Resin Turning 101: How to Create Blanks for Turning Projects
We recently launched our Epoxy/Resin Kits, and there are numerous uses for these products, from resin jewelry, to resin arts and crafts.
But epoxy turning (a favorite medium of our April Featured Artist) is one that we wanted to cover in-depth. Resin turning can be used to create a wide range of projects, including:
- Epoxy pens
- Wine stoppers
- Holiday decorations
- Toys like tops
Ultimately, no matter what you plan to make, every epoxy turning project starts with creating a blank. This guide offers a how-to for making a blank, especially for epoxy pens and other smaller crafts. Plus, we offer information about mixing resin to create blanks, as well as lathe tips for resin turning.
Making Epoxy Blanks: Supplies
Making your own blanks for resin pen turning projects is a fairly straightforward process. To start creating blanks, you’ll need:
- Scale (or measuring cups)
- Casting molds (Silicon, hard plastic or DIY molds work great)
- Infrared thermometer
- Plastic mixing cups
- Mica powder for coloring
- Stir sticks
- Mold release (optional)
- Rubber gloves / safety goggles
- Pressure pot (optional)
Why Use a Pressure Pot?
A pressure pot uses high pressure (typically 40-50 psi) to crush air bubbles in resin castings. Air bubbles in resin can weaken the finished blank, and cause brittleness, cracking or other imperfections.
Do you need a pressure pot? It depends on the depth of your pour. For pours deeper than a quarter inch, a pressure pot is recommended. If not using one, you should take extra care during mixing to avoid introducing air bubbles into the mixture. Pour slowly, mix slowly, and push any bubbles to the side of your mixing cup to release them.
Step-by-Step: Creating a Resin Blank
You can create a blank with an epoxy resin kit, which consists of a resin and a hardener. The resin and hardener are thoroughly mixed and micas (or other colorants) are added in, before the mixture is poured into a mold.
Here’s a short process of how to make resin blanks without a pressure pot:
Step 1: Start with resin. Pour resin slowly into a mixing cup. Pour slowly to avoid creating air bubbles in the mixture.
Step 2: Pour in the hardener. Next, pour in Part B, the hardener. Slice of the Moon’s epoxy kits have a 1:1 ratio, equal parts resin to hardener.
Step 3: Mix thoroughly. Stir the mixture well until the mixture becomes clear. Pay special attention to the sides and bottom of the cup; make sure both parts are fully incorporated.
Step 4: Add in color. Once the mixture is clear, stir occasionally until the material reaches a temperature of 85-90 degrees. Measure your mica powder and add to the mixture. If you’re using 2 or more colors, separate your mixture into smaller cups and create multiple color mixtures.
Step 5: Pour into your molds. If you’re pouring a single color, you can pour the mixture after completing Step 4. With two or more colors, wait until the material is about 100 degrees, which ensures proper color separation. Start with your base color; then add in accent colors.
Step 6: Pressure pot. Pressure has little effect on curing time. To be safe, leave the blank in the pot for the full recommended resin cure time for the brand you’re using.
Step 7: Demold your blanks. Remove the resin blank from the mold. Most epoxy/resin kits require 24 to 72 hours to fully dry. Using a mold release spray will prevent the resin from binding to the mold.
Resin Curing Times and Temperatures
When you mix resin and hardener, an exothermic reaction occurs and heat is released. Working with resin requires an understanding of time and temperature, and that’s why an infrared thermometer is a worthy investment.
Why temperatures matter
If you wait too long to pour or mix colors, epoxy will be unworkable and too gelled up to properly pour. Or if you don’t wait long enough, the mixture will be too runny, which can cause coloring issues and color bleed.
That’s why temperatures and times are so important, when pouring resin. Here are some handy temperatures and times to remember:
- Quick tip: A space heater is great for warming your workshop. And if your epoxy is too cold, place the bottles in a bowl of warm water prior to use.
Resin Turning: Tips for the Lathe
Resin turning and wood turning are similar process, but there are a few differences. In general, try turning resin at higher speeds compared to wood, and you might find traditional chisels and turning tools aren’t as effective as carbide tools.
Here are a few considerations for lathing resin:
Carbide cutting tools. Although traditional turning tools will work (just make sure they are very sharp), carbide cutters tend to perform best with resin. Carbide cutters scrape the surface, rather than cut the material (which is what a traditional tool does).
Negative rakes. All carbide tools - negative, positive or zero rake tools - will work. But negative rakes - which means the tool slopes away from the cutting edge – tend to offer smooth, consistent cuts on hard materials like epoxy resin.
Apply pressure gently. Start by testing out different pressures, but avoid putting too much pressure on the turning blank. This will melt the resin.
Start slowly. Start with some very light passes to smooth out the surface of the blank. This can help to reduce blow-outs and chipping.
Turning speeds. Typically, resin blanks should be turned at higher speeds than wood, but ultimately, the speed you choose depends on factors like the size of your blank and the types of tools you’re using. You might try 2,500-3,000 RPM for turning epoxy, especially smaller pieces.
Ultimately, the best advice is to experiment. Try different lathe speeds, different pressures, and different types of tools, until you’ve found a set-up that works for you.
Find more epoxy resin tips in our guide: "How to Use Mica Powder in Epoxy Resin."
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