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Epoxy Resin : Everything You Need to Know and How to Use It
What Is Epoxy Resin?
Epoxy resin, or two-part epoxy, is a hard composite that is made when an epoxide and polyamine are combined. The epoxide is the foundational base of the composite, while the polyamine is the hardening substance. When the two viscous solutions are combined, they chemically bond together to create a solid clear glasslike compound. When combined, the substance starts to harden very quickly and can be hard to manipulate even after fifteen to thirty minutes depending on the thickness. The resin will be mostly cured within 24 hours and completely hardened in 72 hours. People often speed up curing times by adding heat with the use of a heat lamp, space heater or a heat gun.
What Is Epoxy Resin Used For?
Not to be confused with Epoxy Paint or Epoxy Adhesive, Epoxy Resin has many different uses. It has been used in the construction and airline industries for years. One of the most popular uses for epoxy resin these days is in woodworking.
Epoxy resin is an outstanding bonding agent and will bond with any wood type. It also bonds well with glass and aluminum. Unfortunately, epoxy resin does not bond well with Teflon, polyethylene, polypropylene, nylon, or Mylar. It bonds poorly to polyvinyl chloride, acrylic and polycarbonate plastics.
Why Use Epoxy Resin in Woodworking?
Woodworkers have been using epoxy resin in their craft for many years. It is relatively inexpensive and is used to strengthen wood, a bonding agent or even adding a touch of color with any variety of pigments. Due to the resin starting as a slow moving liquid that hardens over time, it is ideal for filling for small cracks and crevices. The addition of epoxy resin gives strength to wood that has been weakened by rot or other deterioration. Besides the strengthening properties it serves as a waterproofing agent and gives a brilliant glossy sheen on top of wood. Woodworkers use epoxy resin on cutting boards, coasters, bar tops, necklaces, rings, benches, skateboards. There is an endless amount of uses for epoxy resin in the woodcraft industry.
Uses in Woodwork
Depending on the use of the resin in the woodworking project you can apply it in many different ways. From resin + wood iPhone cases to mixing a large batch to join large pieces of wood or metal together or small batches to fill out minor cracks or imperfections. Below are the more common ways in which woodworkers are using epoxy resin in their work or repair.
Photo by Russ Hendricks
1. Filling Holes, Cracks and Knots
Woodworkers all too often come across a beautiful piece of timber that has a blemish, crack or weakness. That part of the wood may be functional or even visible to onlookers. Instead of getting rid of the wood, or filling with off colored wood putty, the solution is to fill the flaw with epoxy. The smaller cracks can be filled with clear epoxy and sanded to make the boards look flat and smooth. The larger holes can be filled with a mixture of fine sawdust and epoxy, cured and sanded smooth. The results of both applications are beautiful and you’ll be hard pressed to find the patches afterwards.
2. Wood Stabilization
Often wood that is weakened over time from the elements is better preserved than replaced. Rain, snow and insects can rot away at a piece of lumber. Using resin to preserve this type of wood can be a less cumbersome and more cost efficient than replacing a piece of lumber that is already available. Stabilizing hardens wood which makes it much stronger, denser and reduces shrinkage. It reinforces the fibers to reduce tear out that is common to soft, rotted or end grain lumber. Pigment and dye color can be used during the process as well. This will penetrate the wood and give it a more profound coloring.
Joinery is a part of woodworking that involves joining together pieces of timber or lumber, to produce more complex items. General and custom epoxy formulations work well with joinery. Joinery emphasizes precision cutting of wood pieces and parts but adding a small amount of epoxy to join them together makes the bonding that much stronger.
Common Wood and Resin Projects
Woodworkers initial uses of resin were geared towards repair and strengthening. In the last ten years, more craftsmen have been using resin as an artistic aspect of their projects. Below are a few of the most popular resin and wood projects that woodworkers have been creating.
1. Resin River Table
The most popular epoxy resin project is called an epoxy resin river table or a live edge resin river table. The table is made using two table length live-edge pieces of lumber and joining them using a channel of epoxy resin down the middle. The resin is added in multiple layers, no more than a few millimeters thick, with epoxy resin that has been tinted in different shades of blue, green or white with a translucent resin pigment.
2. Resin Bowls
People have been making wooden bowls since there was a need to hold food while eating. That’s a pretty long time. With the development of the wood lathe and epoxy resin bowl turning has gone to a whole new level. By adding resin to stabilize the wood and then turning on a lathe a woodworker can become an artist of sorts.
3. Resin Rings and Jewelry
The small handmade crafts are consistently used with epoxy resin. From wooden rings and pendants to earrings and bracelets, by adding a small amount of resin an artisan can create a stronger piece of jewelry that is unique and heirloom quality.
These are just a few of the most common items being created with the use of epoxy resin. It’s wide variety of uses will only increase as time goes on and craftsmen test it out on new projects.