It was 3am. I had stripped naked, howling and cursing in pain in the dark, blasting myself with cold water using a garden hose.
It sounds funny now but at the time I had learned my lesson the hard way–resin can be a dangerous substance when not handled properly. During the 3am incident, I had poured some catalysed resin into the mould, waiting for it to cure. I got a negligible amount on my hands and didn’t bother to rinse it off properly.
A chemical reaction occurs when resin turns from liquid form to solid. In other words it cooks, heating up to the point that it burns to the touch. Given this, you’d understand my reaction when I took a piss with some heating-up resin on my hands. Imagine what could’ve happened if I had inadvertently rubbed the sleepiness off my eyes!
Consider the following SOP when you’re using resin:
Proper ventilation. Some resins don’t give off a smell, but that doesn’t mean they’re non-toxic. Work outdoors and use and exhaust fan and don’t work when there are children in the environment. Make sure you have enough fresh air.
Protect your hands. Nitrile gloves work best. If you like working with your bare hands though, wear barrier cream.
Wear protective gear. People who mix large amounts of resin are advised to suit up–from aprons to goggles and full-faced gas masks, but since I only work with small amounts, the most I need is a decent respirator and goggles. When you’re sanding hardened resin, wear goggles to protect your eyes!
Which respirator to use? I know of some people who have worked with resin for decades who now have weakened lungs because of the exposure. I started out with a cheap industrial respirator used for spray painting, but invested in a NIOSH-approved 3M 6300 for good measure; make sure yours fit snugly to keep the toxins out! (I didn’t quit smoking just to find out one day that my lungs were nonetheless damaged by my resin work!)
Store away items you’ve used for resin. Plastic containers, moulds and mixing tools used for resin should never be used for food and should be kept away in storage.
Track your stuff and store them properly. Establish a proper inventory of your equipment and materials. Your resin will have a shelf-life so make sure you use it prior to expiration. Keep them in a cool dry place–or they’ll harden in their containers (what a waste!).
Clean up spills right away. It’s a lot more difficult (sometimes near impossible) to clean up a spill after it cures, so clean up quickly! Keep your work area clean and uncluttered, with a lot of surface area to work on. Wash off resin that gets on your skin with soap and water.
Dispose of spillage properly. The stuff heats up and hardens, so they might cause your trash to catch fire or clog your drainage when washed into the sink–designate a “resin-only” bin. I also cover my worktable with a thick, disposable plastic cover for an easy cleanup.
Resin casting is fun but remember to protect yourself and your environment whenever you work!