Friday, August 26, 2016

Which Resin to Use for Jewellery Making

Resin beginners are often confused by which resin to use. 

When you're faced with a number of different types of resin to choose from, it can be daunting to work out which one will suit your needs best. I've been working with resin for more than 10 years and at last count, I've worked with at least 20 different types/brands of resin. That's a lot of resin and a lot of casting and it's given me a good understanding of what each resin is capable of.

So, let's take a look at the pros and cons of each resin type so you know how to choose the right resin for your project. As a side note, there are so MANY different brands of resin out there and they are all formulated differently. It's not possible to cover them all but this will give you a general guide to help you understand what each resin type is best suited to.

We'll cover the most readily available types of resin:
  • 2-part resins - this group includes Epoxy, Polyurethane (aka urethane), Polyester and Epoxy Clays.
  • 1-part resin - includes the very easy to use UV Resins

Versatile Epoxy resin


Epoxies are very easy to use and they are usually mixed in a 1:1 or a 2:1 ratio. The benefits of epoxies are the ease of measuring, mixing and colouring. They generally have a longer gel time so that you don't need to rush when adding colourants and embedments into the resin. Curing is often slower too and can take 12-24 hours, with full hardness achieved after 72 hours. These resins are usually very low in odour or have no odour at all and are very easy to work with. The drawback is that finished epoxy pieces may yellow as they age. If you've added colourant to the resin, this won't be noticeable.

Epoxy resins are versatile: they're available as either casting resins (meaning that you can pour them into a mould to create objects such as bangles and coasters) or coating resins which are used to coat surfaces such as bar and tabletops. Some are formulated so that they can be mixed in small batches for working on small scale jewellery items like pendant bezels. They can sometimes be used as a doming resin too.

Readily available epoxy resins are EasyCast and Amazing Clear Cast.

Quick Curing Polyurethane Resin

Stack of square black and pastel coloured bangles amongst a group of scattered licorice allsorts.

When you need something to cure fast, this is the resin to reach for. They are sometimes measured by volume (1:1) and sometimes by weight. The polyurethanes we use in jewellery making are usually casting resins and they are best suited to being cast in silicone moulds. Many gel in under 5 minutes and can be demoulded in as little as 10-20 minutes. 

On the downside, they are very moisture sensitive and will almost always bubble. The transparent versions of polyurethanes are usually more amber than clear. You can also buy polyurethanes in some basic opaque colours such as white, black and flesh. Because of their quick gel time, they are not well suited to embedding but you can still add colours and glitters before mixing the two parts together. Learn how to make fun bangles like this Licorice Allsorts bangle stack in one of my beginner's resin classes.

Water Clear Polyester Resin


Most commonly used in the boat building industry as a laminating resin but it's also formulated as a casting resin, making it suitable for jewellery making. Where epoxy and polyurethane resins are measured in a 1:1 ratio resin to hardener, polyester resin uses an MEKP catalyst which is added by number of drops per millilitre/ounce of resin. Working out how much catalyst to add can be tricky - not only do you have to take into account the volume you are mixing, but also the thickness of the casting, the humidity and the room temperature. Too much catalyst and it could flash (ignite) or crack as the resin cures. It also has a very nasty odour so it needs to be worked with outside and whilst wearing a respirator suited to organic vapours. But the attraction of polyester resin is its clarity - it is crystal clear, as you can see in this souvenir I picked up in Singapore.

Castin'Craft Clear Polyester Casting Resin is a popular choice for crafters choosing this type of resin.

UV Resin - the User-Friendly Resin

Bottlecap magnets filled with 100s and 1000s

These are the most user-friendly resins of all because there is no measuring, no mixing, no wastage and no cleanup. You just pour the resin and then place it under a UV light source to cure for a few minutes. Some have a strong odour while others, like Magic-Glos, have none. They are available in different formulations for doming and casting in shallow, clear silicone moulds. You can cure the pieces under a UV nail lamp or in the sunlight. You'll find the project instructions to make these fun fridge magnets here.


As the name suggests, this resin is a clay so once mixed together, instead of pouring it into a mould, you push it into the mould or bezel. It's mixed together in equal quantities and it can be coloured using dyes and powders. Because of its strength, it is an excellent adhesive and is perfect for creating pavé jewellery where the crystals will be permanently embedded once cured. It can also be sculpted, sanded and painted, making it suitable for home decor items too. You'll find two gorgeous Pavé-style jewellery tutorials here and here.

Some of the better-known brands include Apoxie Sculpt and Crystal Clay, which comes in a variety of colours.

Now that you know a little more about the types of resin, use the flow chart below to work out which resin(s) will be suitable for your project.

PIN THIS!
Which resin to use for making resin jewellery Flowchart.

MORE RESOURCES FOR YOU:


  • Get access to the How to Choose the Right Resin video to learn even more about choosing resin. 
  • You'll also get a printable copy of the Choosing the Right Resin Flowchart 
  • PLUS, a Working Safely with Resin guide.

Computer monitor mock up with screenshot of the How to Choose Resin Video

Click through to Resin Made Simple to get these additional resources.


'Til next time.....








If you can't get enough of My Tutorials and you want even more inspiration, click here to find my books and printable pdfs



Would you like to comment?

  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on this topic. This is really helpful and informative, as this gave me more insight to create more ideas and solutions for my plan. I would love to see more updates from you.

    Elcometer 224

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  2. This was very helpful. I didn't even know there were other types of resin. I have watched some videos and no one has mentioned the different types. But one question I have is: Why do I see some people using lighters or tanks on there items.

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    1. Hi Alison! Not only are there lots of different types of resin, each manufacturer has their own formulation for that type of resin! That's why experts tend to have their favourite go-to resin :) The reason you see people using a lighter on the surface of their resin is to pop bubbles, particularly with clear epoxy resins. If that isn't something you're comfortable with, you can use a spray bottle filled with rubbing alcohol. A light spray across the surface will break the surface tension and cause the bubbles to pop. The alcohol evaporates away and you'd never know it had been used.

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  3. Nice post and very informative resin chart, thanx for ideas. We're also making some river tables with epoxies.

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