How to Read Instructions

I recently learned that the fine print doesn’t always contain the most important, critical information.

First I Researched

I’ve been experimenting with casting using the Smooth-On’s Crystal Clear resin and did my first pour in the making of Deconstructed.  The resin wasn’t cheap and casting was new to me, so I did my research before purchasing the best product for my needs.

At the store I explained to the sales associate what I wanted to do and he agreed that I had chosen the best resin for the job.  Confident about my product selection, I bought two kits – enough for a one-inch-thick casting, according to our estimations.

Then I Planned

Back in my shop, I began planning for the pour, trying to anticipate everything that I would need.  I waxed the mould well, got a bucket and mixing spatula for the resin, figured out where to pour and how to maintain the correct temperature range, and read the instructions and safety precautions again and again.

The Pour Wasn’t Perfect

With as much planning done as I could bear, I took a deep breath, opened the resin and began mixing, then pouring the resin.  The pour went well, but I noticed that the resin was curing more quickly than I had expected which resulted in trapped air bubbles.

At first, I thought that it was my fault – that I had poured too quickly or that the vibrating technique introduced air bubbles instead of releasing them.  Then, talking with Paul-Marcel, I realized what the problem was.

How I Made the Mistake

When I bought the resin, I had four Crystal Clear formulations from which to choose: 200, 202, 204, and 206.  From my research, I had learned that the most viscous (thick) resin is for castings 1/16 – 1/2″ thick.  Thinner mixtures take longer to cure so they allow air bubbles to escape from thicker pours.

It was the second most viscous resin that I wanted, which was recommended for castings from 1/2 – 3″ thick, so I got the Crystal Clear 202 formulation.  What I had overlooked was that 202 is actually the resin for castings up to 1/2″ thick and I wanted Crystal Clear 200 (so from thin to thick castings, you’d want 202, 200, 204, then 206).

When I got back to my shop, I opened the boxes in which the resin was packaged and put the resin bottles on my bench, saved the instruction sheet, and tossed the boxes in the recycling.  The instructions that came with the resin were for the whole family of Crystal Clear resins so I didn’t notice that I had the wrong resin.

As I later realized, on the front of the boxed in large print, it said: “Crystal Clear 202, 90 minutes cure time, 9 minutes pot life”.  I knew that the resin I intended to use had a 16 hour cure time so had I noticed this I would have clued in to the fact that I had the wrong product.  But I didn’t.  And so my casting cured too quickly and trapped some air bubbles.

8 thoughts on “How to Read Instructions

  1. Sometimes… the results are the same from reading them or tossing them. New elements require a learning curve. Remember the giant cube of ? at the Getty and how many years of work it took to get that point. An interesting material.
    If you go through the Phx airport, you will see cast scorpions with air bubbles on them as well….

  2. Having experimented with many, Many materials, tools & techniques over the years, Morgan’s sentiment is right on. There’s ALWAYS a learning curve. Can’t remember where I first read this but there are 4 stages in learning anything.

    1. Unconscious Incompetence
    2. Conscious Incompetence
    3. Conscious Competence
    4. Unconscious Competence

    Research and planning usually get you past 1 and 2 but simply knowing doesn’t necessarily get you past 3. Three always takes practice until eventually, you reach 4 without even realizing it. As an engineer, I’ve been trained to prototype so the mistakes have smaller consequences. As a DIYer, I’m also impatient and things don’t always go according to plan. Always account for experimentation and achieving conscious competence with something new, especially if the end product has a firm delivery date.

    1. Fong,

      I hadn’t heard the four stages of learning before, but I like them! Marketers want us to believe that we can be successful with their product the first time, but the learning curve, no matter how gentle or short, will always be there.


  3. YouTube a video of Cheech and Chong; you’ll no doubt find the one where they bust out of the back of their van in a mass of smoke. Next time, get your shop that smokey so the bubbles will have trapped smoke! That would look cool. Plus getting it that smokey… you won’t really care how the project comes out, man.

    1. Paul-Marcel,

      Not as insightful as the others, but what can I expect from the guy who did a review of a beer mug just so he could drink in the shop? Just teasing… thanks for the comment.


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