Just thought I’d keep you up to date about the resin experiments. I started this about a week or so ago and, of course, I entirely forgot to take photos. Sigh… But I can show you the end result and tell you that it worked out reasonably well for something I just threw together.
I did all of this just to see how the whole system worked and to discover any quirks or issues I might not have been aware of. It all worked surprisingly well.
The resin I’m using here is from Naked Fusion, their “Deep Pour” formula, and it was really easy to work with. I had no problems at all with mixing it or coloring it. You might remember this was the stuff that got damaged in shipping and started leaking on my front deck. The hardener bottle got punctured. The resin bottle was fine, and I managed to salvage about two thirds of the hardener, putting it into sealed glass jars. Anyway, I do like this stuff a lot now that I’ve had a chance to try it. It has no VOCs and virtually no odor at all. Some of this stuff is so nasty you have to wear a respirator just to work with it. I had no such problems with this. It mixes easily, was easy to use with coloring agents, and worked just fine.
I took a bunch of small wood scraps and shoved them into a plastic container, mixed up about 30 oz of the resin with some coloring in it, poured it over the top of the wood, then chucked the whole thing into the pressure tank. I pumped it up to 65 PSI and let it sit for 24 hours. After that I released the pressure on the tank and checked, and it was still a bit, well, squishy. But I expected that. Naked Fusion says it can take up to 72 hours or even longer to fully cure, depending on the temperature, quantity of material being used and some other factors.
So I put it back in the tank and pulled it out after another 24 hours hours and was able to peel the mold off it. The epoxy still felt tacky to the touch so I waited another 12 hours, by which time it seemed fully cured. That’s pretty much spot on according to the instructions.
The tank seemed to do its job of eliminating bubbles. I didn’t see any noticeable bubbles in the epoxy when I looked at it under a strong light.
I stuck it in the lathe and flattened one end, used a 2″ Forstner bit chucked into the lathe to drill a mortise into one end to fit my 4 jaw chuck, and got to work because I what I really wanted to see was how well this stuff could be shaped with my equipment and tools.
Wear a respirator if you work with this stuff. Seriously. Do I really need to tell you that you do not want to be breathing epoxy dust? Or wood dust, for that matter.
It machines pretty darn well, but dear lord it’s messy! I should have taken some photos or a video of it because holy cow it was a mess! I had long, thin strings of epoxy flying off everywhere and getting into everything. I looked like I was covered in tinsel after a few minutes, and so did everything else within three feet of the lathe. I had to vacuum my hair afterwards, for heaven’s sake. And change all my clothes, including my socks. I can see I’m going to need to rig up some kind of frame to hold the nozzle from the shopvac close to lathe to try to suck this stuff up before it gets all over everything the next time I do this.
I’ve heard people claim you can only work this stuff with carbide tools. I’ve heard other people claim you can’t use carbide tools and have to use HSS tools. So I tried both and it doesn’t matter. My traditional steel roughing gouge and bowl gouges worked just as well with this stuff as my carbide tipped tools. The only issue I noticed is that the epoxy can chip if I started to try to make too deep of a cut. Using a traditional bowl gouge works a wee bit better, but only because the “U” shape of the tool guides the material away from work. With the carbide tools waste material tended to build up right at the cutter head and I’d have to stop more often to clean things off so I could see what I was doing
Sanding this stuff is a major hassle. Sanding worked ok up to about 120 grit, but finer grit sandpaper clogs up almost immediately. I can see that if I want to get a good, glass smooth finish on this stuff I’m going to have to resort to wet sanding. I didn’t want to go through all the the mess involved with that for this experiment so I only sanded up to 120 grit and then quit.
Normally I use a beeswax/tung oil blend to finish off my wood pieces because I like it. I personally don’t like wood with mirror like finishes on it because I think it looks ridiculously artificial. I like wood to look like wood, and the beeswax gives it a nice finish without ending up with something that looks like it was dipped in plastic. The finish on this is also an experiment, using a carnauba wax product. That worked out pretty well too. I don’t think it’s any better than the beeswax/tung oil finish I’ve used before, but it isn’t bad at all. And for some reason it smells like blueberries? Seriously?
All things considered I think this experiment was pretty successful and I’m confident enough now to want to try more serious things with this system.
Are there drawbacks? You bet. Some serious, like the cost. If this looks like something you want to try yourself, I’ll warn you right now it ain’t cheap. That one and a half gallon resin kit up there will set you back about $170. If you want to color the resin you need to buy dyes, powders, etc. and that’s more money. That pressure tank used to reduce bubbles in the resin will set you back about $400. There are cheaper tanks on the market but I wouldn’t trust them. You can get a pressure pot from a certain well known ultra-cheap tool vendor that I won’t name that costs less than half what my CA Technologies tank cost and, well, I personally don’t know anyone who has had a cheap pressure tank explode on them, but stories about these things failing and actual photos of failed tanks pop up all the time. Plug the phrase “resin casting pressure pot failure” into Google search and you’ll quickly find out which brand I’m talking about. If you need a pressure tank for resin casting you very, very much want to avoid the cheap brands and the home made ones you see out there.
Then you need molds, of course. You can try to make your own. There are silicon molds in various shapes and sizes that you can buy. Since I was going to be machining this stuff anyway I wasn’t worried about the mold shape. I just ordered a bunch of cheap, disposable plastic mixing cups off Amazon in various sizes and those work quite well.
Let’s talk about the resin for a minute. There are a bewildering variety of brands and types out there. Every different type has its advantages and disadvantages. If you want to do stuff like this, do your research before you start buying anything. I can’t emphasize that enough. Most of the “art” rosins are only good for very thin pours, 1/2 inch or less, often only 1/4″ thick. If you want to do stuff like that tea light up there, you need a “deep pour” resin that can be poured at least 2″ thick. Some resins cure so fast I don’t know how people can actually work with them. Others, like this one from Naked Fusion, can take days to fully cure. Some put out nasty fumes. Some produce considerable heat during the curing process. You get the idea. Research, research, research!
And I suppose before I wrap this up I should add the usual disclaimer. I do not get free material from manufacturers, I do not accept advertising, I am not paid by the makers or dealers of any of the products or tools I talk about here. All of the stuff you see here was purchased by myself. If I recommend a specific product it is because I personally have used it and liked it.