This week’s project is: Upcycling a belt with a plain buckle into a belt with a radical and one-of-a-kind resin buckle.
For our demo here, we did two unique belts just to show you how they can vary.
- A Belt with standard style buckle (we found hundreds of old belts at our local thrift store for under 2$ each)
- Casting resin
- A Resin molding tray
- Measuring cups + stirring sticks
- Latex gloves
- Sturdy scissors
- Small objects to embed into your belt buckle. (metal, wood, plastic, fabric, glitter, coins, beads, chain, powdered pigments, colorant, sequins, dried flowers, and/or coated photo paper all work great. try and skip anything with moisture and clear things as they will tend to disappear into the resin, example: rhinestones and marbles)
It isn’t completely necessary, but we recommend…
Make sure you do this outside. Casting resin requires ventilation, even though its virtually odorless. Put down plastic or a thick covering of newspaper first to catch any drips. Make sure your work surface is level, so that the resin settles evenly. Casting resin (epoxy resin) cures according to temperature. If its 75° F outside, then the resin will stay workable for about 1.5 hours. If its 50° F outside, you’re going to have a working time of about 3 hours. The colder it is, the more patient you’re going to have to be. If possible, set the trays by a heat source, like a space heater. In the heat of summer, this stuff can cure in as little as 30 minutes.
First get started by beheading the belt! Cut off the buckle as close as you can and separate it completely from the belt.
Using your pliers, separate the the pin on the buckle from the frame. Then straighten the pin out flat with an arched tail. It should resemble a cane, or a “J”. Some pins are harder than others to bend, depending on what type and gauge metal they are. You can use a hammer to help you get the flat part. Here is an example of two pins out of their frames, before and after transformation…
So now that your pins are done and the belt separated, you’re ready for the casting resin. Put on your gloves. Mix up a batch of resin, about 1 oz (16 drams if you’re using a medicine cup). Make sure you measure equal amounts of the resin and mix thoroughly!
If you have a torch, pass the flame over the surface briefly to pop all the bubbles instantly and leave behind a crystal clear surface. If you don’t have a torch, just be patient and hope for the best.
the fun part!
Start placing the objects into the resin, keeping in mind that the buckle will be viewed from bottom. Place everything face-down, and make sure that no air bubbles get caught in cracks and crevices. (use the popsicle stick to push around the objects until the air bubbles wiggle out.) You can check periodically what the buckle is going to look like by holding up the tray and looking at it from below. Just make sure you don’t spill it when you’re admiring it!
Once you have it all laid out and perfect, let it cure until its sticky (about 1.5 hours in 75° F).
When the surface is no longer liquid (when you can’t poke the popsicle stick into the resin anymore), its time to pour the second layer. Mix up enough resin to fill the tray 3/4 full. Depending on the size of your mold, it could be anywhere from 1/2 oz. to 3 oz. You can embed more stuff, add colorant or glitter, or just leave it clear. Then let it cure until its sticky again. (about 1.5 hours in 75° F). You can also torch the surface again to pop those annoying little air bubbles.
Now that the second layer is tacky, lay the pin onto the surface with the arch curving up toward the sky. (if it starts sinking, the resin isn’t hard enough yet) Arrange it center-right (or center-left if you prefer to buckle your belt that way). This will be the mechanism that fastens through the belt holes. Next, pour enough resin to cover the flat part of the pin, but not enough to cover the arch. If you look at the surface parallel, you will just see the curve of the pin sticking up out of the resin. Last thing you do is lay the belt face down in the resin. Make sure the end is completely submerged, and it trails out of the mold. You may need to clamp it down if the belt is unruly. Here’s what our two belts looked like in their final step…
Let this all sit for a good long while. We happened to time these perfectly so that they could cure fully overnight (a 10 hour period in 65° F) The next morning, they were hardened nicely. De-mold your buckle from the tray, (using a mallet or small hammer to gently loosen the buckle from the mold) be patient, even though i know you’re excited to see the final product! Once the buckle comes out of the mold, run a knife around the underside edge to remove any excess resin and sharp edges. Now its ready to wear!