up and will stay sticky forever. If that happens, sometimes after 24-48 hours have passed you can use an alcohol wash on the outside of the sticky resin to try to relieve the situation. Don't use anything that's harsh or harmful to your body to try to fix it, if you end up with a batch that won't set up and stays sticky - throw it away and start over with a fresh batch.

If you are careful when you pour, and work on a surface you can scrape clean later or just discard after your session with the resin, you won't need to think about using harsh chemicals for clean ups.

And then you can enjoy the results of your care, patience and persistence when your resin hardens successfully! Do some research on the different types of resin, find the one you like the best, and do some pouring and ignoring of your own.


SummersStudio said...

My dad used to cast some things with 2 part epoxy resin (gem stones encased in resin). We loved watching as kids but we were never ever to touch. Now I know why!

LLYYNN said...

Yes, I'm sure it was to protect your fingers from the resin and also the resin from your fingerprints!

In making the title of this post, I don't know why but it makes me think of the Gilbert and Sullivan lyrics to the song 'Modern Major General' - "In short, in matters vegetable, animal, & mineral,
I´m the very model of a modern Major-General."