Saturday, 19 December 2015

Experimenting with Clear Resin

Hi folks,

I have been experimenting with wet-effects for a while now,  and I have been particularly fascinated by the clear resin some people have been using to represent clear, deep, water. Every year there seems to be several Golden Daemon entries that include deep pools of water on the bases, with various novel inclusions, such as fish and other beasties. I am planning to use a shallow pool of the stuff on a terrain piece I am working on, but wanted to try it out on something less important first. That in mind, I knocked together another, more simple, terrain piece I am calling "The Spring". This was my first clear resin experience, so if you have any tips at the end please share them! If you haven't used a two-part epoxy resin before, this may help you avoid some pratfalls :-)

Step 1: Preparing the surface

The terrain piece needed a section where the resin could pool and be contained whilst it hardened. I had a few ideas about how I could achieve this, but I settled on a ring of course shell grit. The PVA was poured directly from the bottle in a ring shape and the grit piled over the top and left to harden overnight. It is also possible to tape up deeper wells with masking tape, but you need to remove the tape before the resin completely sets (but after it has stopped flowing).This requires a greater knowledge of the resin hardening time frame than I currently have, but I'm keen to give it a go sometime.

Step 2: Painting the spring

This step isn't really necessary in most cases, water is after all transparent in nature. The base I was using, however, didn't have any detail to see beneath the resin, so I figured some colour would be better than nothing. I used a rough blend from turquoise to black.

Step 3: Buying some resin

There are plenty of different two-part resin products out there that are suitable for this kind of job. In particular, craft stores usually stock the stuff for people who make their own resin jewellery. I picked up two sets of Craft Smart Liquid Gloss for a steal when a local art supply store had them on sale("shop smart... shop... Craft Smart"). Groovy.

Step 4: Mixing the resin

Well, this step is more crucial than I initially realised; it turns out you can avoid a lot of pratfalls by doing this properly. As suggested, the product comes in two parts, the resin (which is the more viscous fluid) and a hardening agent. The two were transferred in equal amounts to a clean disposable container. This needs to be done as accurately as possible, as getting the ratio wrong prevents the resin from setting properly. I used a syringe to do this, which is stupid, because it introduced sooo many bubbles to the fluid mixture. I'll do it differently next time, as minimising the bubbles produced in the mixing stage is vital for the final look of the product.

I stirred it with the provided flat wooden for about three minutes, a little too vigorously, introducing even more bubbles. I would suggest that if you ever are in the same situation you make your stand right here; get rid of the bubbles. This can be done by heating the stirred mixture in a bowl of warm/hot water, sonication, removing individual bubbles with a toothpick or short blasts of a heat gun. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Even just letting the mixture stand for a few minutes before pouring gets rid of a lot of bubbles, as they rise to the top over time. If I had realised I had more time I would have used it to get the mixture as clear as possible before proceeding. Avoid getting water (even vapour from your breath) in the resin as it will go cloudy; it is hydrophobic and you get light scattering from the emulsion that forms.

None of the chemicals present are particularly good for you, so I wore safety glasses and gloves. Use nitrile gloves if you can get them.

Step 5: Pouring the resin mixture

I transferred the resin to the terrain piece using a syringe, which was stupid :-) Next time around I will just pour it gently from the mixing cup. The ring of PVA and grit held up pretty well, some resin seeped through but it set quickly. You can use a brush to mop up any stray bits; make sure your workspace is level to save yourself a lot of hassle during this step. I then enclosed the entire project in a box whilst it hardened to prevent dust from ruining the finish.

You can clearly see the worst clusters of bubbles in this shot. I wasn't too concerned, natural springs often have bubbles of gas, but it did get me thinking about how to avoid them in the future. 

Step 6: Everything else...

After the resin had well and truly hardened, about 6 hours, I finished off the piece with some more, dry-looking, grit and flock. There are still a handful of bubbles visible but, for a first pancake, its not that bad, et viola:

With a practice run under my belt I am fairly confident I can tackle my Japanese garden themed terrain project. If you have any experience working with clear two-part resin let me know.

See you across the table,