What is epoxy resin and how is it used in woodworking?
Epoxy resin is a clear, hard-setting substance used to bond various materials together and/or create a polished final look. Woodworkers use epoxy resin to accentuate and encase their works to preserve the wood’s natural features. You can use epoxy resin in various amounts, from small drops for jewelry-making to large portions for furniture pieces such as river resin tables.
There’s quite a lot to learn about epoxy resin, from the various ways you can use it to enhance your work to the tools and techniques for best results. Keep reading our beginner’s guide to epoxy resin to learn more. We’ve even included a list of projects you can try at home!
Here is a link to a fun epoxy project we did last year. It was a huge success and makes for a great conversation piece in the dining room!
How Does Epoxy Resin Work?
Without going into too much scientific detail about chemical reactions, epoxy resin activates only when it comes into contact with a hardener. The epoxy resin requires the hardener to solidify and stabilize once it’s set in the piece you’re working on. Not only is temperature a huge factor in the mixing process, but mix ratios are critical also. You want to pay close attention to how much resin and material to mix and for how long. Otherwise, you could be working with a mix that is more likely to bubble or sets much faster than it should. You can add pigment to epoxy resin as well, something we’ll discuss in more detail later in this article.
Epoxy resin can bond to almost any material and can be used as an adhesive, filler material, wood stabilizer, or finishing component. The clearer you want the epoxy resin, the more expensive it will be. The resin will typically take about 12 to 24 hours to set up, depending on what product you choose. The best epoxy resins will have little to no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and cure fast and hard. Best of all, epoxy resin is food safe and can be sanded when set. Epoxy resin doesn’t interact much with moisture so you won’t have to worry about your piece swelling and contracting if it’s sealed.
Benefits of Epoxy Resin
Epoxy resin is a great medium to work with for a few reasons. Many epoxy resins are self-leveling and don’t leave fisheyes, so you won’t have to worry about being an expert when it comes to pouring and setting. After setting, the epoxy resin can easily be sanded. The resin provides lots of strength and can fill gaps or insure a waterproof seal. Best of all, epoxy resin can bond fiberglass, fabrics, metals, and of course, wood.
Epoxy Resin Terms to Learn
As you’re working with and reading about epoxy resin, there are a few terms you’ll want to familiarize yourself with. Most of them are self-explanatory but we’ve listed them below for your reference:
- Pot time: This is the “amount of time you have to work with the resin before it starts to cure.” Plain and simple. The clock starts as soon as the epoxy resin and hardener are mixed so a sense of urgency and a steady hand are key.
- Demolding time: This one means what it sounds like it does. The demolding time describes the “time after which you can remove the cured resin from its mold.” This term is typically used in jewelry-making projects that implement epoxy resin as part of the process.
- Cure time: Pay attention to this time as much as you would the pot time. Not allowing the epoxy resin to cure long enough could potentially damage the work you’ve done and render your project useless. Cure time, much like baking time with food, is set at a limit for a reason.
Now that you know a bit more about what epoxy resin is and how to talk about the process, let’s take a look at the various ways you can use epoxy resin in your daily life.
Uses for Epoxy Resin
Epoxy resin is a versatile sealant that can be applied in a variety of instances. We mentioned above that epoxy resin seals implements intended for use with and around food. You can also use epoxy resin for a number of creative projects, from jewelry to furniture. Scroll down below to our project section for more ideas if you’re interested in working with this amazing substance.
There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind as you work with epoxy resin. You should always work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves. Stick to the manufacturer’s instructions when mixing and during use. If you do happen to get uncured epoxy resin on anything, keep some denatured alcohol on-hand for cleanup. To prevent too much mess, cover your work space with wax paper. It will resist epoxy resin and makes for easy cleanup.
Woods That Respond Well to Epoxy Resin
According to FineWoodworking.com, there are 3 things to remember when choosing wood to epoxy resin. To begin, you should always consider the wood density. The softer the wood, the easier it is to sand, especially if the wood is softer than the epoxy resin as well. You should also consider wood pore size. Larger pores soak up more resin, meaning you’ll need more resin to fill an area than you would with small pore wood. Lastly, avoid woods with thirsty fibers. The epoxy resin will flow well through these liquid-seeking fibers, which may cause it to spill into areas you didn’t want it to. This can also create a halo effect on the exterior surface as well.
That being said, cherry, walnut, and maple work well with epoxy resin. The shelves we made used Pecky Cypress which gives your project a real eye catching appearance. In reality, you can epoxy resin nearly any wood. Each wood type, however, will react in its own way to the epoxy. Many woods appear highly polished, unless you add pigment to the epoxy to create a pattern or design. We’ll talk about adding color to your epoxy resin below.
Tools You’ll Need to Work With Epoxy Resin
When working on the most basic epoxy resin projects, there are very few tools you’ll need. However, depending on what all you’re doing to the wood piece you’re working with, you might need specialized tools to get the job done. That said, you should mix epoxy resin in a large bowl, so you’ll need disposable bowls of your desired shape and size. You should also invest in a few paint sticks to mix the resin and hardener. We used an electric drill and a paint mixer which saved tons of time.
Beyond those basic tools, you may find a few other implements useful, such as: a heat gun(you can see mine in this picture it was a life saver to get out the bubbles) or butane torch, a Dremel tool, packing tape, and straws, to name a few. You’ll also need to have your materials ready if you’re making jewelry, decorations, or any other type of project. Sand paper is another good tool to have on-hand, especially if you’re going to display your project and want it to look flawless.
Adding Pigmentation to Your Epoxy Resin Project
There are many ways you can add color to epoxy resin for a custom look. You should know that epoxy resin will take on a yellow color when exposed to UV rays. Most of them are “slightly amber in color” to begin with, unless you purchase more expensive clear epoxy resin. Knowing how the epoxy resin you purchase can change is the first step in choosing a pigment.
No matter what color your resin, however, you can always add a tinge of pigment to customize it. The best way to do this is to first mix up the epoxy as you would normally, if you weren’t going to add color. Keeping in mind the pot time, you can add in your color after the mixing is complete and then proceed. Just know that the type of pigment you use could affect how the epoxy resin sets. It might be worth setting up a few trials before applying your epoxy resin to your final product.
It’s almost endless what you can add to epoxy resin to add color. For example, you can throw in some of your favorite eyeshadow, acrylic paint, or gold and silver foil. Alcohol-based inks and mica powders work well, too. Keep in mind that wet pigments mix well into the epoxy resin while dry pigments are more apt to cause air bubbles. Keep these tips about pigmentation in mind as you read more about how you can make your epoxy resin experience one you’ll want to do over and over again.
Tips and Techniques for Working with Epoxy Resin
There are a number of pointers floating around as to how to work most effectively with epoxy resin. We’ve gathered a few below for you to memorize before you begin but investigate any problems you may be encountering by consulting the internet. There’s so much more knowledge out there than can fit in this one article.
Here are your tips and tricks for epoxy resin:
- Sand with the grain to achieve a clear epoxy resin coating.
- Thoroughly clean the surface of your work with alcohol before applying the epoxy resin.
- The epoxy resin and your work piece should be the same temperature; otherwise air within the grain could create pits and defects.
- If you need to sand epoxy resin, first begin with 80 grit and then work up to 320 grit.
- Mix the epoxy resin and hardener for about 10% of the potting time to insure a tight bond.
- Did you know that epoxy resin can be applied over stained wood? It’s true!
- Use a heat gun to remove any bubbles in your epoxy resin.
- For stubborn grain fibers that stick up after the first coat, allow the epoxy to dry before sanding them down.
- If you’re inlaying with epoxy resin, choose a product that has a 60-mintue potting time. That should be plenty of time to get the pattern right without gluing things into place in the wrong order.
- Not sure when your epoxy has set? Leave a bit of the mixture in a cup and check it often to see how the applied epoxy resin is setting.
If you’re looking for more great ideas on how to work with epoxy resin, check out this Beginner’s Archives from ResinObsession.com. It should be your first stop if you’ve ever got a question about epoxy resin.
Epoxy Resin Projects
There are a number of projects you can create with epoxy resin. In fact, the possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination. If you’re looking for some inspiration for epoxy resin projects you can do at home, take a look at the following resources for some ideas.
From earrings and necklaces to rings and bracelets, epoxy resin can add a new look to even the most basic item of jewelry. For example, this resin pendant made with dried flowers encases nature’s beauty for all to see. If you have a photo of a loved one, create an epoxy resin magnet or button to cherish their memory. The best thing about jewelry projects made with epoxy resin is that you don’t need much epoxy at all.
Quite a few craft sites out there feature holiday ideas made with epoxy resin. For example, this site features Halloween-themed projects that will scare your guests and delight your friends. You can also create snowflakes with epoxy resin to brighten up your windows during Christmas time.
Creating a coffee or accent table with wood and epoxy resin adds huge amounts of character to any room. Wood Magazine featured an in-depth guide on working with natural edge slabs to create epoxy resin table tops and the results are stunning. You can see the serving tray equivalent here. Another popular piece to fashion is the river resin table. Featuring a hollowed-out channel filled with blue epoxy resin, these tables draw the eye in and allow it to meander around the table top. You can find instructions on how to create your own river resin table here. Here is a list of everything you will need to get started:
|Epoxy||MAS Table Top Pro Epoxy Resin & Hardener|
|Paint Mixer||Allway "Helix" Paint Mixer|
|Color Pigment||Black Diamond 2TONE Series Variety Pigment Packs|
|Disposable Gloves||Black Nitrile Disposable Gloves|
|Wax||Johnson Paste Wax|
|Heat Gun(nice to have)||Dewalt Heat Gun|
Create Your Own
You can manipulate epoxy resin in a variety of ways. Let your imagination steer and see where it takes you. You could even create an abstract piece like this artist, who only used different shades of epoxy resin and a hairdryer to create her masterpiece.
What will you create with epoxy resin? If this helped you please let us know what you create!