These detailed instructions for making resin jewelry will get you started making gorgeous projects and help you to solve any problems you have encountered.
It may take a little bit of trial and error to work out all of the details, but once you have experimented with a few batches of jewelry resin, you'll be amazed at what you can make with just a few simple and inexpensive supplies and pieces of equipment.
I use polyurethane casting resin (just check the label on the bottle carefully to ensure this is what you are buying).
You can also buy polyester casting resin, but I like to stay away from this stuff. It is supposed to be better for casting large pieces, but it is also quite toxic.
I once accidentally bought polyester resin, and decided to try it out. It had an extremely strong odour, which lingered on my pendants forever. In spite of using good ventilation, it gave me an awful headache, and it was difficult to use (my pieces never fully cured).
So, I'd suggest sticking with polyurethane. It should meet your needs well if you're making resin jewelry.
Also, you can buy resin that you mix at a one to one ratio, that is, you combine equal amounts of resin and catalyst, or you can buy resin that requires adding just a few drops of catalyst.
By far, I prefer using the one to one mix. It is much easier to use, and, while you do have to measure carefully, the one to one mixes are a little more forgiving if your measurements are off by a little bit.
Easy Cast Resin is probably the most commonly used and widely available brand; you can buy resin online or at many local art supply stores.
Colores is another brand I've used, but I've only found it at the jewelry supply wholesaler, RioGrande (you need a business number to set up an account with them).
1. Protect your work surface and yourself.
Cover your work surface with waxed paper. Resin spilled on furniture can result in a big mess.
Latex gloves will protect your hands, safety goggles will protect your eyes, and it's recommended that you also use a respirator designed for fumes.
2. Prepare any items that you will be embedding.
If you are including images printed on paper or transparencies, cut them out to the desired shape. If you want your images to fully cover the bottom of a bezel, be very careful to cut them out at exactly the right size.
You must also coat the paper (front and back) with Mod Podge. This step prevents discoloration of your paper images. Be sure to let them dry completely.
3. Decide what you will use to shape your resin.
For the easiest resin jewelry project, you can use empty bezels.
If you don't want to use a bezel, you can buy molds made specifically for casting resin jewelry. This is a slightly more advanced project.
If you want to get really creative, you can create your own molds. I use Oomoo for making molds.
Oomoo is inexpensive and fun and easy to work with. It opens up a whole new world of jewelry making options.
4. If you are using molds, use mold release. If you are using bezels, skip ahead to step 5.
Ensure your molds are perfectly clean, then spray the mold with mold release and let it dry.
If you are using bezels instead of molds, do not spray them with mold release. The purpose of mold release is to help the piece easily pop out of the molds, you do not want it to pop out if you are using bezels!
5. Put your paper images in the bezels (optional).
This step is only necessary if you are embedding paper images in bezels. Set your paper image in each bezel. Press it firmly to the bottom of the bezel, and ensure it is flat, it completely covers the bottom of the bezel and it is not crooked.
6. Mix the resin and the catalyst
I use small graduated medicine cups (the kind you use to give medicine to little kids) to measure and mix. They are inexpensive and allow you to accurately measure for small batches. Pour the resin and the catalyst into a medicine cup in the proportions specified on the package.
If you wanted to make one ounce of resin using a product that was mixed using a one to one ratio, first you'd pour one half ounce of resin into the medicine cup. Bend down so the cup is at eye level; this will help you measure more accurately.
Next, you'd pour one half once of catalyst into the same measuring cup.
The cup will already contain one half ounce of resin, so you'll just add the catalyst until the mixture reaches the one ounce mark, that way you'll have one half ounce of resin and one half ounce of catalyst in the same medicine cup.
Measuring each component in the same cup is much more accurate than measuring them in separate cups, and accuracy is crucial.
If you measure in separate cups, you'll then have to pour one component into the other and you'll lose some of the poured component because it will stick to the sides of its original cup.
Although it's not necessary, you may also add color at this stage. Instructions vary depending on the brand you are using, so carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions for adding color.
Stir slowly with a clean popsicle stick for two minutes. Do not stir fast, or you will create air bubbles, which are difficult to get rid of and will ruin the look of your jewelry (unless you want air bubbles as an effect).
Also, be careful to scrape the popsicle stick along the edges and bottom of the cup so everything is well mixed.
Slowly pour your mixture into another medicine cup and stir a little bit more. This step will ensure everything is well mixed and will eliminate any chance that resin sticking to the sides of the first cup did not get mixed.
7. Time to pour!
Slowly pour the resin into the bezels or molds.
8. Get rid of air bubbles
The best cure for air bubbles is prevention. That is why it is so important to mix and pour your resin slowly. However, a few air bubbles are inevitable.
If you look around, you'll find plenty of tips for getting rid of air bubbles. I'm sure I've tried them all, and the best strategy is to use a heat gun. Briefly hold the heat gun just above the resin, and you'll see tiny bubbles rise to the top and pop.
9. Including treasures in your resin
If you are going to include any treasures, now's the time to do it.
If you are including light items that will float, like glitter or images printed on transparency paper, you can include them right away, you don't have to let the resin cure at all.
If you do include an image on a transparency (some people use shrink plastic, I have always used transparency sheets), use a pair of tweezers to hold the transparency and dip it in the leftover resin in the medicine cup. You may want to pass a heat gun over this resin first to avoid air bubbles.
Coating the transparency in resin before you place it in the mold or bezel will help eliminate air bubbles between the resin and the transparency. Place the transparency face down if you are using a mold, or face up if you are using a bezel.
If you are adding a 3D element to your mold (like a little plastic toy) you must do it in layers.
Pour your first thin layer of resin, let it harden, cover the element you are embedding and then arrange it face down on the cured first layer. Pour more resin; ensure that your item is completely covered in resin. Get out your heat gun again to get rid of any bubbles in the second layer.
10. Cover it and let it cure
Cover your items with a perfectly clean box (this will keep any dust from sticking to your uncured resin) and let it cure. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for curing times. Generally, your pieces will be cured to the touch in 24 hours, but it takes several days to be fully cured.
11. Drilling holes (optional)
If you want to drill a hole in your resin jewelry, you must use a hand drill. Do not use a regular drill. Even set at a low speed, a power drill will generate too much heat and melt your resin jewelry.
12. Sanding and Polishing
If you'd like to sand your resin jewelry, you can start with more coarse sandpaper (100-180 grit) to sand out large-ish bumps (for example, if you want to smooth the edges of a piece that you have not set in a bezel).
Work your way down to finer grit (600-1500 grit) wet/dry sandpaper to finish the piece. You will find fine grit wet/dry sandpaper in the automotive section of many department stores.
Sand your item underwater (to reduce dust) using gentle pressure.
Be aware that sanding your jewelry will turn the very clear finish into a more cloudy finish, so be certain that this effect is what you want before you start sanding.
You can also polish up your work with a little bit of carnauba wax, which you will also find in the automotive department. I use Mother's brand, which comes in a red bottle, but there are several brands to choose from. Simply cover the resin with a thin layer of carnauba wax. Let it dry for a few minutes, and then use a soft cloth to polish off the excess carnauba wax.
Supplies - All the Supplies You'll Need for a Resin Jewelry Project
Since it can be helpful to see a process in action, I've included a series of videos that shows the process of making resin jewelry (just scroll down a bit). The music in the videos may start to grate on you a bit, but the instructions are detailed and excellent.
There are a few things you may want to do a bit differently than the videos suggest:
Making Resin Jewelry Part Two:
Making Resin Jewelry Part Three: