Resin 101: Choosing a Resin and the 5 Basic Resin Jewelry-Making Steps

There have been so many great new resin jewelry supplies and resources to come on the market lately (like my favorite new book, Susan Lenart Kazmer's Resin Alchemy), I find myself with a renewed passion for what has always been a favorite technique. I've been encouraging all of my friends and family who are even a little inclined to make jewelry to give resin a try. The same goes for you! If you don't already use resin to make jewelry, I encourage you to try it–it's one of the most fun and creative jewelry making techniques. Here's a quick intro with tips for making jewelry with resin.

  
Paper, Resin, and Peridot Pendant
by Eleanore Macnish

Making Resin Jewelry 101

One of the most popular uses of resin in jewelry making is to seal images and/or found objects in bezels to create resin jewelry. Mixed-media jewelry artists create small collages in bezels and preserve them under resin. Making resin jewelry is a great way to turn beloved paper ephemera (ticket stubs, bits of love letters, small newspaper clippings) or meaningful found objects (pieces of fabric, watch parts, shells, feathers, flowers, acorns) into long-lasting jewelry mementos that you can wear. Resin also helps strengthen even the most fragile of those objects; even tiny bird's egg shells can be coated with resin, turning something incredibly fragile into a handmade jewelry component. 

 
Resin and Bronze Wire Cuff by Helen Driggs

Choosing a Resin

There are two basic types of resin: two-part (resin plus hardener) epoxy resin that you mix as you need it or a premixed variety that you simply pour straight from the bottle. Take care when mixing resin, because if the ratios are off, your resin might not cure properly, resulting in a resin that won't ever harden or that might stay tacky indefinitely. There are a few characteristics to consider when choosing and working with resin:

  • Cure times: How quickly does your resin cure? Do you want it to cure fast, for convenience, or slow, so that you have more work time? You can get it either way.
  • Clarity: How clear will your resin be when it's cured? Or will it yellow? Does that matter to you?
  • Doming: Will it dome well? Is it self-leveling?
  • Bubbling: Is it more prone to bubble than other resins?
  • Surface: Does this resin cure hard and shiny on the surface? Or will it remain tacky and/or dull?
  • Fumes: Most resins are practically or entirely fume-free and non-toxic. Do your research, especially if children or children's jewelry is involved.
 
Embedded Wire in Resin Earrings & Pendant
by Annie Osburn

5 Basic Resin Steps: Seal, Layer, Pour, Pop, Cure

Making resin jewelry and other creations can be broken down into these five basic steps:

1. Seal: Before embedding paper, fabric, flower petals, leaves, or other porous ephemera in resin, you must seal it with a sealant (such as Mod Podge). Paint the top, bottom, and sides with a few thin coats, allowing it to dry between coats. Printed pieces that aren't sealed properly can blur or darken strangely when the resin permeates them, and all unsealed pieces can cause dreaded bubbles.

2. Layer: Build your tiny collages in layers to create interesting dimension. Create even more dimension by building multiple resin layers, because embedded objects will likely sink to the bottom of the bezel otherwise. Add a layer of resin over your first ephemera layer and repeat, putting items in place one layer at a time and allowing layers to set almost completely in between.

3. Pour: Add resin into bezels slowly to avoid spillover (it's usually self-leveling) and, more importantly, to prevent trapping air inside, which causes bubbles.

4. Pop: Use a pin or sharp toothpick to pierce bubbles as quickly as possible, before the resin begins to set. You can also very quickly pass a torch flame near the surface of the resin (don't use a heat gun or hair dryer, which can blow dust etc. into the resin). The heat causes the bubbles rise to the surface and pop.

5. Cure: All resins need to cure (dry and harden). Many resins cure in about 24 hours in normal settings, but some resins can cure faster. UV resin cures in minutes when placed under a UV light (or a little slower when placed in direct sunlight). Even hardware-store resins come in quick-dry options (used more for securing pieces that need to hold together quickly, almost like glue) or slower-curing options that allow you to have more time to work on your resin jewelry projects, remove bubbles, etc.

 
 

Creative Resin Effects 

After you have these basic resin steps down, you can get a little more creative. Sand the surface of your resin (as shown on the left) to create a matte finish (and to hide imperfections or bubbles, if needed). Paint or draw (with paint markers) on top of the resin, or carve designs in cured resin and rub ink or paint over the surface and wipe away excess, allowing the color to remain in the carved recesses. I've recently become intrigued with adding sparkle or embellishments (such as glitter or rhinestone chain) to the outside of resin jewelry too, to create an even more dimensional look. You can make see-through resin jewelry by securing a backing of clear packing tape on the back of a backless bezel. Create your resin masterpiece as usual in the bezel, and remove the tape after the resin has cured.

I love to make resin jewelry, mostly because it allows me to preserve bits and pieces of many little things I adore and collect–and turn them into tiny meaningful works of art. In addition to Susan's beautiful book Resin Alchemy and her classic video, Exploring Resin Jewelry Making, you can get lots of great resin jewelry-making ideas from our eProjects! I always think of our eProjects as a great way to dip your toe into a new jewelry-making technique you want to try. And if you're ready for mixing resin with metal, try Jennie Milner's super clever rings tutorial in her Resin Bling Ring video. You'll learn to make fabulous resin rings using copper tubing and silver wire–with no soldering required!  

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