In my search for a suitable water-modeling medium, I’d spent considerable time experimenting with acrylic medium (gloss). After ten different trials, I determined that this method wasn’t going to give me the results I wanted. The best result had an acceptable look:
The result on the right has a nice rippled surface and a high gloss, but acrylic medium forms a bulge around objects that just doesn’t look good. This would be a viable approach for bodies of water with nothing in them, and where the creep up the shoreline can be disguised. The next candidate was casting resin.
Casting resin, often referred to in the hobby press by the brand name Envirotex, comes in several different finishes, and is rather pricey. I chose the gloss finish, and bought the 16 oz size. After reading the instructions, I assembled the tools:
The graduated mixing cup and paint stirrer came from a home improvement store; everything else is from the dollar store.
The instructions are very clear on several points: exactly equal measures of resin and hardener must be used, and the mixture must be stirred twice in different containers. The instructions use bold lettering to warn against using powered mixing methods ‘under any circumstances’. I couldn’t think of any reason why powered stirring would affect the product, and would in fact likely provide a superior mixture. I couldn’t see stirring the stuff by hand for the four minutes required when power tools were available. I’m fairly convinced the warning is there for legal reasons, as getting the stuff in your eyes is apparently Bad News. I wore safety glasses and used the stirrer in a VSR drill motor.
I wanted to get as much mileage as possible out of this pour, so I set up the usual items (scale, vertical flat surface, and vertical round) in the tray sections. I painted a couple of sections to test clear and lightly tinted pours, and left the remaining sections unpainted.
I was curious if I could treat surfaces to prevent or minimize capillary action. I set up three sections with surfaces treated with WD-40, Armor All, and belt lubricant. The idea was to see if the treatments would prevent the resin from getting a grip on the surfaces, and so prevent it from creeping up the sides. I also wanted to see if the treatments would affect the resin cure.
I mixed the resin per directions, and poured some into the ‘clear’ section. I added a bit of English Navy acrylic for tint, and poured in the ‘Lightly Tinted’ section. Adding enough tint to make the mixture opaque, I poured into the ‘Tinted’ section, and the three sections with treated surfaces.
The instructions give estimated times for curing based on ambient temperature, and I was expecting 2 – 3 days for a cure. Per the instructions, I covered the pours for a day to keep dust off.
The pours were completely cured in under 36 hours. The upper right is the clear pour, middle round is lightly tinted, and lower tight is heavily tinted. All of the pours are hard, flat, glossy, and show little capillary action.
The sections with treated surfaces. From left to right is Armor All, belt lubricant, and WD-40. I didn’t see any difference in capillary action compared to untreated surfaces, and the resin cure was unaffected.
Overall I’m happy with casting resin to simulate water. I’m confidant I can build the structures in the harbor area and pour the resin without ill effect. I’ll have to tint it to cover imperfections on the harbor bottom, but I’ll probably only have to make one pour rather than several.
My only complaint is that it’s too flat. At this point I’m leaning toward putting the structure foundations in, pouring the resin, using David Frary’s Modge Podge method to add texture, then completing the structures.