Sunday, January 15, 2012

Designing a Dragon Wristband – Finding the Perfect Resin

Finding the right resin for my dragon wristband was a long process. The problem was information overload. Too many resins to choose from, each with it’s own set of technical specifications. I spent weeks sifting through pages of tech data sheets and calling supplies with numerous questions. Tensile Strength, Modulus, Tear Strength, Elongation and Shrinkage are just some of the physical properties that can make or break a design. Then there are the obvious choices of color, shore hardness and viscosity. Just how hard is this stuff going to be to work with? How many minutes of working time do you have before it kicks? Is it compatible with my mold material? Does it require any special mold release? Does the material require vacuum degassing or higher than normal pressures during casting? What is the cure time, cure temperature and post-curing requirements? How long is the shelf life? Is it UV resistant? Are there any special storage or hazardous material requirements to consider?

I find that narrowing down the choices, is made easier by compiling all the technical data into spreadsheets. By process of elimination, I finally arrived at half a dozen resins that might fit my needs. I ordered small quantities of each and started my testing. This is where I switch into what my Honey-Do calls my “Mad Scientist” mode. The testing part is always fun. I make numerous sample castings, and then stretch them, bend them, try to break them. I lay them out in the sun to test for color fade and UV degradation. I test for pigment compatibility. I test for post processes, like drilling and sanding, painting and gluing. Then there are the ambiguous properties. How does it look, how does it feel against the skin, how well does it “wear”? Working with a new material always requires a learning curve. All my testing, helps shorten this learning curve and always sparks new design ideas.

You are probably bored to tears by now, by all of this technical mumbo jumbo, right? Sorry, sometimes the anal engineer in me, gets carried away. I love all this stuff. But, even my Honey-Do’s eyes glaze over when I start to talk about resins. So show a photo of the dragon bracelet, already! I will post photos soon. My prototype is finished. But, due to a design change, I had to order longer rivets and they are still in the mail.

I have to admit that this dragon bracelet has been one of the longest, most challenging, of my jewelry designs to date. I love taking a jewelry design from idea to completion. To take an idea from conception, to sculpture, to molds, to finished product requires constant learning, careful planning and attention to details. And even then, mistakes can be made and disastrous results can ruin weeks of work. But, when a design works, when you hold the finished product in your hand and then try it on your wrist, and it sings that siren’s song of beauty. You know, that you can’t wait to tackle the next new idea.

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