What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word resin?
Perhaps it is the walks through the forest where you inevitably end up with resin in your fingers and nose, given the temptation of touching a bit of the resin from the trunk of the pine trees, which automatically opens your airways with its refreshing and intoxicating aroma.
But while this association is wonderful, the term goes much further. By definition, we refer to resin as an organic substance with a viscous and sticky consistency, transparent or translucent, which solidifies in contact with air. Its origin can be vegetal, like that of the pine trees on my excursions, or it can be artificially obtained through polymerization reactions, with multiple industrial and artistic uses, which is what concerns us on this occasion.
A fascinating universe opens up, therefore, for this type of resins with great technical qualities and absolute versatility in the most diverse fields:
- Its use in paints and finishes (in printing layers, cans and other metal containers, high resistance floors, etc.).
- As great structural adhesive (on airplanes, cars, bicycles, skis).
- In multiple construction applications.
- In electrical and electronic systems – being excellent repellents of dust and humidity.
- As a means of protection in boats.
- In art. Indeed, if that was not enough, it also displays resistant, brilliant, and colourful manifestations of beauty in the art world. And the list continues.
Now it is time to get to know better a fascinating type of resin: epoxy
1.Epoxy resin, a star among resins
Epoxy resin deserves more than a special mention. But what is it exactly? To put it plainly, it is a two-component system: resin (thermosetting polymer) and hardener (catalysing agent). Mixing these two components produces a chemical reaction whereby the liquid resin gradually hardens to a solid consistency. The most common epoxy resins are the product of a reaction between bisphenol-A and epichlorohydrin.
1.1 Brief history of epoxy resin
The magic began with the discovery of the condensation reaction of epoxides and amines by the German chemist Paul Schlack, who patented epoxy resin in 1934. In the 1930s and 1940s, there was a proliferation of new varieties of epoxy resins based on bisphenol-A. Among them, the Swiss chemist Pierre Castan stood out.
Castan began creating synthetic resins for different uses such as dental prosthetics, but he continued to develop epoxy resin until he achieved a combination of epichlorohydrin and diphenols, promoting it as a suitable material for varnishes and adhesives. His work was authorized by the chemical company Ciba, Ltd. in Switzerland, which became one of the largest epoxy resin producers in the world.
Also, in 1946, a chemist named Sylvan Greenlee patented, on behalf of the Devoe & Raynolds Company, a new type of resin derived from bisphenol-A and epichlorohydrin.
1.2 Applications and advantages of epoxy resin
At the beginning, as I already mentioned, epoxy resins were applied to dental prostheses, as well as to paint manufacture and the joining of structural elements in the aeronautical industry, which later spread to other industries. Their use quickly spread and evolved, with a rapid development in the United States, where they were introduced in the construction field around 1949.
Once epoxy resin began to take off with its industrial uses in the 40s and 50s, its use in art became just as popular. Artists began mixing epoxy resin with pigments and used it as a new way to paint, poured in layers. Thus, jewellers and mixed technique artists began to use the compound to capture and preserve natural materials, as decoupage an also as art on tables and countertops.
Since then, the creations emerging from the inspiration and technique mastery of those who use epoxy in their works give us authentic dreamlike experiences materialized in a sculpture, a painting, a design table or whatever structure the author has chosen.
The result is a clear and shiny surface, which stands out for its obvious and excellent thermal, chemical, physical, and mechanical resistance. Beauty, although subjective by nature, is also undeniable when embodied in artistic creations.
- Basic factors to be considered before working with epoxy resins
If you are interested in starting to work with epoxy resins to let your creativity and skills emerge, here are some basic considerations before getting down to work:
• Depending on the thickness of the base where you are going to use the resin, you must use a different resin. For example, from 1,5 cm thick you should use epoxy resin, and when the thickness or height is less, transparent resin should be used, mixing components A and B according to the manufacturer´s instructions. This must be fully respected to mix correctly when casting and placing it on the piece, which must be properly prepared for it.
- When catalysing the resin, the temperature can reach 90 degrees Celsius. Once the catalyst decreases, the hardening process begins, which concludes with the absolute solidification.
- Don’t forget to also monitor the room temperature. It is best to keep it between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius for the process to be more efficient.
- Before starting your work with the resin, remember to check there are no particles suspended in the environment such as dust, hair, or fluff, since all this will solidify, and it will not be possible to remove it from the piece later on.
- If your intention is to place the resin on wood pieces, make sure you seal the pores the resin will touch first in order to reduce the consequent bubbles. For this sealing process, use a bit of transparent resin by preparing a small mixture and applying it with a brush in the area where the final resin will sit.
- One last point that I consider essential is the time. The drying process can take up to 6 or 7 hours, but it´s especially important to control the bubbles during the first two or three hours, eliminating them with a flaming torch. Depending on the size of the piece, you can use a small one or a professional one to cover larger spaces.
Do you dare to let yourself be conquered by epoxy resins?
After collecting and studying all the necessary information -including reading this post-, perhaps taking a course or practicing with experts, it was finally time to work with epoxy resins, or why not, to enjoy some unique piece that I carried. I hope you enjoy every minute of the process and that the result makes you fall in love as much as I do.
Written by: Itzel Navarro