Beginners Guide to Working With Epoxy: Unique Vanity Tray

Beginners Guide to Working With Epoxy: Unique Vanity Tray main article image
Posted on April 19, 2021 by Sara Douglas
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Resin art might look intimidating, but once you get the precautions out of the way, it’s not only much easier than you might think, it’s also incredibly fun! So, craft along with me… Beautiful pieces of functional art, like this lovely small vanity tray, are as exciting to make as they are to display later! 

Safety First! Epoxy resin comes in many different formulations, so it’s very important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how to safely mix and work with their particular product. No matter which brand you’re working with, though, you’ll want to be sure to take these precautions:  

*Always work in a well ventilated area  

*Always protect your skin, hair, and clothes: Nitrile gloves are the best choice for keeping the very, very sticky resin away from your skin while it’s still in its liquid state. If you do happen to get any on you use liquid soap (such as dish or hand soap) or soap that has an exfoliant in it (Such as Lava soap or Fast Orange) to remove it immediately. Never use vinegar, acetone, rubbing alcohol, or paint thinner to clean epoxy resin from your skin!! They all break down the chemicals in the resin, making it much easier for your body to absorb them. They can all be used to clean dripped epoxy off of different objects, just be sure to wear gloves. Keep your hair out of your eyes, and tied back if it’s long, you won’t want to have to mess with it once you’re working and it helps to cut back on any stay stands that might fall and land in your uncured pieces. 

*Always protect any surfaces you’re working on: Newspapers or plastic table cloths work well, but silicone work mats and wax paper work the best. Resin doesn’t stick to either of them. 

*Seriously, always work in a well ventilated area: Protect yourself, your loved ones and your pets by never working in a closed off space. Depending on the brand you use, the smell and fumes can linger for hours while the resin is curing.  

Materials  

Epoxy Resin for Casting:  We’re making a tray today, so resin for coating or casting is the appropriate type. There are different formulations that work for different jobs, be sure the one you’re working with is made for the project you’re working on. Most come in two parts that get mixed in a 50:50 ratio but yours might be different, always be sure to read the full instructions for your particular brand before you get started.  

Personal Protection Equipment: Nitrile gloves, a respirator (If you’re unable to work in a well ventilated area) and a plastic apron if you’d like to add another barrier of protection. Be sure you follow any safety and personal protection information as instructed by the brand of epoxy resin you choose. 

Protection for your work surface: Spread out newspapers with a layer of wax paper on top is my   favorite option. I also use a few small silicone work mats to protect any cookie sheets or pans that I sometimes use under my molds to be able to move them once they’re filled.  

Silicone Tray Mold: There are many different options for silicone molds. Amazon, Etsy, and google are all great places to start, but be sure to read through the reviews before you buy. Not all silicone molds are created equal!  

Dried Flowers: you can purchase them online or make them yourself from fresh cut plants. If you don’t want them to have that flattened, pressed in a book appearance, you can place the fresh flowers in a deep container and completely cover them in silica sand until they’re completely dry.  

Mica Powder: There are many different ways to color your epoxy, and they all give different looks and effects. If you don’t have any specific mica powders, you can use any unwanted or expired eye shadow pallets instead. Mica powder is the colorant in eyeshadow and works pretty much exactly the same, as long as you crush it into a fine powder before using it. For this project you’ll also need a clean, dry paint brush to apply it.  

Black Acrylic Paint: a couple of drops is all you need. Too much will cause your resin to be unable to cure properly, so go slowly and add a drop at a time.  

Any Other Extra’s You’d Like: Glitter, metallic flakes, and Shredded Mylar all add more dimension to your piece and look beautiful, too!  

Cups for mixing: Silicone mixing cups are great because they’re easy to reuse. There are also several plastic options, including ones that have measuring lines right on the cup. The important thing is to have more than one. The best way to be sure your resin is completely mixed is to pour the mixture into another cup after you’ve stirred it together and thoroughly scrape the bottom and sides multiple times as you’re mixing. Transferring it between the two cups is the most effective way to avoid having a problem with your pieces curing later. The mixture should be completely clear, with no streaks or ribbons of unmixed epoxy inside.  

Popsicle Sticks for Stirring: I also like to keep long, thin skewer style wooden sticks on hand, they’re great at helping the epoxy completely fill all of the little nooks that many molds have. They are also my favorite way to move dried flowers around in the liquid resin when you are placing them where you’d like them in the design. Also, keep in mind that Raw wood will often introduce bubbles into your mixture. To avid that, seal your popsicle sticks with a very thin coating of resin and let it cure. They’ll be ready to go for your next project and they’ll be much easier to clean and reuse when you’re done.  

A spray bottle with 91% Isopropyl Alcohol: I’ve found this is the best method for safely removing bubbles in the still liquid resin. Spray a fine mist of Alcohol over your filled molds a little a time. It breaks the surface tension, which causes the bubbles to pop. Be sure to avoid any flames once you’ve sprayed the molds, alcohol is incredibly flammable.  

Be sure to read through the instructions completely before you begin  

Before you begin mixing any resin, it’s very important that you have everything completely set up and all of your item’s ready and close at hand. Epoxy resin has a window of time where you’re able to work with it before it starts to set, and that clock starts when you begin mixing the two parts together. You definitely don’t want to waste any of that time. Once you’ve finished setting up, use the manufacturer’s instructions to mix the two parts of the epoxy resin together. We’re going to be pouring this piece in layers, so you’ll only need to mix enough to cover the bottom of the tray mold for now. Take care to scrape all of the edges and the bottom of the mixing cup multiple times while you’re stirring. Pour the mixture from one cup completely into another every so often to be sure you don’t miss any pockets of uncombined resin.

Once the mixture is completely clear, pour a small amount in, a little at a time, until only the bottom half of the mold has a nice thin, even layer. Gently set your dried flowers and leaves down on the surface of the resin. Depending on how thick your flowers are, you may need to use a skewer stick to roll the different plants around and around a few times, it helps the epoxy sink into the deepest parts of the flower. Not only will that cut back on unwanted bubbles, it also helps keep the flower from floating up to the top of the curing resin. You’ll want to let it start to cure for twenty minutes or so, and then check on if you have any of your flowers floating too high. If you do, use your skewer stick to very, very gently poke or drag your different pieces around in the fluid until they’re where you’d like them. While the resin is still in a semi-liquid state it will flatten back to level if any of the surface gets plucked or puckered up, so don’t worry about disturbing your piece in the beginning.  Using a very gentle hand set the partially filled mold to the side to begin curing. Be sure to leave it somewhere dust and hair free, where there is plenty of ventilation. Resist the urge to touch the surface during the curing time.  

After about six hours take a very small amount of mica power and, using your clean and dry paint brush, paint a thin, even coat across the entire surface of the still curing resin. Shake off any excess very carefully. Set your piece aside and mix enough epoxy resin to finish filling your mold. Once the two parts are completely combined, use two or three drops of the black acrylic paint or a tiny scoop of black mica powder (start with a small amount, then add more in little bits until you achieve the color you’re aiming for.) Very carefully spoon the colored resin onto the top of the dusted semi-cured resin until it’s been filled to the top. I don’t recommend pouring straight from your mixing cup into your molds, it’s easier to have overfills and spills because you have less control. Also filling the mold slowly gives your resin a chance to work into all of the little spaces and to level it’s self out. Set your piece aside again and refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to finish curing the rest of the way.  

 

Depending on the temperature of the room you’re working on, the resin may need more or less time to be ready. Test your piece by gently tapping the sides or bottom of your mold. It should feel very solid and sturdy. If it’s ready, start on one side and gently pull the mold from the side of the piece, working your way around the edge. If the mold doesn’t want to come away from the resin, use liquid soap and water to flood into the mold and get it free. Your silicone molds can rip, so never use force to try removing them. When you have it free from all of the sides, carefully peel the silicone free from the bottom of your piece and remove the entire thing. Now turn your piece over and see what you’ve made! Hopefully you love it, but if not, remember that each piece is different, and sometimes things don’t always come out the way you expect. That’s part of the fun of learning a new skill! Practice makes perfect, so be sure to keep at it! Resin takes up to three days to cure completely, so be sure to set your piece somewhere flat and safe to finish up.  

Resin is such a fun way to make beautiful pieces of functional art. Did you make a piece along with me? Let me know your favorite parts, show me in the comments here or at my page, (1) SaraLux | Facebook. I love seeing everyone’s unique creations, and as always, happy crafting!


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