The truth is we wish everyone could win, but… well… that’s not how it works, alright! But everyone can win by learning to make their own.
Our monoliths have been some of our most popular creations and we are making more all the time. Follow along in this article to make your very own wood resin monolith.
Steps at a glance:
- Select your piece of wood
- Prepare your casting mold
- Pick your resin colors (Or go all-natural… a.k.a. Clear)
- Calculate how much resin you need
- Mix the resin
- Load pressure pot
Supplies at a glance:
- Gnarly wood piece
- Resin dye
- Paper cups
- Stir sticks
- Corrugated cardboard
- Wax paper
- Glue Stick
- Hot glue gun (glue sticks)
- Pressure pot
- Table saw
- Sand Paper(500,1000, 2000)
Step #1 Select your piece of wood
Maybe you already have a piece of wood in mind. In that case, this step is over… great job! Move on! However, let me quickly mention that all the wood and resin monoliths we make here at Carved feature stabilized wood. If you are not sure what that is or how to do it. Check out our previous article about How to Stabilize Wood in 4 easy steps.
If you do not have a gnarly chunk of wood to make your monolith with. May I suggest going on a walk in the woods. Get outside and be inspired by nature. If that doesn’t work find a local wood supplier and ask if they have any small live edge cut-offs.
For the purposes of an art piece like a monolith that is going to sit on your desk or be displayed, you can probably get away with not stabilizing your piece. So don’t let that stop you from pressing on. Let’s square up our piece of wood. For this monolith, we are going to go with a 2” x 2” piece of wood.
Step #2 Prepare your casting mold
The shape of your mold determines the shape of your finished monolith. I personally like a 2” x 2” x 5” monolith. Preparing the casting mold is in my opinion the most important step. It also is the step that probably takes the most time. But if you take your time and craft a quality mold you increase your chances of success greatly!
There are many mold materials you can use. But I wanted to make this as accessible as possible. Therefore, we are going to use corrugated cardboard and wax paper. I use a simple little equation to figure out the size and shape of the mold.
First, decide the finished height of your monolith. Next you will add two inches for the purpose of making the mold. We will call this “mold height”. You need extra height in the mold to achieve your target finished height. I would even recommend pouring a little more resin height than you initially thought. This will allow you to trim down your piece in the polishing process.
Let’s make the mold:
Mold height + Wood + Mold height (other side) = size of cardboard for making mold.
7” + 2” + 7” = 16”. You need a piece of cardboard that is 16” x 16”
Once you have this piece of cardboard cut to shape. Measure in from each edge the distance of your “mold height” and draw a line. You will end up with a cross drawn on your cardboard.
Next, you are going to add some width to two sides of your mold. This will give us a place to glue the sides in place. Measure ½” from each side of the cross on two opposing sides.
Now we have all the lines we need to cut out our mold. Pay attention to which lines need cut all the way through and which lines only need a relief cut. Shown below with solid lines for full cuts and dotted lines for relief cuts. Like this:
Make all your cuts. Now you should have a mold that looks like this:
Pro Tip. Trace your mold on some wax paper. Then cut out and glue the wax paper to one side of your mold. This will give you a better release from the mold in the end.
Now it’s time to glue the mold. Place your piece of wood in the mold and fold up two sides and apply a bead of hot glue where the sides meet. Paying attention to the straightness of each side. Do this all the way around the mold. For added strength, you can wrap the mold with a couple of strips of tape.
Now you should have a fully enclosed mold. The mold-making process is the longest and hardest step. But if done correctly you will thank yourself later. Take your time and get the mold right the first time.
Step #3 Pick your resin colors
Let’s be honest, this is likely where you started in your mind. Visualizing that perfect swoop of color suspended in that crystal clear glass, mystically frozen in time. Well, get ready, this is that step. You made it!
I need you to hear me on this one. Less is more. Meaning, you are going to be tempted to want to put too many swoops and swirls of too many colors. It is a difficult technique to get those swoops to interact coherently. Not that you can’t do it, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
I suggest making your first monolith solid clear. This will give you the best chance to simply learn the process. If you can’t resist then I would choose a single color to be the accent swoop of your monolith. And only drip a few drops on top. Let gravity and the pressure pot do the rest.
Step #4 Determine how much resin you need
If, in choosing colors, “less is more”. In mixing resin, “more is more”. And more is good! But how much do you need? Place your enclosed mold next to your paper cup and visualize the volume of resin you need. Since the resin we are working with is a 1 to 1 ratio. I like to visualize enough Side A resin to fill up approximately ¾ of the mold. Meaning, once I add the Side B resin I should have one and a half times the amount of resin necessary to fill the mold.
Use your guts on this step. I know that this is a linear, logical, science-based step-by-step guide and you want me to just tell you the exact amount to use. I wish I could. Believe me, this was so hard for me to adjust to, but some things in life go by strict definitions and some things go by feel. This is a “feel step.”
Pro Tip: If you think using your guts or feelings is simply blasphemy then try this little trick. Get a carton of BB’s from your local ammo supply store / paranoid neighbor’s bunker. Pour the BB’s into your mold on top of your piece of wood. Making sure the BB’s settle down into all the crevasses and gaps. Fill the mold to your desired height. Next pour those BB’s out into a cup with measurement marks and boom you know exactly how much resin to use. I would still round that number up.
Step #5 Mix the resin
Now that you know how much resin you need. Let’s get mixing! Check the “open time” or “pot life” of your resin to understand exactly how long you have until you should be under pressure. I personally like to start a stopwatch on my phone when I begin to mix the two sides of my resin together. It is nice to know how much time you have before you need to be under pressure.
If you are going to add some color swoops, even though I told you not to, have a small cup ready with the color dye waiting. You can simply pour a little of the excess resin into this cup after filling the mold to your desired height. Then mix the color dye into your resin.
Step #6 Pour
This step is as straightforward as it sounds. Fill your mold with your mixed resin to the desired height. Pour slowly in one corner of the mold. Slightly anti-climatic, I know, but the intensity of getting the pour done, without leaks in your mold, and into the pressure pot is more than enough excitement for this step.
Step #7 Load your pressure pot
Make sure your pressure pot is level and in a place where it will not be bumped into. I like to put an extra piece of cardboard or parchment paper in the bottom of my pressure pot just in case there is a leak. Load your part into the pot, secure the lid and fill the chamber with a minimum of 45psi, I like to go to 60psi. Be sure to know what your pot’s limit is before pushing it too far.
Great job!! You’ve made it much further than most people. Now it is time for that ever difficult part of so many processes… waiting. Be sure to check the demold time of your resin and leave your part under pressure for the entire demold time.
Step #8 Demold
“What!?! It doesn’t come out of the pressure pot polished and ready to put on my desk?” Sorry, no. Begin to remove the cardboard as best you can. If you did the wax paper pro tip this step will be easier. Otherwise, simply line up your table saw and begin to graze each side of your monolith to remove the mold.
Step #9 Polish
There is nothing pretty about this step. Except the slow, and I do mean slow, reveal of your beautiful creation. Nothing fancy just get started. I recommend starting with 500 grit sandpaper, followed by 1000 and 2000. This will result in an amazingly clear look.
Pro Tip: If you have the time and the means to, or already have lots of sandpaper and sanding pads. I have done a 320, 500, 800, 1000, 2000, 3000, 5000, 8000 progression before and maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me, but it looked phenomenal.
Finding a piece of wood, visualizing the colors, polishing to perfection, are the steps you were expecting to see here. Hopefully, I’ve been able to fill in the gaps of how to go from a chunk of wood to a wood + resin monolith. Pay attention to the mold-making step and don’t pour too many colors and you are going to be turning out monoliths in no time. Have fun and remember to tag us in a photo of your new creation!
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