KeyKollectiv Workshop: Intro 1

The period between releases is usually the most relaxing. Orders have been shipped and Koala-T and I have been brainstorming new ideas. It is a hope of ours to try to put out consistent blog posts. As we are a bit too early in the development process to tease our next collection, I figured I’d address a different segment of our fan-base.

Frequently, Koala-T and I receive a lot of inquiries from fans who are interested in making their own artisans. Though we cannot speak for other established artisans, we think the increased interest in resin casting is a welcome addition to the scene. After all, competition breeds innovation and diversity gives the community more options.

As resin casting does have inherent risks, educating oneself is paramount when delving into this craft. As such, it is not only the responsibility of a fledgling crafter to do all the research they can but also the responsibility of the artisan to provide sound advice.  

We hope to release the “KeyKollectiv Workshop” blog posts as an ongoing segment. Because artisan resin casting involves several processes, the goal is to focus each segment on different aspects of the craft.

Before we continue, I wanted to emphasize that any advice/instructions/opinions are that of KeyKollectiv. Information that we provide is based on our own experiences and research. Please bear in mind that methods/materials we use may not necessarily work for you. As such, we will attempt to provide general information that is more applicable to a wider audience. We understand that there is, already, a myriad of guides/tutorials posted on other sites. We encourage all interested parties to do their research and consume as much information from other sources as well. Keep in mind that these workshop segments are, by no means, a complete guide. And remember that preparedness will save you a lot of time, money and your safety down the line.

Material World

Among the most common inquiries we receive about resin casting is which materials to use. The truth of the matter is that there is no correct answer to this question. This question is equivalent to asking “what shoe size should I purchase?” The answer will be different for everyone. Before we determine what will work for you, we need to consider several factors.

First: Which brand of resin or silicone should you purchase? Two of the most popular brands in the US are “Smooth-On” and “Aluminite”. For the most part, either brand is a good choice and each one has an equivalent product for your needs. You may see slightly different cure times and structural properties but the difference is marginal. Our recommendation is to do some research on which distributors are located nearby. If you intend on taking resin casting past preliminary experimentation, it would be in your best interest to find materials that are readily available. If you are patient and want to save money, stores like Michael’s and Blick usually mail out coupons on a regular basis. Most stores will allow you to use them toward a purchase of a starter kit.

So you’ve located a distributor and settled on a brand to use. What now? Chances are, if you are reading this intro, your experience with resin/silicone is limited. It may take some time for you to adjust to a workflow that suits you. Your best bet is to select materials that have a longer pot life. The pot life refers to the amount of time your resin/silicone will be “workable”. In other words, once resin/silicone approaches its pot life, it will be too viscous to stir/mix/pour properly. These times can range from mere seconds to hours. You may find yourself taking longer than you originally anticipated just to end up with resin or silicone that is too thick to use. From our experience, resin with a pot life of 3-10 minutes and silicone with a pot life of 7-20 minutes was ideal for us in the beginning. Please note that, as you become more experienced or acquire better equipment, you may find that there may be products (with different properties) that suit your needs better. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Keep in mind that pot life is different than cure time. Pot life refers to the amount of time that your materials can be manipulated in a viable manner. Cure time refers to the amount of time it will take for your materials to become inert or safe to handle/demold. For example a resin that has reached its pot life will be gooey (gel-like) while a resin that has reached its cure time will be solid enough to remove from your mold (for the most part). Please make sure you know the distinction before selecting your materials.

Lastly, resin/silicone can be very temperamental. External factors such as ambient humidity or temperature can play a huge factor in your end result. If your work area is located somewhere with high humidity, keep in mind that the moisture may react with your resin and cause inhibition. In these cases, you may need to consider materials with a shorter pot life to mitigate exposure to moisture. Ambient temperature also plays a huge role in the resin casting process. Because your materials depend on an exothermic reaction (chemical reaction that produces heat) to cure, you may find that cure times will increase in colder weather. In these cases, you may need to include an additional heat source or acquire materials with shorter cure times.

There are simply so many factors that will affect the end result of your casting. Learning to properly troubleshoot problems will be one of the most useful skills you can develop throughout your journey. Research and experience will help to mitigate failure rates. Stay tuned for the next segment where we will discuss silicone, equipment and safety. Until next time!