Several people have asked how I completed my most recent wood working project. I used a photoluminescent (glow in the dark) pigment powder and did a resin casting in the wood. It's a beautiful finish that functions as a hard, durable, and water resistant clear polyurethane. And it looks cool. Below is a detailed explanation of my process and a full materials list. These are the materials that I used; however, many of them could be easily substituted. Further, I continue to tweak my process as I complete new projects and learn how to use resin with woods.
Here is my bench glowing in the day time.
And here it is in the dark:
Tools and Supplies (affiliate links)
- .5 mil Low Density Polyethylene Plastic Sheeting ($5.45)
- Benzomatic Propane Torch Cylinder ($13.14)
- Benzomatic Self Igniting Trigger ($29.97)
- Aleene’s Glossy Decoupage ($7.71)
- Envirotex Lite (32 oz. kit is fairly large. It's the size I usually buy, but is available in smaller sizes) ($33.02)
- Photoluminescent Pigment Powder I bought 2 ozs. but only used about 1/5th of the powder. This seller has other quantities available. ($17.58)
- 16 oz. Clear Plastic Cups ($9.99)
- Level ($6.97)
- Stir Sticks ($3.33)
- Foam Brush ($2.55)
- Gloves ($6.94)
- Respirator ($23.99)
Many of these items are one time purchases and would allow you to do multiple projects.
Sand wood entirely so that you have the top you want. You won’t be able to resand much after you start applying resin, so you want to get a nice smooth finish on the top before you begin with resin. You want to eliminate all burn or saw marks if your wood isn’t planed. My wood was too big to fit through my planer, so I used an orbital sander to get it smooth.
Identify the areas that you will fill with resin. Coat entirely with Aleene’s Glossy Decoupage. You could also use mod podge, polyurethane, or just a mixture of elmer’s and water. The idea is to complete fill any open cells of the wood with a clear coat. This will drastically reduce the bubbles in your resin as air will not be able to pass through. I have begun to use Aleene’s because it dries pretty quickly, it applies white, so I can see where I have covered, and it dries completely clear. I do two coatings. I apply the aleene’s with foam brushes.
Step three: Close any places on the edge with tape. I use blue painter’s tape for this. The sticky side touches the resin. It’s kind of a pain to peel off, but it’s the best at preventing resin from flowing out of your cavity. I have tried lots of other methods (including gluing down high density plastics, freezer paper and parchment paper). I think the blue painter’s tape is ultimately the easiest.
You can see on the edge that there is some glue residue (from where I attempted to glue down freezer paper and then failed to sand it back down because it was on the last pour). Painter's tape all the way.
Step four: Lay down your drop cloth (the clear plastic) and level your piece. You may have to shim your piece. Basically, just recognize that the resin is self levelling, so you want to make sure the top is as level as possible. Also, make sure that your project isn’t sitting directly on the plastic. Put the legs (or bottom) up on four even surfaces. The resin won’t stick to the plastic if it drips over the edge, but it will stick to the bottom of your piece, which you don’t want.
Step five: Mix your resin. Just follow the instructions on the packaging. There are lots of great videos out there on how to mix resin. I pour my solutions into two identical clear plastic cups. The resin comes in two parts. It's important to get exactly the same amount of both parts, which is why I got clear plastic. It's easier to make sure they are exactly the same. I pour solution A into solution B and mix with a dowel. The stir sticks are really worth the money. They make it much easier to totally scrape the sides and make sure you aren't leaving resin behind when you transfer it from one container to another. I pour the whole solution back into the Solution A cup. Stir. Then I pour the whole thing into a clean cup and continue to mix for another 90 seconds. Stir, stir, stir. You can't over mix it, but you can under mix it. I use three cups in all and I clean the dowel in between each pour. I wear a respirator and gloves. The off gassing is minimal, but I do a lot of this and I like my brain cells.
Step six: Get a piece of parchment paper and pour out a small amount of resin on the paper. Mix pigment powder in that small bit of resin. Once it is totally mixed, scrape it back into the full container of resin and mix it up. This is important because the pigment powder clumps and it’s hard to get it well mixed in a large batch.
You can see here that my pigment powder was not mixed well. It's a bit clumpy in the middle.
Step seven: Pour the mixed resin into the cavity. Wait for bubbles to rise. There are two ways to get rid of bubbles. I use a benzomatic propane torch. You just screw the canister on to the lighter and press the button. The torch is very easy to use and not at all intimidating for those who shy away from things like that. It’s basically a large flambe torch. I run the flame just above the resin for the length of the project. Don't hold it too long in any one spot as the flame will burn the resin if you do. The heat draws the air out of the resin eliminating bubbles. Unfortunately, heat also draws air through the pores of the wood if there isn’t a clean barrier (made with Aleene’s). After about thirty minutes the resin will got too thick for bubbles to pass through. About twenty minutes after you pour the resin, you need to keep a close eye for bubbles and get rid of them quickly. You can remove bubbles without heat by using a straw and blowing them out. This works when the resin isn’t too stiff. The carbon dioxide in your breath pops the bubbles without introducing as much heat. You can also try to pop them with a pin, but I find that method largely ineffective because of the density of the resin. For the most part, I use the propane torch and try to make sure I have a good solid coating of the decoupage. I pay much more attention to bubbles after the 20 minute mark. After about 30 minutes, it will be too late remove bubbles, so you want to stay with the project during that time.
After you pour the resin, check for leaking. You want to make sure that the resin isn’t pouring out of the cavity on to the floor through some hole you failed to plug with blue painter’s tape. Sometimes, the resin will seep under the painter’s tape, in which case, I plaster the area with a lot more tape. You want to check for this right after you pour. The bubbles can wait until you plug the hole. You don’t want to lose your resin to the floor.
Depending on how deep the cavity is, I pour resin in mulitple layers. This has a major advantage in working with glow in the dark pigment powders. I add more pigment powder to the bottom layers. That way, you can see into the resin a bit and eventually, the bottom disappears into a full glow. It gives the final piece a murky, eerie, radiation kind of glow. Also, the dry time is really long for thick resins. I usually don't pour more than about 12 ozs. of mixed resin at a time.
- This edge was poured in multiple layers, yet you really can't tell at all. I think I did the whole bench in 5 layers including the top coat.
When I’m pouring the top layer, I sometimes run the edge with blue painter’s tape. This is only done if the top isn’t level enough to get good coverage everywhere. The blue painter’s tape will keep all the resin on the top and act as a self leveller. After that layer dries, I remove the tape, trim the sharp edge a bit with an exacto knife and pour one last layer which runs over the edge. That gives me a nice rounded top edge. The exacto knife will create unsightly marks where you trimmed, but that will go away as soon as your pour a new layer.
I also use an old credit card or a folded photograph to smooth the top layer out a bit. Sometimes, when the piece is really level, the resin will pool somewhat. You can smooth it with a card or tilt the project to get the resin running.
- Make sure to pour in a warm environment, around 70 degrees or higher. Use a heater if you need to. The resin will not smooth out if it’s too cold when you pour. Warm, dry air will shorten your drying time. It’s difficult to cure the resin properly in moist, cold air.
Please ask questions about parts of this tutorial that are unclear. Also, I'll be doing another project soon, so please let me know if you'd like photos or video of certain parts.