African Sunset Wooden Suncatcher

9 Materials
5 Hours

I have had some wood slices sitting behind my shed for years now waiting for the perfect project to come along, and it finally did. I wanted to try and create an African bush themed wooden suncatcher. The idea was to have the background look like an African sunset, with a silhouette of the African bush. Depending on the light, the colours in the wooden suncatcher will look different from every angle.

Prepare the surface

A few years back I made another wooden suncatcher which was the inspiration for this project. But instead of having lots of small circles of coloured resin, I would have one large one. If your slice is coming away from the sides like mine you can remove the loose areas with a hammer and chisel. (I do use some power tools in this project but they are not needed, it is just easier and quicker).

While making the last suncatcher I came across a few issues which I was prepared for on this project.  The first one was to prepare the surface correctly. Your surface needs to be smooth so the resin does not seep out into the grooves and run out. I used an electric planer to get rid of the majority of the ridges caused by the chainsaw. Then sanded it smooth with a grinder and sanding disc. You can use a regular sander it just takes longer.

Tape up the hole

Two issues I had on the last project, was that the tape left a sticky residue on the resin. And that regular duct tape did not work for me, the resin leaked straight through. To prevent the tape residue from staying behind on the resin, I added a layer of a thin plastic film. It was an offcut of window film I had leftover from a jewellery box I created. I taped the film in place I did add some hot glue on the inside. But in hindsight, the hot glue was a waste of time and caused another issue later down the line.

With the last project, I tried a few different types of tape and this foil tape was the only one that worked for me. I added two layers on top of the plastic film. If you don’t add the plastic film, you will spend hours rubbing the sticky goo off the resin. To make a suncatcher you don’t fill the hole completely with resin. The more colour you add the less the sun will shine through.

Adding the coloured resin

All resins are different so you should mix your resin according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For this project, I used less than 1l of resin. To start, I mixed up a batch of 500ml in one large container. The most important tip I can offer with resin is to mix it really well. Set a timer and mix for at least 4 – 5 minutes if you are mixing by hand.

I used some cheap resin pigments I bought from China years ago and to be honest they were crap. The colours had gone off and were no longer the correct colours. I would highly recommend good quality resin pigments. But I had no alternative but to go forward and use what I had and hope for the best. The one at the back on the right was supposed to be orange.

Pouring the resin

The idea I had in my head was to try and recreate an African sunset with all the beautiful colours running across the sky. I poured the coloured resin horizontally across the surface, alternating the colours. I used a stir stick to slightly blend some of the colours. After a few minutes, you will see some bubbles on the surface. To remove these you need some sort of flame. I use a creme Brule torch and just swipe it over the surface. Your resin will need at least 12 hours to dry.

Unfortunately, I still had some leakage because my surface was not perfectly flat so the weight of the resin did let some ooze out. So it is a good idea to make sure your wood slice is level. But I had no sticky residue so that was a win.

The African scene was a vinyl sticker that I made. More info on the decal on my website listed below.

At this stage, it is a good idea to see if the design fits correctly. Mine was too big and the tree blocked out the sun so the monkeys and the birds had to go. I cut a circle in yellow vinyl and stuck it on the backside of the log.

This will be my “sun” which will show up great from the front with all the resin colours in front of it. I added a thin coat of clear resin to seal the vinyl inside. I forgot to take a photo here, but there is one further down showing you the back.

Sanding the surface

I had to remove the black hot glue because it spoilt the look. If it were a nice clean circle, it would have looked great, but mine was a mess.

Next, I used an orbital sander and 120 grit sandpaper to remove the bulk of the resin that had seeped out. I finished with 240 grit sandpaper.

Adding the vinyl decals

This was my first attempt at adding the decal, but the tree blocked out too much of the sun which spoilt the effect. I had to cut a second decal which I moved up higher. Using the transfer tape to transfer the design. It is as simple as rubbing the transfer tape with a scrapper and removing the transfer tape.

This is how the design looked before I added the resin.

It is now time to add the resin to seal the decal. 

It is a good idea to make sure your surface is level to prevent the resin from running off.

Adding the resin seal coat

Here was my next mistake, but this happens when you make your projects up as you go. I poured a coat of resin to seal in the decal but straight away the resin started to bubble as it filled up all the tiny holes in the wood.

If I were to do this project again, I would seal the wood surface first with 2 coats of clear polyurethane. This will fill in many of the tiny holes and prevent bubbles in the resin coat. I did use the flame to remove the bubbles but they kept forming long after I was able to use the flame. After a while, you can no longer use the flame or you will cause the resin the burn or move which will spoil the surface. I did have to lightly sand the surface after 24 hours and apply another thin coat of resin using a foam sponge.

Once the front was dry, I added I thin coat of resin to the back. This coat is not poured on or the resin will flow through the cracks to the front, ruining the surface.

Taking the photos for this project was a nightmare, it was like I was photographing a mirror. When I was able to get a good picture it was always ruined by the reflection of the grass on the resin surface.

If you don't want it outside in your garden like me you can turn it into a lamp. You can add some LED light strips to the inside at the back and use it as a lamp. More detailed info on this project available on my website.

Your cost for this project will depend on the items you need to buy, I build from items I already have at home.

More project ideas for you. I repurposed a vintage suitcase into a stunning table with storage inside.

This cool corner shelf looks great to fill small corners that are hard to fill.

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