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There are SO many things I wish I knew when I started pouring Epoxy Resin for my woodworking projects. There is a lot of trial-and-error wisdom in this page. That wisdom came to me in the form of many failed workpieces, most of which were a total loss. What I discovered is that when you don’t have everything set up for a great epoxy pour, there is little to no recovering. That is why I decided to write up a Beginner’s Guide to Epoxy Resin. My hope is that sharing a few of my failures will help you to avoid the same issues and deliver perfect workpieces right from the start!
If you are just starting out, you may not know a lot about the science of epoxy. Don’t worry, we’re not going to bore you with all of that! Instead, we are going to focus on a few simple things you need to know in order to have a great experience with epoxy resin pours in your woodworking. First, epoxy resin is a two-part product. Any kit that you buy will have two products. One bottle will be the resin itself, and another that will be hardener. By combining these two products together and mixing, you will start a chemical reaction. Once that chemical reaction is complete, your board will have a strong coating that will last.
Different grades and types of epoxy are available on the market. Some are food grade, while others are not. Some brands focus on providing a crystal clear finish, while others may not. Your options and price points are virtually endless when it comes to epoxy. So far, the best brand that I have found is from Specialty Resin & Chemical. Their product cures crystal clear, has an anti-yellowing agent that protects against UV damage, and they are FDA certified for indirect food contact.
Whichever epoxy resin product you choose, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s directions. The tips and tricks below apply specifically to Epox-It 80. Some manufacturers have different ratios and conditions for their epoxy applications!!
Beginner’s Guide – Preparation
A great epoxy pour starts well before any resin leaves the bottle. In order to help you get ready, you will need to make sure you have a few tools handy and that your work area is prepped and ready to go!
What you will need:
- Epoxy Resin
- Craft Stick
- Measuring Cups x 2
- Clear Mixing Cup
- Torpedo Level
- Tuck Tape
- Parchment Paper
- Heat Gun
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Epoxy manufacturers recommend that you mix, pour, and cure your epoxy resin in a well-ventilated area. In addition, they recommend that you wear splash goggles, long sleeves, and nitrile gloves. Many people choose to also wear a respirator that controls for ‘Organic Vapor’. The masks from 3M are highly trusted for this use, and many of their cartridges are capable of handling dust and organic vapors, making them ideal for woodworking and epoxy resin pours!! Also bear in mind that the cartridges do wear out over time and use, so make sure to replace them per the manufacturer’s recommendation. PPE is a choice, so you will have to find the right level of protection for you.
Choose Your Work Area
Your work area must meet four critical requirements. First, it must be large enough to fit your workpiece. Second, it must be an area that maintains a temperature higher than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Third, you will need access to an electrical outlet for your heat gun. Lastly, you must have a level work surface where you can rest your workpiece for at least 24 hours. Use your torpedo level to ensure the work area is suitable.
Prep Your Work Area
Once you have settled in to an optimum location for your epoxy pour, it is time to prep your work area. To avoid spilling epoxy on your surfaces, it is a good idea to lay down parchment paper below your workpiece and below your epoxy/hardener bottles. Parchment paper provides an excellent barrier against epoxy resin and it is relatively inexpensive. If you choose not to use Parchment Paper, wax paper or other non-porous papers can be substituted. Avoid using any porous materials, as they will absorb the epoxy and may end up making more mess than you bargained for.
Set Up Your Pouring Station
Once you mix your epoxy, you will have a limited amount of time to work with it before it cures. In order to save time and maximize your open time, having your pour station set up is critical. On a separate piece of Parchment Paper, you will want to set your Epoxy Resin, Hardener, Clear Mixing Cup, 2x Measuring Cups, and a Craft Stick.
Prep Your Workpiece
Depending on what type of project you are working on, you may have different needs in terms of preparing your workpiece for epoxy. Any places where you think epoxy might flow should be sealed off with Tuck Tape. I have used Painter’s Tape, Duck Tape, and Gorilla Tape as well. Nothing handles the epoxy as well as Tuck Tape. It has a very strong adhesion to the wood and stands up against the thermal properties of epoxy as it cures. You can substitute other tapes if you would like, but be prepared for disappointment.
Beginner’s Guide – Mixing Epoxy Resin
You have done all of the prep work. Now it is time for the real fun to begin! As we move into this phase, we are going to focus on ensuring we get equal parts of the resin and hardener into the cup together and mixing them thoroughly.
Pour Resin & Hardener
To start, pour resin in one of the measuring cups. Pour your hardener into the other measuring cup, making sure that there are equal parts of both. In my experience, I like to fill the hardener just a tiny bit fuller than the resin to ensure I do not end up with a gummy cure.
Combine In Mixing Cup
Use the Craft Stick to empty the Measuring Cup filled with Resin into the Clear Mixing Cup. Make sure to scrape the sides and give time for the Resin to ‘ooze’ out of the cup fully. Next, pour the Measuring Cup with the Hardener in to the Clear Mixing Cup. Make sure to scrape the sides of the measuring cup and get every bit of the hardener into the Mixing Cup.
Mix, Mix, Mix!
Mix your Epoxy Resin vigorously for five minutes. Make sure to change up your movements, using clock-wise, counter-clockwise, up-and-down, and cross-wise strokes. Varying your mixing pattern will help to ensure a thorough mix. Next, make sure that you are scraping the sides and bottom of the mixing cup regularly. This will help to avoid any material from caking to the sides of your cup. As you stir, you should see the epoxy starting to turn a bit cloudy. Lastly, look for bubbles forming in the epoxy resin.
Beginner’s Guide – Pouring Epoxy Resin
Epoxy resin has many uses, but we want to keep this guide simple. Therefore, we will be covering the two most basic repairs- Cracks/Splits and Voids.
Cracks / Splits
Cracks and splits occur when the cell structure of the wood shrinks or expands during drying. By applying epoxy to cracks and splits, you can sure up the wood and be relatively certain that the condition will not worsen. To fill cracks and splits, you should start by applying your epoxy to the most shallow point in the crack and allow it to flow down into the deeper recesses of the split. This allows air to escape from the split and makes it less likely that there will be air bubbles trapped in your cured epoxy. Your craft stick should hold a few drops of epoxy at a time. drip them into your cracks and splits slowly.
Decay, branch collars, or insects burrowing through the wood can leave behind voids. Voids are best filled from the bottom. To do this, choose a single spot in the void and trickle epoxy in using the Craft Stick. By allowing the epoxy to flow to the bottom of the void and soak in, you have a better chance of avoiding trapped air bubbles.
Depending on the size of the void, you may wish to pour directly out of the cup. If you decide to do this, please be very patient with your pour. Simply dumping in epoxy without giving the mixture time to absorb into the wood and settle to the bottom will most likely result in trapped air bubbles in your finished workpiece.
Beginner’s Guide – Curing Epoxy Resin
Most of the hard work is behind us, but we are not quite done yet! In this next step, we will take steps to ensure our epoxy resin cures to a hard, clear, bubble-free finish!
Once your void is filled with epoxy, it is time to apply heat. I use a Furno Heat Gun from Wagner. It has a good range of heat settings and two fan modes. I have seen other folks use a small butane torch or a hair dryer in place of a heat gun to cure epoxy. Because I have not used those methods, I cannot endorse them. I keep my heat gun on the medium setting and slow fan speed. Turn the heat gun on about 30 seconds before you need it. This allows it to warm up properly.
Now we are ready to knock out our bubbles. By simply running the Heat Gun over your epoxy pour, you should see the bubbles disappear. Make sure to apply heat every five minutes until the epoxy starts to harden, which should be about 40 minutes from mixing time. Be careful to avoid any ‘sloshing’ from the heat gun fan. It will occasionally push liquid epoxy into undesired locations if you are not careful.
Last step – We are almost done! As the wood absorbs epoxy, the levels of your pours will dip below the surface of the wood. While continuing to apply heat, monitor your fills to ensure they remain above the level of your board. Add additional epoxy as needed. Some voids will soak up quite a bit of epoxy, while others will not. It all depends on the porosity of the wood and the surface area that the epoxy is adhering to.
- Measure your epoxy carefully.
- Add a tiny bit more hardener than epoxy.
- Pour epoxy and hardener in separate measuring cups.
- Mix for five minutes.
- Always pour your epoxy and store your work pieces above 70% F.
- Ensure your work piece is 100% level.
- Pour epoxy slowly to allow air to escape.
- Apply heat to epoxy every five-ten minutes until tacky
- Top off your epoxy as the wood absorbs.
- Use Tuck Tape. This stuff is a bit expensive, but worth every penny.