Sunset Bangle – ‘The Making Of’
I have just had the delight of finishing my first complete resin bangle. By complete I mean sanded and finished, which is actually the most time consuming and labor intensive part of the process.
Working on this piece was very much a learning experience!
There is just nothing like that very first piece you successfully complete, is there? Mine came with several mistakes. But there is truth in the saying that mistakes are the way we learn, so I thought they would be worth sharing (not to mention making rather amusing reading)
Although I have worked with epoxy resin several times before, I did make one rather amusing blunder in my quest to eliminate bubbles when I mixed up the first batch. Heat tends to dissipate bubbles very effectively, so I stood my mixing cup in hot water while I mixed the resin. Unfortunately this overheated the resin, to the point that it started to melt the cups when I added the colours and began to stir again! With the resin rapidly jellifying (and bear in mind this is a very slow setting resin normally) I managed to pour it into the bangle mold. However, the effect of the rapid ‘going off’ of the resin, I ended up with about a million bubbles from the reaction and a gelatinous mess in my mold. Oh dear.
I managed to scrape the gelatinous goo out of the mold and discard it, after which I remixed another batch – more carefully this time! I mixed the resin cold, then stood the cup in hot water afterwards to dissipate bubbles. (This time it did not overheat.) Once poured into the mold, I used a hairdryer to further kill off those troublesome bubbles.
As is usual, the bangle de-moulded with a pretty rough look. There are always surface bubbles, as well as rough edges on the top side where the mold was open.
I neglected to take before and after photos (apologies) but if you have a look at the other bangle in this shot – the large one – you get an idea what the matte surface looks like pre-sanding in comparison to the finished bangle on the right.
Now it was time for the hard part of the process. Dun dun daaaaa…..sanding time!
Now, I have had a few different artists share with me their various processes for sanding and finishing resin, all of which advice has been extremely helpful. I would like to stress that the process I used for this particular bangle is by no means the ‘best’ way, nor likely even the most effective. However, I had the grades of sandpaper and tools on hand suggested by Kate Rohde, so hers was the process I used for this particular piece.
I started by sanding the bangle with my Dremel tool. I used it to round off the edges, take off the rough bits and lightly go over the entire surface. The result was a very rough, scratchy looking bangle…but that is a stage it had to go through.
Next I sanded the entire surface with four increasingly finer grades of sandpaper. I used WET AND DRY sandpaper from Bunnings (around 80cents a sheet) in 120, 360, 600 and 1200. I sanded the bangle wet, starting with the 120 and working my way through the grades, sanding thoroughly with each one. By the time I was finished with the 1200, I had a silky smooth surface. It was, however, still matte.
Now, at this point I’d like to remind my readers that the resin is used is EPOXY. Why is this important, you ask? Well, for one thing, it cannot be buffed and polished after sanding the way Polyester resin can. When working with Polyester, the process is quite different, and I would recommend this lovely lady’s blog for advice on working with it:
Now, moving on with the processes of my (epoxy) bangle.
Because I could not buff and polish the epoxy, I decided to follow the advice of the excellent local artist Kate Rohde.
She advised me that a lovely glassy shine could be achieved by applying a coat or two of clear enamel spray paint. A large can of the enamel cost me around $8 in Bunnings.
I set up outside because the fumes from the spray can be quite overpowering. Settling down in the warm afternoon sun (unusually warm, in fact, for late Autumn here) I sprayed the first coat on one side then sat back to wait the 10 minutes until I could touch it and turn it over to do the other side.
Of course, at that moment a random gust of wind came sailing across the lawn, snatched the plastic sheet I had lain the bangle on, and flipped it. My bangle sailed merrily onto the recently mowed grass, where it was liberally decorated with little bits that stuck to the still wet coating. :(
I managed to flick off most of the grass residue off, then planted my foot firmly on the plastic sheet to stop it taking flight again.
Unfortunately my own impatience proved a more effective adversary than the wind. After spraying a second coat on both sides – without waiting as long as I should have – I left the bangle to dry. When I next went to pick it up, I discovered the side I had rested it on was ruined from the plastic sticking to still wet varnish. This time the surface was beyond saving. So, to my chagrin, I had to completely re-sand that side all over again. And of course in the process I managed to create a few scratches on the nicely finished surfaces.
It was late night by the time I finished that second bout of sanding. (since I had gone to see the new Star Trek movie before I got home to sand it again…lol).
I took the bangle out onto the footpath in front of my unit and re-sprayed the freshly sanded side, then left it overnight to dry.
This morning, the work was all worth it! I examined my new piece in the daylight and decided that I was delighted with it :D
Since the best way to learn new techniques is through trial and error, I don’t regret any part of the process, even the mistakes. I now feel armed with the skills to create even more beautiful pieces in the future!