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Resin and Burl

Updated: Nov 17, 2023

This project has been in the work literally for years. I got interested in turning wood and resin combined almost since I started wood turning. Originally I was using a 2-part resin with look of Turquoise to fill cracks and imperfections in a dramatic way.

I still like this effect, but I wanted to try my hand at clear or translucent resin that polishes to a glass-like finish. I tried a 2 part clear resin from Alumilite. I did some test pours and they all failed. I ended up with a frothy gooey mess. The problem was that the resin was reacting with the moisture in the wood.

The secret is that you need the resin to cure under pressure. I commercial pressure pot for this purpose is kind of pricey so I went with a popular and cheap way of doing it and built one using a paint sprayer pressure tank from Harbor Freight.

There are lots of You Tube videos available that show how to make the conversion. The only trouble I have with mine is getting the top to seal properly at the reccomended 50 PSI. It usualy takea couple tries to get it to maintain pressure.

Alumilite sells a number of different products. I settled on their Clear Slow version which has a leisurely 12 minute working time (opposed to the 7 minute version).

The other trick worth noting is that even if you mix the resin properly and have the pressure pot setup and working, you can still get white clouds at the wood/resin interface unless you get all the moisture out of the wood. That problem is simple to solve with a garage sale toaster oven. Simply bake the wood at 200 degrees F. Make sure to weigh the wood before baking. In a few hours it will have lost quite a bit of weight. When it stops losing weight, you know it's dry enough. For me that's taken between 12 and 24 hours.

My first attempt was with a scrap piece of wood, just to get the process down. I was pretty happy with the results and I learned a few things. One was to save on resin (it's expensive) you need to put the wood in a container that just gives you enough resin to fill the gaps. This ended up being much harder than it seemed like it should be. For my first "real" project I scoured thrift stores looking for a plastic bowl that right shape to minimize the resin and ended up with a rubber jello mold. It worked, but wasted too much resin. This is what it look like after it cured... a lot like jello due to the red dye.

Note that I didn't mix enough to fill to the top of the wood. That meant I had to cut the height of the bowl down. Another learning.... always make more than you need. Also, I used 2 drops of dye for about 10 oz of resin and that was too much. Tiny bit of dye is needed.

Here's what it looked like after I turned off the waste material.

I put a plywood blank in the bottom of the mold and that worked great to save resin and form a base for turning the inside of the bowl. I didn't trust the plywood, so I used the tailstock as long as I could to support the bowl while turning the inside.

Sanded to 400 grit, then used wax infused with super-fine grit to polish. I'm very happy with the result!


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