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Acrylic casting resin is a substance used to create embeddings that serve as paperweights and decorative items. Clear resin is poured into a mold until it is half-way full. An item is then placed into the mold and covered with more acrylic until the mold is full. Once cured, the resin is released from the mold, and the embedded item can be featured as a permanent display.
An interesting characteristic of this material is that it does not cure if exposed to air. The sides making contact with the mold will cure and become hard, while the open area of the mold will remain tacky and semisoft. This soft side can be covered with felt or cloth to keep the display from sticking to any other surface. There are also aerosol coatings that can be sprayed onto the raw surface which promote hardening.
When embedding an item into acrylic casting resin, professionals recommended that the item be dipped into the resin before being placed into the mold. This coating will prevent air bubbles from becoming trapped inside the layers of the finished display. The item being embedded must also be placed into the mold upside-down so that it will be seen in the proper context once the shape is removed from the mold.
Acrylic casting resin is sold with a catalyst that causes the liquid to harden inside of the mold. Following the manufacturer's recommended instructions will avoid creating an item that will not cure properly. This is especially important when placing multiple embeddings into a single display. Care must be taken to create the proper three-dimensional appearance of the embeddings at differing levels within the display.
A special resin must be used when creating a table-top display due, in part, to the resin's inability to cure on what would be the top of the table once poured. This material is also not safe to use as an eating surface, since even a small chip of cured resin could make a person sick if it's swallowed. People working with this substance must make sure to read the manufacturer's warnings and directions for use on any item that might come in contact with food. Whether used as a display piece or as a functional tool such as a paperweight, an item of interest or sentimental meaning preserved inside a clear casting can last a lifetime.
Another way I've seen this material used is as a coating for artwork.
This not only adds a certain effect to the work by making it very shiny and vivid. It also completely waterproofs it and makes it much more indestructible than it would otherwise be.
I've seen it done most often with photographs, but more and more with paintings as well.
I have even seen people who have coated paintings (I imagine they pour the liquid casting resin on the work and let it dry flat rather than trying to paint it over the top) and offer them for sale as suitable for bathrooms.
@browncoat - I was in an art school for a while and was learning various methods of sculpture, including bronze work and so forth.
One of my options was sculpting with resin. I made a model from plasticine first, with the intention of building a mold around it using silicone gap filler. You just put layers of the gap filler onto the mold, letting each dry before adding another and making sure it goes into all the little fiddly places.
Then, you cut open the mold in the right place and fill it with the liquid resin.
I was hoping to make a clock with a clear base and lots of clockwork gears and numbers floating around inside, but I never finished my project.
Maybe one day I'll get around to it.
You can make more than paperweights with clear casting resin now, although they do seem to be the most common application.
It seems to have become really popular for jewelry. I particularly like the ear hole plugs I've seen which are acrylic resin filled with small candy pieces like rainbow sprinkles.
I've also seen bangles and rings and beads made from this stuff, particularly on online market places. It's not all that difficult to use, so people are willing to experiment with different fillings and so forth, and create unusual objects.
I didn't know about the fact that it won't cure if it isn't pressed into the mold, but I imagine that could be overcome by adding a top to the mold somehow.