Monday, 18 July 2016

Resin that's worth the wait!

We test out the new slowcure epoxy resin from Resin8.

I was really pleased when Kate and Clare at Resin8 asked me to test their new resin. I was running low on my usual resin and was right in the middle of making a whole stack of pendants for a fast-approaching event. I knew I could test out the new product and then put it to work right away!

The slowcure epoxy resin is exactly what it says on the bottle – it’s a high quality and crystal clear resin which takes longer to cure than many other resins out there. If left to cure at the correct temperature and humidity levels, you can expect your pieces to be ready in around 19-24 hours. The advantage of this slower curing time is a resin that is less prone to yellowing and that is virtually bubble free.

Up until now, I have used the Chemset Resin and Hardener which is mixed by weight in the ratio 2 : 1. The new slowcure resin is a little different in its chemical makeup and so the mixing ratio is slightly different too. It is still a two to one ratio, but by volume rather than weight. Two small measuring cups are provided to you can’t go far wrong,  but if you are more comfortable mixing by weight, the instructions also give you the weight ratio of 100g (resin) to 45g (hardener) or 1 : 0.45. This would be fine if you are mixing a nice easy amount e.g. 10g of resin to 4.5g of hardener but could mean you’ll need a calculator to work out more complicated mixed resin quantities.

Measuring resin by weight instead of volume
I knocked up a table so I could potentially mix up smaller amounts of resin more quickly and without needing measuring cups (that then need cleaning!).

I first planned a few pendants to test how the resin behaved – from a simple clear layer over a mount with a paper insert to embedding objects, and finally to filling open-ended mounts and embedding crystal chatons into the cured resin. The different shaped mounts allowed me to see how the resin travelled into corners and levelled itself. 

Blue Tack to secure the mount in place
I began by sealing background papers — all resins will get ‘sucked’ up by porous paper unless there is a barrier preventing it. I cut them to size to fit the various silver plated mounts. I prepared my mounts for the resin by sticking in the sealed background papers and gluing in any items to be embedded using two-part epoxy glue. I set them onto acrylic blocks so they were perfectly flat, using Blue Tack to keep them in place.

Note: ensure that no Blue Tack protrudes above the rim of the mount, even by a quarter of a millimetre else it will wick the resin right out of the mount and onto your acrylic block, leaving you with a lot of cleaning up to do!

All the same safety guidelines apply when using this resin — protect your clothing and work surface, work in a ventilated room and protect your skin with a barrier cream.

Mixing removes streakiness
I measured out 10ml of Resin and 5ml of Resin Hardener (2:1 ratio by volume). I poured them into a mixing pot. You will notice that the resin is milky and streaky when you first begin to mix but it becomes clearer and clearer as you keep mixing. 

The mixed resin is very fluid. This is good news for getting it into all the corners of your pendant mount and I didn’t need to coax it at all in this regard. I filled the first square mount and any bubbles just disappeared without the need to pass over with a naked flame. The resin doesn’t specify whether it gives a domed finish but it formed a nice rounded surface anyway, perfect for this type of pendant. I moved on to the mounts with embedded objects. The resin flowed really easily around the charms, forming a nice surface as before.

Using open ended mounts
To use the watch pendant charm and open bezel pendant, I fixed them to short lengths of wide adhesive tape. The tape forms a seal around one side, allowing you to fill with resin without it seeping out the bottom edges. I filled the watch pendant to create a nice rounded surface around the added vintage watch face embellishment. For the round open bezel pendant, I added just a very thin layer of resin to form a clear base.

After all those pendants, I still had mixed resin left so I made up two more mounts with a tea theme. The resin will sit quite happily for a long time while you mess around with mounts, background papers and objects to embed so there was no rushing or panicking that it was going to thicken and become unusable.

I left everything to cure in a warm and dust-free spot and decided to come back to them in 24 hours. The instructions tell you that the resin will be cured in 19-24 hours however, mine still a felt a little bit tacky to the touch when I checked them after a day. This might have been because the humidity was high in my workroom. They were fine when I checked them a few hours later. 
I added embedded crystals to one of the pendants and was able to drill nice neat wells in the resin surface using a hand drill.

Overall, I was impressed by the new product. I particularly liked the absence of bubbles in filled mounts and the general clarity of the finished pieces. The measuring by volume will take a bit of getting used to, so I may revert to my table and test out measuring by weight instead. I’ll also have to find some patience from somewhere too if I am going to use it for my layered pieces. 19 hours between each layer is a long time to wait!

And if you are wondering how my open bezel pendant worked out? I added sea glass and resin in layers to achieve a window effect. You’ll need to sign up to our newsletter to see the finished piece and find instructions to make your own!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Book Review - Metal Jewelry Made Easy “A crafter’s guide to fabricating Necklaces, Earrings and More” by Jan Loney

We asked award winning designer, Dawn Gatehouse, to review our latest title. 

Dawn has been creating jewellery for six years and has regularly had tutorials published in several jewellery making publications. Specialising in wirework, she has also more recently been developing her metalsmithing skills and was the perfect choice for this review.

I was really excited to receive this book as it is full of lovely projects. Before diving straight in though there there are some very comprehensive chapters on “Getting Started” which cover raw materials, design, measuring and safety. 

The “Tool & Supplies” section covers all the tools you will ever need and some handy tips. It also covers soldering in great depth. The “Techniques” section is well laid out and covers everything from piercing, stamping and forging to casting and reticulation.

There are so many beautiful projects in this book using both sheet metal and different gauges of wire. All have really clear step by step instructions, including images and wonderfully clear photographs of the finished pieces.

Projects using wire and metal sheet

My version of the 'Gingko' earrings
As I was choosing which projects to try I was somewhat limited as I don't yet have all the tools to make some of the items. I now have a rolling mill, nylon stake and a crucible for casting on my metalsmithing wishlist!. I decided to make the 'Gingko' earrings first. The instructions were well laid out and easy to follow. The earrings I made are not formed as the ones in the tutorial as I used thicker silver than described in the ingredients. That being said I am still really happy with the results. 

My Pearl and Wire earrings

I also decided to make the pearl and wire earrings which I really enjoyed as I love anything to do with wire. I did not have the stud and ball earposts with an eye as listed so I decided to make my own earwires for the earrings which look just as nice.

This book is great to have in your collection if you are interested in metalsmithing, particularly as a beginner. I intend to build upon my tool supplies in the next few years so will come back to this lovely book time and again.

Metal Jewelry Made Easy by Jan Loney, published by Lark (£12.99, available from

ISBN 978-1454709145