Everything you need to know about epoxy resin in woodworking
Epoxy resin has a ton of different applications in woodworking making it one of the most versatile products in a makers arsenal! Unfortunately that versatility comes with an absurd amount of confusing factors to consider. This section should help you become a bit more comfortable when you're planning a project that may include resin. So lets dive into the resin rabbit hole, which is the coolest rabbit hole in woodworking... I mean its less boring than the sanding rabbit hole, so we're already winning!
Whats the best brand of resin out there?
That's a tough question since not all resin is created equal. There are countless brands creating countless formulas. So when you go into Home Depot and see the only option they carry... A "Bar Top Epoxy Resin Kit" that will totally fail if you try a thick pour to fill some serious voids or perhaps create one those River... ugh I mean Stream Tables. It's important to choose one that has the right properties for your application. Once we become familiar with the brands we can dive into the types of resin and what would be best suited for our project! I've selected some of my favorites brands as well as some very popular ones listing them in no particular order.
I had the privilege to work with Stone Coat this past spring. It's two brothers based in Oregon. They have a YouTube Channel filled with rock solid training content. Literally everything you would ever need to know about resin.... yeah its on their channel!!
Total Boat came highly recommended by Adam of LazyGuyDIY I picked up a gallon of their 5:1 Crystal Clear and they were kind enough to send over some 2:1 to experiment with. Their products are designed to weather the harsh conditions of high seas so you know its legit!
Ecopoxy is based in Canada and has a great reputation. They certainly have an impressive product line so I can see why they are recommended by so many! It can be a bit challenging to find their products since they sell only to distributors. You can locate a distributor near you from their site.
MAS has a crazy amount of resins and products! Pretty much any project I can think of... MAS has a specialized resin for it. I only listed a few but if you check out their site to see the whole line!
Alumilite is another company thats basically a one-stop-shop. The have rubbers for casting your own molds as well as a comprehensive line of all sorts of resins. You can coat your bar top with one resin and then cast fishing bait with another!
Ok... so what should I look for in a resin?
Let's first think about what you are creating. A lot of the resin has a max pour thickness of 1/4" so if your gap is 1" you would then need to do 4 individual pours. That takes a long time so you would want to look for a thick pour casting resin. Then you would want to look at pot life, cure time and work life followed by hardness and flexibility but consider viscosity and mix ratios when using different pigments while factoring in costs. Don't worry I'll make it easy a bit later!! For now lets focus and understand these basic characteristics so we can choose one suitable for our project.
|Pot Life||Is the amount of time the resin will remain liquid before it begins to harden to double its original viscosity. So if the Pot Life is 40 minutes... the resin will be twice as thick at 40 minutes. Air temperature will play a factor is in this as well as the resin temp prior to mixing|
|De-mold Time||Is the amount of time you can safely remove the resin from the mold. Some manufacturers say to wait for the full cure time however in some cases that isn't necessary. Air temp effects these times.|
|Cure Time||Is the amount of time it takes the resin to fully cure. So it might be hard at 16 hours but may take 72 hours to cure 100%. Many factors including air temperature can have effects on it.|
|Hardness||There's all different measurements of hardness.|
|MIx Ratio||Resin is a two part system. You have resin and then a catalyst or hardener as its often called. The ratios can be 1:1 meaning equal parts resin and hardener or they can be 2:1, 3:1, 5:1 depending on the type of resin|
|UV Protection||All resin will yellow over time with exposure to light, its an inherent characteristic. Some brands include an additive that will slow the effect over time.|
|Max Thickness Per Pour||This one... yeah it's often glossed over. So most people tell you... just do multiple pours... um no I don't want to do that. There's resin designed to not exotherm the universe when its laid on thick and that's the stuff that should be used when you are filling large voids and spaces.|
|Viscosity||Think of this as thickness or consistency of the resin. So a low viscosity would be like water and a high viscosity would be like honey. You can thin high viscosity resins my warming them up with a heat gun.|