Artful Chemistry: A Guide to Different Types of Resin

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Resins are fascinating materials crucial in various industries, from construction to electronics and artistic endeavors. As a professional woodworker, understanding the diverse range of resin types and their applications can significantly enhance your craft. 

This comprehensive guide will take you through the world of resins, shedding light on their composition, properties, and the myriad ways they can be utilized in woodworking and beyond.

All About Resin Types

Resins are a remarkable class of polymers that undergo a chemical transformation from liquid to solid through curing. 

Heat, light, or chemical additives often initiate this transformation, forming a hardened and durable material. The versatility of resins lies in their ability to be molded, cast, laminated, or used as adhesives, making them indispensable across various industries.

pouring tacky resin

In my own work with resins, I’ve come to appreciate the sheer variety out there. Each type has its characteristics and applications. 

From enhancing the structural integrity of materials to creating intricate designs and adding a protective layer to surfaces, resins have revolutionized the general approach to design and craftsmanship.

Polyester Resins: Flexible and Durable

Polyester resins, a synthetic resins, are formed through a chemical reaction between dibasic organic acids and polyhydric alcohols. 

This reaction creates a polymer with ester linkages, giving the resin distinctive properties. Polyester resins are often reinforced with fibers like fiberglass to enhance their strength and durability.

The flexibility and durability of polyester resins make them a popular choice in various industries. In the construction sector, polyester resins create composite materials with strength and lightweight properties. 

mixing epoxy resin

These composites find applications in architectural structures, bridges, and even sculptures. Moreover, due to their exceptional impact resistance and ease of molding, the automotive industry utilizes polyester resins for components such as body panels, hoods, and spoilers.

Phenolic Resins: Heat and Chemical Resistant

Phenolic resins are renowned for their remarkable heat resistance and chemical stability. These resins are derived from the condensation of phenol with formaldehyde under specific conditions. 

The resulting three-dimensional network structure grants phenolic resins their outstanding mechanical and electrical properties.

Due to their excellent insulating properties and resistance to heat and chemicals, phenolic resins are extensively used in electrical components. They serve as an insulating material in circuit boards and other electronic devices, safeguarding against electrical breakdown. 

phenolic resin

Additionally, phenolic resins find application in creating high-strength laminates used in aircraft components, kitchen countertops, and wall panels.

Alkyd Resins: Versatile and Thermoplastic

Alkyd resins are thermoplastic polyester resins formed by the condensation reaction between polyhydric alcohols and polybasic acids. 

This versatile resin class exhibits various properties depending on the monomers used, allowing customization to meet various application requirements.

The thermoplastic nature of alkyd resins makes them an ideal candidate for molding and shaping applications, such as electrical insulation and electronic enclosures. 

alkyd resin

Their excellent adhesion qualities also make alkyd resins a preferred choice for coatings and paints, ensuring longevity and protection for various surfaces, from furniture to architectural elements.

Interesting Read: Ways to Paint on Resin

Polycarbonate Resins: High Refractive Index

Polycarbonate resins are characterized by their exceptional clarity, high refractive index, and impact resistance. These resins are synthesized through the reaction of bisphenol A with phosgene, resulting in a polymer with a linear and amorphous structure.

Polycarbonate resins’ optical properties and impact resistance make them a prime choice for applications requiring clear and strong materials. 

They are extensively used in producing safety goggles, eyeglass lenses, and protective shields. Additionally, polycarbonate resins find application as insulating materials in electrical components, thanks to their excellent dielectric properties.

Polyamide Resins: Strong and Lightweight

Polyamide resins, commonly known as nylon, are a class of synthetic polymers with amide linkages in their molecular chains. This molecular arrangement imparts exceptional mechanical strength and lightweight properties to the resins.

polyamide resin

The strength and durability of polyamide resins make them suitable for applications that demand mechanical resilience, such as bearings and gears. 

Additionally, their lightweight nature and abrasion resistance make them ideal for manufacturing fibers used in textiles and ropes. In packaging, polyamide resins find use in creating lightweight yet sturdy containers for food and other products.

Polyurethane Resins: Flexible and Adhesive

Polyurethane resins are formed through the reaction of polyol and isocyanate components, resulting in a highly versatile polymer. The structure of polyurethane resins can be tailored to exhibit properties ranging from soft and flexible to rigid and durable.

The flexible nature of polyurethane resins makes them suitable for applications that require cushioning and insulation, such as foam mattresses and upholstered furniture. 

polyurethane resin

Their adhesive properties are harnessed in manufacturing solid and durable adhesives used in woodworking, construction, and automotive industries. Moreover, poly resins find application as clothing liners, enhancing comfort and moisture management in activewear and footwear.

Silicone Resins: Thermal Stability and Water Repellency

Silicone resins are known for their exceptional thermal stability, water repellency, and electrical insulation properties. These resins are formed through the hydrolysis and condensation of precursors such as tetraethoxysilane.

Silicone resins find widespread use in industries that require materials to withstand extreme temperatures, such as aerospace and automotive. 

They are employed in creating rubber components, ensuring longevity and reliability in various applications. Additionally, their water repellency makes silicone resins valuable for producing water-resistant coatings, sealants, and laminates.

Epoxy Resins: Adhesion and Chemical Resistance

Epoxy resins, known for their exceptional adhesion and chemical resistance, are formed by combining a resin with a hardener—this chemical reaction results in a cross-linked polymer network with superior mechanical properties.

preparing epoxy resin

The remarkable adhesion properties of epoxy resins make them indispensable in manufacturing laminates used in aerospace and marine industries. 

Epoxy coatings offer protection against corrosion and wear, making them preferred for metal surfaces exposed to harsh environments. In my experience, I’ve found epoxy resins to be incredibly valuable, provide solid bonds and aesthetic appeal for my woodworking projects.

Polyethylene Resins: Common and Flexible

Polyethylene resins, a type of thermoplastic polymer, are formed through the polymerization of ethylene monomers. They come in various densities, each with distinct properties that balance flexibility, strength, and chemical resistance.

Polyethylene resins are widely used due to their versatility and affordability. In the packaging industry, they create bottles, bags, and containers. 

polyethylene resin

Their resistance to chemicals and corrosion makes them an ideal choice for manufacturing pipes used in various applications, including plumbing and irrigation systems.

Acrylic Resins: Clear and Impact Resistant

Acrylic resins, known as polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), are characterized by their exceptional clarity, impact resistance, and UV stability. This is a UV resin, synthesized through the polymerization of methyl methacrylate monomers.

The optical clarity and impact resistance of acrylic resins makes them preferred for applications requiring transparency and durability. 

They are widely used in producing display panels, signage, and protective coatings. Acrylic resins also find a place in woodworking for creating decorative elements that showcase both aesthetics and resilience.

Polystyrene Resins: Low-Cost and Versatile

Polystyrene resins are known for their affordability and versatility. They are formed through the polymerization of styrene monomers, resulting in a polymer with a linear structure.

polystyrene beads

Polystyrene resins’ lightweight and insulating properties make them suitable for various applications. They are commonly used as insulation materials in buildings, helping to regulate temperature and conserve energy. 

In the automotive industry, polystyrene resins find use in manufacturing components such as interior panels and dashboard elements.

Polypropylene Resins: BPA-Free and Chemical Resistant

Polypropylene resins are synthesized from propylene monomers and are celebrated for their BPA-free [1] composition, chemical resistance, and lightweight nature.

The chemical resistance and non-toxic nature of polypropylene resins make them a valuable choice for applications involving contact with chemicals or food. They are extensively used in the medical industry for creating components like syringes and containers. 

Their durability and versatility make polypropylene resins popular for manufacturing toys and coatings.


Selecting the appropriate resin for your woodworking project involves considering factors like desired properties, application requirements, and project goals. The diverse resin types discussed in this guide provide valuable resources for making informed decisions.

Understanding the chemistry behind each resin and its unique characteristics can elevate your woodworking craftsmanship to new heights. 

Whether you’re creating furniture, intricate designs, or functional pieces, the artful chemistry of resins will undoubtedly enhance your creative journey. 

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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