BASS HARBOR— Do you want to make changes to that glass tile backsplash under the pine kitchen cabinet? One option might be epoxy resin.
Epoxy resin, a high-performance construction adhesive that glues together different materials such as plastic, wood and stone, can also be creatively used to help merge the aesthetic of contrasting elements in a home.
Bass Harbor carpenter Mick Kestner has made great use of epoxy resin to improve and accessorize homes. Over the years, Kestner has incorporated epoxy to create windows, countertops and tables. He has also used it to create art–like centerpieces and trays that have been gifted to loved ones. During the quarantine, he said it became more of a hobby for him and his family to stay productive. “It’s a fun way to spend time with each other,” said Kestner.
Epoxies are polymer materials, a class of resin derived by polymerization from epoxides that begin as liquids and are chemically changed to a solid. It is a thermosetting (hardens when cured) resin characterized by toughness and strong adhesion, capable of forming tightly linked cross-polymer structures that keeps things intact. After epoxy is fully dry, the resulting product is a durable, rigid plastic with numerous mechanical properties. The substance is often referred to as “liquid glass,” as it emulates a crystal-clear shine.
Though epoxy is mostly used as an industrial coating and adhering mechanism, Kestner pours large amounts to create surfaces with three-dimensional-like textures. Making this wooded, colored glass aesthetics for his kitchen and bathroom countertops involves acquiring several materials. “The work is mostly prep, which I like,” he said.
One of Kestner’s biggest tasks, aside from buying epoxy resin, is finding scraps of softwood, but since he’s a carpenter, it’s not a difficult one. Softwood is wood from a conifer tree that typically gets sanded, sealed and stained to be a part of his countertops. “This stuff [wood] I found for free on the Bar Harbor Road, in a building near Romer Farms,” he said.
“Epoxy is not cheap… this small package cost me around $250,” said Kestner. He went on to say that the cost of epoxy resin was another reason why preparing for an epoxy project is important. Since epoxy resin can irritate the skin, Ketner says that it is best to use personal protective equipment. Masks, gloves and even glasses are highly recommended while using epoxy resin. To add color to his epoxy project, Kestner pours liquid epoxy in a bucket to mix with powdered dye until it changes transparency.
Another one of Kestner’s prepping tasks involves measuring a desired mold for the surface to build out of plywood. He cuts plywood pieces to the preferred length, width and depth of the mold. The pieces are then wrapped in sheathing tape and drilled together to form a cohesive mold. “The plywood is like a shaping mold for the epoxy that keeps it from leaking out and the tape keeps the epoxy from sticking to the wood after it dries,” he said.
Similar to a template, Kestner uses the edges of the mold to arrange the salvaged softwood. When the softwood is laid flat inside the taped mold box, it is time to fill the remainder of the template with liquid epoxy resin. Once the liquid epoxy is poured to the template’s brim, it is left alone for the settling process, which can take hours depending on the amount used. After settling, the mold is removed to reveal the final, hardened product.
“It’s simple; you just throw it [epoxy] in and let it settle,” he said.
Kestner listed the other projects that he produced by pouring epoxy. In addition to countertops, he pours epoxy into shallow, carved designs on wood to make centerpieces and trays for his family. Kestner also arranges random, colorful items for thin layers of clear epoxy pours to make interior windows, frames and suncatchers.
Family members have enjoyed Kestner’s handmade epoxy gifts so much that they decided to take up the hobby too. “We made this with my partner’s granddaughter, Alexa,” he said, showing off a recently made object. Kestner said he plans to experiment with different materials and continue working towards improving his skills.