Last week, I mentioned that my big pixel flower picture in the music room was down for repair. (You can click here to see how I made that pixel picture.) Well, it’s finally finished and back in its place, but this time rather than having a super shiny resin coating (which is pretty much the standard sheen for resin), it now has a beautiful matte (or maybe satin) finish on it.
It all came about kind of by accident, but I’m so glad it did because after having to move the resined triptych into the music room, I wasn’t really thrilled with the idea of having super shiny resined pieces on both walls in there. So that problem has been taken care of! The triptych has the super shiny (standard) resin coating, and the pixelated flower has a nice matte finish.
So how did this come about? Well, back when I did the original resin coating, I think I did three layers of resin. Anyway, on the final layer, I was short on resin. The recommended coverage is four ounces per square foot, and I think I was short about six ounces. I decided to try it, and learned the hard way that their recommendation really is the minimum. If you try to use less, the product won’t self-level, which is what happened to the flower picture. I had one area that had a low spot in the resin, and when the light reflected off of that spot, it was very noticeable.
Well, a perfectionist like myself can’t live with something like that. So I took the picture down and did another coat of resin, this time making sure that I used just a bit more than recommended. I took such care with that coat. I smoothed it out, making sure it completely covered the entire thing. I used a flashlight and looked at the surface of the resin from every imaginable angle, picking out any tiny pieces of lint I could find with a straight pin. I used my propane torch over and over and over to be sure that not one single bubble remained.
I mean, I did everything I could to make sure this final coat was going to be perfect. And then, after about an hour of fussing with it, I carefully covered it with a piece of MDF to let it cure overnight.
The next morning, I hopped out of bed and headed to the breakfast room, as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. I was anxious to “unwrap” my newly resined piece and admire the perfectly smooth and flawless finish.
So imagine my disappointment when I saw cat fur on about a quarter of the entire thing. Cat fur. It literally looked like I had held my cat over the freshly poured resin and ran a comb through her fur, letting the fur drop to the resin.
I was furious. How had this happened? I had no idea. The only thing I can think of is that I wiped down one side of the MDF that I used to cover the resin, and then mistakenly placed it with the other side (the non-wiped-down side) towards the resin. And clearly, it was a piece of MDF that my cat had rubbed against or slept on.
So at that point, I had two options. I could either do one more coat and hope that it turned out great (but resin is expensive, each coat was taking 64 ounces of resin, and there was no guarantee that I wouldn’t have another mishap), or I could sand and buff the finish.
I opted for the second solution. I purchased this set of sanding discs that range from 80-grit to 3000-grit, and used them on my 5-inch orbital sander.
I actually started out sanding by hand with 80-grit sandpaper that I already had on hand. I would have been terrified at this except that I have done some sanding on other resin projects, so I know it can take it.
So after sanding the whole thing with 80-grit sandpaper and then cleaning off as much of the dust as possible (both with water and with isopropyl alcohol wipes), this is what it looked like when it dried. Yikes! 😀
Here’s a close up…
But I had faith that the process would work, so I continued on. Next, I used 180-grit and then 240-grit. It still wasn’t looking much better, and it really played tricks on my eyes. The sanded resin made the wood buttons look so blurry that it was like my eyes wouldn’t focus. It was kind of hard to work on at this point.
After I used the 320-grit, I noticed that I still had quite a lot of scratches on the surface…
…so I went back down to 180-grit and worked my way back up, making sure to get all of the scratches out this time. I needed to get the scratches out completely by the time I got to the 320-grit, because anything higher than 320 wouldn’t be rough enough to get those scratches out.
So I continued to work my way up — from 320 to 400 to 800 to 1000 to 1500 to 2000 to 2500 to 3000 — and this is what it looked like…
At that point, it was a definite matte finish. I could have left it like that, but at that sheen, it was still dulling the look of the wood buttons to the point that it was still playing tricks on my eyes. It was slight compared to how it tricked my eyes after the sanding with the lower grits, but I don’t like the feeling of thinking that my eyes aren’t focusing right.
At this point, I could have used water with the sanding discs. (They are wet/dry sanding discs.) But I was afraid that wet sanding the resin would have given it a higher sheen than I wanted. So I opted instead for buffing compound. This is the one I used just because I happened to have it on hand, but you can also use something like carnuba car wax, which is generally locally available at any car parts/supply store.
When I applied that, it turned it right back to the shiny resin coating I had originally, with the crystal clear wood buttons and bright colors.
But I continued to buff it by hand with paper towels until all of the streaks were gone, and that left me with a really nice matte/satin finish.
It’s really beautiful, and no matter what direction I looked, there was no bright glare or reflection on the surface. Just a beautiful satin finish. And I wish y’all could touch it. I love to touch it. 😀 It feels like some sort of glass/velvet hybrid.
So that was a real pain in the neck, but I’ve always wondered if it’s possible to get a matte or satin finish on resin, and now I know!
It’s a very long process, but I think it was worth it. I no longer have a cat hair finish. There are no divots or low points to catch the light. And the finish is just beautiful. Here’s how it looked with the original super shiny resin coating on it…
And here it is with its beautiful matte finish resin coating on it…
And no matter where I stood to take the picture, I couldn’t detect any reflection on the surface at all. You can see from the resined pictures on the opposite wall that shiny resin pretty much reflects anything around it.
So it took a long time, but I’m so glad I did it. I love learning more and more about how to use resin and the various things it can be used for. And as much as I love a super shiny finish on some things, there are just times when I’d rather opt for a matte or satin finish. And now I know how to accomplish that!
Of course, Peeve probably prefers the cat hair finish. We can agree to disagree on that. 😀