By Roderick Kabel
A popular epoxy technique is to encapsulate objects within it. Either sentimental memorabilia, everyday objects such as rocks, bottle caps, photos, coins, deceased bugs, figurines, or even… bullets. Yikes!
Embedding and encapsulating objects, whatever they might be, offers a unique way of showcasing exciting uses of epoxy. Depending on what materials or objects you plan to encase, there are different steps to be taken that should guarantee the optimal outcome.
In no particular order, objects can be encased in either blocks of epoxy or incorporated with wood such as river tables or bars and countertops.
When pouring and embedding objects in a river table, start off by creating a bottom “sacrificial layer”. Pour a layer of Table Top epoxy about 1/8” to 1/4” thick that will protect your embedded items from sanding and leveling equipment you will use on the underside of the table. Once that layer is tacky or hard to the touch, you can start adding the items you want to embed on top of that epoxy layer before moving forward. But that step depends on the item(s) that you’re casting. You may even want to pour additional thinner layers to create a level of epoxy that will suspend your objects at a particular height in the final deep pour.
NOTE: Both WiseBond™ Deep Pour epoxy and Bar & Table Top epoxy will blend and bond perfectly without issue.
For lightweight, thin items that the epoxy could soak through, such as newspaper, photos, or magazine clippings, you’ll want to coat them with Table Top epoxy, Quick Set epoxy or use a mixture of white glue and water to seal them before arranging them in the river. Some say to use hairspray to seal with but we cannot guarantee that it will.
You’ll also want to secure your arranged items in place with epoxy. We prefer using Table Top epoxy, Quick Set epoxy because it will blend seamless with the deep pour epoxy. Some glues and hot melt glue tend to be amber or yellow and could be seem in the final cure. Securing the items will hold them to the river table so they will not float away during the encapsulating deep pour.
While you don’t necessarily have to secure heavier items such as rocks, tools, etc., you still need to coat your items with Quick Set or Table Top epoxy to “wet” and seal out surface air bubbles on your objects. Other troublesome bubbles can come from pockets of air that get trapped inside the items. You may need to consider filling holes and voids in your items with epoxy to avoid bubbles escaping during the final pour and cure.
Object casting is a little different than embedding items in a river table. For this, you’ll have to create a base and a mold/barrier for the casting epoxy. Whether you use wood, plastic food containers, plexiglass, or some sort of pre-made mold, it’s your preference.
Our WiseBond ™ Deep Pour™ epoxy will easily cast solid blocks of epoxy up to 6” x 6”. Maybe larger. Whatever the size of your mold is, always be sure to seal any wood or base material that may be on the bottom of the mold as well as seal the object(s) to be embedded with epoxy. This is again to avoid bubbles from leaching out of your objects during the final encasing thick epoxy pour.
Keep in mind that larger object pours like this will have a lot of epoxy mass and can overheat. We suggest placing a fan next to the mold to keep it cool and not let it overheat during the exothermic reaction.
As you would during any pour, be sure you’re measuring and mixing the epoxy correctly to avoid any epoxy exotherm and curing problems. Click here for more information on measuring and mixing correctly. (Hyperlink: https://www.wisebond.com/blogs/epoxy-blog/the-importance-of-mixing-epoxy-correctly )
Here are some of the most popular items we’ve seen encased in epoxy, and some tips on how to do it:
- Flowers or leaves – Any flowers, flower petals, or leaves must be dried prior to being exposed to epoxy. If any moisture remains the plant will turn brown or moldy within the epoxy. You can press the foliage between two sheets of a napkin and place them inside or under a heavy book for five days to dry. You will want to use glue wash (hairspray?) or a thin layer of epoxy to prevent bubbles and to secure the foliage in arrangement if you’re pouring anything thicker than a drink coaster.
- Photographs, magazine, or newspaper clippings (paper products) – Again, you’ll want to add a thin layer of watered-down white glue encompassing the magazine or newspaper clipping(s) before exposing them to epoxy. Once that’s been done, secure the items with epoxy before arranging them.
- Seashells and bottle caps – These are light enough that they need to be secured with epoxy for sure. These items can also harbor pockets of air so be sure to fill voids with epoxy prior to pouring thick.
- Rocks – Depending on how big or heavy the rocks are, you may not need to secure them in epoxy. You will still need to coat them in a thin layer of epoxy to avoid surface air bubbles before a larger pour.
- Gun bullets – WiseBond™ does not condone or recommend using live bullets in epoxy. Although gunpowder ignites at 801–867 °F and epoxy typically only reaches 150 °F to 175 °F, we recommend pulling the bullet round out of the casing, emptying the gunpowder, and then replacing the round in the casing to avoid any potential hazards. The choice is up to the epoxy artist, but empty casings are a safer alternative.
- Gun bullet casings – The empty bullet casings will be hollow and will cause a problem with air bubbles. We suggest filling the casings with epoxy to avoid air bubbles and give them some weight
Photo courtesy: James LeClear