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Which Epoxy Resin should I use?

Anyone visiting our website for the first time will realise right away that we have a vast range of materials to choose from and we also have a good range within each category. For example we have over 10 types of polyester resins, over 15 types of cloths and around half a dozen brands of epoxy.
 
Let’s look at epoxies and hopefully the following information will help you choose the right one for your application. 

Basically I would say that any of the above brands will do for most General purpose applications and choice will just come down to which brand you are familiar and comfortable with, Price, kit size available or curing speed you require. But to help you with your decision should you wish to switch from a usual brand or you are a first time user, we have put this guide together to assist you.

At the moment the brands we have are:-

West System 
Mas 
SP
Axson 
Sicomen SR5550


These are what I would call our general lay-up 2-part, marine-grade epoxy that bond and coat fibreglass, wood, metal, fabrics and other composite materials to provide superior strength and moisture resistance.
Also we have other epoxies such as:

Infusion Epoxy Resin EC157 
Supacast - Clear Epoxy Resin 
Surf Clear EVO Epoxy Resin


But these are pretty much project specific so well come back to these later
.
Between the brands I wouldn’t recommend either one over the other in terms of performance, so if you want a general purpose epoxy you can use either West System, MAS, SP, Axson or Sicomen.

West System:

 A lot of epoxy users especially Boat repairers are most likely to use and recommend West System but this does not mean that it is necessarily the best one to choose, It tends to be the most recognised and popular one due to the fact that West System have put in a lot of work to promote the product and they have a vast range of products and guides.
 
The project information west system put out there on the internet is excellent and you can almost always find a guide or even a YouTube tutorial based on your Epoxy project using west system. Their website itself has lots of useful guides and product information. (see link below)  

http://www.westsystem.com/ss/

Here is another good source of information on using west system http://epoxyworks.com/

They certainly do not exaggerate when they claim ‘The WEST SYSTEM® range is a pioneer of all marine-grade epoxy systems’ 

Like most brands of epoxies West System have different curing speeds for their hardeners, we currently stock 205 fast and 206 slow hardeners. 

The slow hardener combined with the 105 resin is the preferred option for larger projects such as stitch and tape canoe or boat building or if a longer curing time is required. 

The Fast combined with the 105 resin tends to be used obviously where a faster setting is required , This may be used on smaller projects such as models or mixed with thickeners or other powders to produce bonding or fairing compound,  for example bonding in woods or filling voids and surface repairs prior to sanding.
 
Fast hardeners are sometimes used when working temperatures are low too but do not use below 5 deg C or when moisture levels are high.

West system also do a special coating Hardener 207 which is often used for coating wood to enhance the wood grain and give a clearer coat, however do not confuse this with the version available in the USA which is known as clear coat as the US version is much clearer to that available in the UK.

SP Epoxies:

The SP Epoxies Brand is another recognised and often used Brand although not as highly marketed as the West System.

It also come with a fast and slow cure option
.
Other products in the SP range are the SP320 and The SP115 :-

 SP 115 is a low viscosity, ultra-clear epoxy laminating system. It has been designed for the manufacture of laminates such as those used in sail and surfboards which are to remain unpainted, and where a very clear finish is required.  
SP 320 is a solvent-free, clear epoxy coating that provides a high clarity, tough finish to whatever it is applied to.
When used for coating wood, just a few coats will provide both protection and a depth of clarity that can only
otherwise be achieved with many more coats of a conventional varnish. This is available in fast and slow. 

MAS Epoxies:

Mas Epoxies are becoming more recognised and popular, this Epoxy is an American import and is another leading brand over in the US which is why you tend to come across more guides and YouTube Videos on this produced from the States. For some of these video guides you can visit:-

http://masepoxies.com/how-to-videos/

One really good thing that I have noticed and from customer feedback is that this resin produces less if not none of the waxy Amine residue that other systems can be prone to. This means that there is less preparation needed on cured laminates prior to further coats and secondary coats tend to bead less on the surface.
 
The MAS Flag range of epoxy also comes in different speeds however we stock a medium cure option in this brand.

We also have a Mas Low Viscosity Epoxy This is ideal for good surface penetration for example a primer layer on wood surfaces that are to be bonded with a thickened epoxy mix, it is also popular for carbon skinning especially for the final coats. 

Sicomen SR5550:

 This is another good Brand of epoxy and is also good for marine composites, bonding, laminating and wood protection.
 
It has an excellent adhesion to all type of wood. It is Crystallization Free so unlike a lot of other epoxies it tends to store better in colder conditions without crystalizing. It is also UV Stable however it does have a peculiar odd numbered Mix ratio of 100 parts resin to 29 parts Hardener.  The other brands tend to be a simple 5:2 , 5:1 etc. so take extra care when working out your mix quantities and measuring your amounts for this product. 

This Product has been specifically designed for use on wood so is ideal for bonding reinforcement materials such as fibreglass or carbon onto wood.

Other Key advantages:-

Suitable for room temperature applications
Delivers a high gloss finish
Low surface pollution, UV stable and low toxicity.

Axson:

This is a more economically priced epoxy, probably about the most economical as you can get with an epoxy as epoxies tend to be 3-4 times more expensive than polyesters, basically due to the chemical makeup of epoxies and the fact they will outperform most polyesters resin systems

However although it is more economically priced it is by no means a lesser product. It is just as good as any of the leading brands and also has Lloyd’s approval which is a bonus if you are boat building or carrying out boat repairs.
 
The only disadvantage I would say this product  has compared to others brands is that it is fairly new and there is not much out there  in terms of marketing , online tutorial guides and customer feedback,  making it less recognised and sought after amongst boat builders, boat repairers , hobbyists etc. 

Other epoxy Systems: as mentioned earlier we have other epoxy resin systems but these are not classed as General purpose use and are project specific, the clue to their usage is in their name.

Infusion Epoxy Resin EC157 This is primarily for use only with the infusion process.

 Successful laminates have been accomplished by hand using this resin however it is very temperature and mix ratio sensitive so avoid this if you are wanting to hand laminate or coat anything, stick to this only for infusion purposes use one of the afore mentioned epoxies for general hand lamination.
 
Supacast - Clear Epoxy Resin This is a great resin for casting objects, for example coins on a bar top.  Curing is temperature critical so do not use unless you have indoor controlled temperatures of around 20deg C or above. We have experimented with this resin and curing took approx. 2 days so allow for this in your project planning.
 
Surf Clear EVO Epoxy Resin Is great for surfboard skinning and has good viscosity for wetting out our surfboard fabrics. It has high temperature and UV stability and can also be used for surf repairs, fin boxes & plugs, pattern and model coating, etc..
.
Other advantages: Low odour and reduced skin aggression for a better work environment.

Hopefully This Guide has assisted in helping you choose the right epoxy for your needs. As always, our tech advice team is always on hand on 0191 4975134 for further advice.

This advice and information is given in good faith for guidance only. and is given without warranty, users should determine information given and using their own judgment to determine suitability. 

To reassure our customers - all materials supplied by East Coast Fibreglass Supplies are of the finest quality, manufactured by companies such as Scott Bader, DSM, Owens Corning to name but a few, who all have supplied materials into the Composites industry for many years on a global scale. Samples from every batch manufactured are retained for testing, should the need arise.

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