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Resining in the Ultraviolet

Hello! I am glad that I found this community, since I am always playing with new crafts - I can't stick to just one - and most places just focus on one craft alone. My most recent craft obsession is resin. I used to be scared of resin. All I knew about it was that a) store-bought resin cabochons were boring and/or ugly, b) it was messy, c) there were nasty chemicals involved, d) you had a limited time to work with the stuff before it got hard, and e) resin crafters were obsessed with bubbles.

Then I discovered UV resin.

UV resin, unlike normal resins, is not a two-part resin. Two-part resins are, as the name says, made from two parts (usually called Part A and Part B) which one mixes together in a precise ratio to make the resin. Part A forms the base of the resin, and part B is the "hardener" or "catalyst", which triggers the chemical reaction which turns the liquid into solid plastic. With UV resins there is only one part; the chemical reaction is triggered by ultraviolet radiation! That means there is no mixing, less waste, no time limit, fewer bubbles (because no mixing); when you are ready, you put it into direct sunlight to cure. Or under a UV lamp. And it cures very quickly - a matter of minutes rather than hours. That makes it a great non-scary way of trying out resin.

That isn't to say that it's perfect. It has its drawbacks and limitations.

1. It is $$$$ expensive. About 5 to 10 times the cost of two-part epoxy resin. I calculated that various two-part resins cost from 6c to 11c a millilitre, while UV resins were around 50c to 90c a millilitre. At that price, it is only useful for jewellery making and fly-tying.

2. It must be cured in DIRECT sunlight. That means outdoors, on a bright sunny day, not sitting on a windowsill, or on a cloudy day (unless you are sitting under a hole in the ozone layer). If you don't have the weather for it, or you want to work at night, then you will need a UV lamp; the kind they use for gel nails will be fine. But if you are just trying it out, sunlight is the cheapest way to go.

3. It is no good for embedding things into, because the UV light has to reach every single bit of the resin - anything which is in shadow will not cure.

4. Likewise, it doesn't work with deep/complex moulds, because the light can't reach every cranny. You can use deep moulds if they aren't too complex and don't have any overhangs, but you have to do it in layers.

5. You can't use opaque pigments or anything black such as black mica powder or black glitter. These will prevent the resin from curing, full stop. It will stay liquid no matter how much UV radiation you bombard it with. Trust me, I know from experience (Black Pearlex powder *ahem*). You can use most glitters and mica powders, so long as they aren't too concentrated, so that the light can reach through. Likewise, you can use transparent dyes. Different brands of UV resin may be more sensitive than others in this regard.

So, if it has all these limitations, what is it good for?

1. Layers! Layers, layers, layers. Because it cures so quickly, you can do these lovely layering effects in a matter of minutes or hours, rather than waiting a day between each layer. It is true that you can't embed things in your layers, but you can brush or paint or stick things onto your cured layers, and use a bit of glitter or mica powder in your layers as well.

2. Doming. That is putting a protective layer, which forms a shallow dome, onto something else, such as a pendant made from polymer clay. Beware, however, what you put it on, because some resins are very temperamental about what they come in contact with, and won't cure (Magic-Glos, I'm looking at you).

Here is the very first resin piece I did: I put layers of mica powder on top of a rectangular purple bead, curing each layer and then adding more PearlEx (alternating purple and violet/bronze, if I recall correctly).

purple bead

This photo at an angle gives a better idea of the layering.
purple bead 2

Here are some other examples of layering I did with UV resin, done with PearlEx powder and glitter:
pendant_faux_opal-20161102-164238 (this one didn't have glitter)
pendant_faux_opal-20161102-164413 (this is my favourite of the four)

With this one, I brushed Russet PearlEx powder onto the surface of the rose mould, put in a layer of resin, cured it, and then brushed on bronze PearlEx powder onto the cured layer, then put another layer on; you can see the bronze behind the red.
Rose Pendant

As for doming, this pendant is made of textured paper, covered with UV resin:
black pendant

Unfortunately, when I tried to dome the other side of this same piece of paper, some of the resin cured and some of it didn't. 8-( Fortunately I was able to use another brand of resin which did cure, after I cleaned off the resin which hadn't cured. 8-/

So, there are some examples of what you can do. Here are a few tips about how. A lot of these tips apply to two-part resin as well as UV resin.

1. ALWAYS wear gloves. ALWAYS! This isn't just because resin is sticky and messy, but because repeated exposure to these chemicals can make you allergic to them. Watch this video if you don't believe me. I recommend disposable nitrile gloves: they offer better protection from chemicals than latex gloves, and they are pretty comfortable too. If you can't find them at the supermarket, you can find them in the paint section of a hardware store.

2. A nonstick craft mat or silicone baking mat is more useful than paper for protecting your working surface (table, bench etc), because the resin can soak through paper, while it won't stick to such mats. If all else fails, lay out a garbage bag flat on your surface to protect it.

3. You can clean up with Rubbing Alcohol AKA Methylated Spirits AKA Denatured Alcohol and paper towels. Some people recommend Acetone, but I find that it is too harsh, and can sometimes damage my mixing cups (when I'm using two-part resin). The fumes are awful. Alcohol works just as well, though it may take more and take longer, I'd rather use that than something nasty like Acetone.

4. Every brand of resin is different. Just because it is called "UV resin" does not mean that they all behave alike. They can vary in viscosity, odour, curing time, hardness, etc. If there is interest, I can post a comparison of the four different brands of UV resin that I have used over my time of UV resin discovery.

5. Moulds are good for building up layers, since the resin is contained in a shape. Silicone moulds are the easiest to use, since you don't have to mess around with things like mould-release. Some people say that silicone moulds are too expensive, but I'll tell you a secret: you can use silicone muffin pans! All of the round pendants in this picture were made with muffin pans; the large ones with normal sized muffin cups, and the small one with a mini-muffin cup. (Note that the pendants in that picture are a mix of two-part resin and UV resin, depending on the pendant)

6. You can also use bezels or flat beads (as I used a flat bead for my first piece), putting the resin on, curing it, and putting another layer on, etc.

7. Toothpicks! And matchsticks. Very useful for swirling and mixing and tapping little bits of mica powder on your piece. You need to be careful with toothpicks and silicone moulds, though, because the sharp point of the toothpick can scratch the surface of the mould, and the scratch will be there to stay. That's why I suggest matchsticks, because they aren't pointy. But you get more precision with toothpicks, so I use both.

8. Cylindrical beads to create pendant-holes. You'll notice in the picture of the round pendants above, that the holes for the pendants all have silver or gold rims. That's because they are actually cylindrical metal beads, stuck to the bottom of the muffin cup with a tiny piece of double-sided tape, which holds it in place and stops the resin from getting in underneath. Then you carefully peel off the tape when you demould the pendant.

9. If your piece comes out of its silicone mould with a frosty/matte surface, never fear. Some silicone moulds do that, because the mould surface isn't glossy. (My big muffin cups were glossy, but my mini-muffin cups were matte). There isn't anything wrong with the moulds or with your resin. You can make the matte surface shiny by either (a) covering it with a doming layer of resin (if the surface is flat enough), or (b) painting it with clear nail polish. You may notice that the gold steampunky pendant in the picture has a clear top and frosty sides. That's because I domed the top of it, but left the sides as they were, because I liked it that way.

10. Working direction: back to front or front to back. Most moulds are designed so that the bottom of the mould is the front of the piece, so when you are putting on your layers, the first layer you put down is the front of the piece, and the next layer is further back, and so on. If you're working on a bezel or a flat bead, it is the other way around: the back of the piece is the first layer you put down, the next layer is in front of that, and so on. In other words, what you see as you make it, is what will get when it's done. Whereas when one is working with a mould where the bottom is the front, you can't see the whole effect of the piece until you demould it. Don't let that scare you: think of it as a fun surprise. There are also some silicone moulds that are very plain (like muffin cups) and you can decide for yourself which side is the front and which is the back, depending on what side you like better.

For more ideas and tutorials, are some of my resin-related bookmarks. Most of them are about two-part resin, but some of them apply to both, and some are about UV resin in particular.



Jan. 16th, 2017 08:37 pm (UTC)
This is not a craft I would be doing, but found it totally fascinating. The beads are incredible. Thanks for sharing.
Jan. 16th, 2017 08:50 pm (UTC)
Thank you! 8-)

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