Introduction: Dehydrated Fruit Resin Jewelry
Making resin fruit jewelry is a process that I have been perfecting and refining for what feels like forever.
I have to admit, I am hesitant to put this on a blog. It is like my secret recipe (that hundreds of other random people also know). It took me 2 years of trial and error to make my fruit pendants look THIS nice and colorful.
This project is multiple days long. Be patient! I did not make a video for this tutorial because the majority of this project is waiting and mixing. It would make a pretty boring video.
It's worth it though! I promise.
It's easy to make a big batch of them at a time, and they make really unique gifts. I'm thinking end of year teach gifts, or something little for my group of friends from high school at our five year reunion. Wearing this jewelry is an instant conversation starter. I swear I meet 3x the number of new people when I go out with my kiwi necklace on. These are one of my top sellers at festivals and craft markets.
If you don't feel like making one of these but you definitely want one, you can purchase one here.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
This is what you will need to accomplish this project.
#1 Fresh Kiwis and Oranges
and pretty much any other fruit that looks nice when it is sliced. Starchy fruits or veggies don't turn out so well. Blood oranges look beautiful but it's a toss up as to whether they have that nice red color inside, and starfruit turns out looking very unique. Play around with it! Fruit is relatively inexpensive, and the possibilities are (almost) endless. (I'm kind of cheap, so five dollars for a piece of fruit I am not going to eat feels expensive, but in the long run it's just five dollars...)
These are easy to come by, but they are a little costly. I'm pretty sure most people use them to make jerky or edible dried fruit, but you can get pretty creative with it. You can even quicken the process of drying pressed flowers if you have the right equipment (I've never done this before but I've seen posts about it). I borrowed my mom's round dehydrator (which she uses to make organic dog treats for the most spoiled member of my family...) and it works beautifully. It has circular plastic trays with slatted holes. The best quality ones are typically square with oven-like trays. I'd recommend amazon.com for this! You get the best deals and all dehydrators are relatively the same for the purposes of this craft.
#3 Corn Starch
#4 Boiling water
#5 Basting Brush
# 6 Silicone Mold
of your chosen shape and size. Mine is from AC Moore and is supposed to be used as a cupcake tray!
#7 Wax Paper
#8 Resin & Hardener
AC Moore and Michael's both carry the resin set that I use. It is specifically made for making jewelry, meaning it is good for about 3 uses and is less expensive than the super serious resin. I would definitely recommend this type of kit for someone who has never used resin before. Seriously. Don't buy the big tin and separate little resin hardener. You will regret it and most likely ruin your fruit jewelry. If you are more experienced, you know what you like! #8 Cupcake Silicone Baking Pan #9 Unimportant Pair of Scissors (ones that can get ruined and you won't care) #10 Tongue Depressors or Popsicle Sticks (anything disposable and wooden will do)
#9 Clear Disposable Mixing Cups
preferably with measurement marks on the side
#8 Clear Spray Paint
#9 Jewelry Wire
Step 2: Slicing
Cutting fruit slices is relatively self explanatory.
Cut each fruit into very thin slices. Do it perpendicular to the grain (like the way someone cuts down a tree). Keep the slices around 2-3 cm thick. It doesn't have to be exact, but the fruit will take much longer to become dehydrated if the slices of fruit are too thick. The photo also helps to give a better idea of the thickness.
I highly recommend using a serrated knife. It cuts through the skin without morphing the form of the fruit much at all.
Personally I leave the skin of the fruits on the slices for the time being. It makes them keep a rounder shape when they are drying and prevents some shriveling in the end.
Place the finished slices on a towel as you go. This helps to soak up the excess juice and saves a little bit of time in the dehydrating step.
Step 3: Corn Starch Treatment
I am not completely sure why cornstarch helps keep the color of the fruit, but it totally does!
I am a bioengineer, so I could do the ten seconds of research to find out if I wanted to,but I am also a lazy bioengineer.
Take about 1 TBSP of cornstarch and set it aside. Measure out 100 mL of water, and begin to heat on the stove in a sauce pot.
NOTE: I basically guess about the amount of cornstarch to put in. Again, not very scientific but for our purposes this works. I basically heat the water and add cornstarch until the solution is saturated (won't soak up any more cornstarch powder). Whatever works, right?
After the water begins to boil, add the corn starch a little at a time, whisking to mix continuously. After it's all added, continue to boil/whisk for 3 to 4 minutes. After this is finished, either make sure there aren't chunks of cornstarch left in the solution or remove them with a spoon. It's the soupy liquid that you want.
Pour the finished mixture into a glass container. Bring it over to your sliced fruit, along with a large basting brush or large paint brush.
Coat the slices of fruit in the solution, being careful not to drench them. You want them to look shiny & wet but not be sitting in a pool of liquid. Flip them and do the same to the other side of the slices.
Step 4: Dehydrating (End of Day One)
The most annoying parts are over for day one! You can celebrate a little!
Open up your dehydrator and lay your cornstarch-coated fruit slices on the trays. They can be placed close together or spread apart. There is no real science to this part. Just load all of your slices so that they lay flat on the trays.
Once you are ready to turn on the dehydrator, find a place in your house that is both dry and isolated. The machine sounds like an quiet air conditioner, but sometimes even white noise can be disruptive (says my mom who likes to work in the area that I usually set it up in). It also smells a little funky when the fruit is almost ready. It doesn't smell bad honestly, just kind of weird. It's faint. Don't worry about it.
Also if you put it in a damp area (i.e. a garage ) the slices of fruit never truly dry.
Turn the dehydrator to heat to 115 degrees fahrenheit. It's the magic number! I've tried a couple of other settings and this temperature is the most successful at preserving the color and also getting the slices to dry sufficiently.
That's it for Day One!
The fruit will take 12 to 48 hours to dry completely, depending on how thinly you slice your fruit. For that amount of time, you can relax!
Step 5: Making Sure Fruit Is Dried (Day Two)
KNOWING WHEN TO REMOVE THE FRUIT FROM THE DEHYDRATOR: The fleshy part of the fruit will become quite thin and fragile. It may not be completely stiff, and you will have to be very careful peeling them off of the trays. The most important part of knowing they are done is making sure they are not squishy. Yeah very scientific, descriptive term. But you don't want to feel any cushiony potentially juicy fruit pieces. You want to be able to touch the slice and feel either the tray beneath or the hardened fruit flesh. Super important! Be patient! It takes a lot of time for the slices to get this way, but luckily it's passive work for you. Just check them every 12 hours.
Not taking proper care and having patience with this part has ruined so many of my fruit necklaces.
If your fruit is not dry enough, the juices left in the fruit slice will cause the fruit to literally go bad even after it is coated in the sealed plastic. It smells bad and turns ugly colors. I have a kiwi from the first time I ever made these, and it's definitely in the top five ugliest earrings I have ever seen.
The photos from this step are both of lemon slices cured in resin. The darker lemon was not proper treated with corn starch and also was not left in the dehydrator for long enough. It definitely went bad.... It doesn't smell or fall apart, but it definitely doesn't look as nice. The square pendant is a properly treated and dehydrated lemon. Very big difference.
Being cautious about undried fruit carries especially true for the oranges. If your slices are rather thick, it will take quite a bit of time for them to completely dry. If they are squishy, for lack of a better term, even after 4 days in the dehydrator, then I'd give up and try some thinner slices. (I get really impatient while waiting for the fruit to finish drying, so I've never gotten past the fourth day of waiting).
On the other hand, if the fruit is left in the dehydrator for too long it will full on cook. It will be brown and crispy before you even get started with Day Two. Lemon's that are cooked tend to get very fragile and flaky. They will fall apart when you take them off of the dehydrating tray. Kiwis are the ones to definitely keep an eye on. Once they are finished drying, an extra couple of hours in the machine will turn them quite brown. Everything eventually shrivels up and turns brown. The pictured star fruit was particularly crisp when it came out of the dehydrator, but I preserved it anyway.
Step 6: Sealant (Clear Spray)
Even though they are as dry as we can get them without lighting them on fire, the dried fruit slices still have bits of moisture and natural chemicals left in them that will react with the resin. So we gotta do something about it.
This is very easy, although I probably don't do it the "right" way (aka the most thorough way). I am broke! You can order a can of resin sealant spray that is likely very similar to clear spray paint. Either way, sealing the dehydrated slices is an important step. Set the slices on wax paper and whatever surface you don't care about ruining. I did this in my garage with a big table cloth we use for crafts underneath of it. Spray all of the slices quite thoroughly so they appear wet.
Once they are dry to the touch, flip them over and do the same to the other side.
Step 7: Prepare Mold & Fruit for Resin
Get your silicone mold.
I just use a silicone cupcake baking pan that I got from AC Moore for like $11. Rubber ice cube trays are another option if you find ones that are flexible enough.
You can order real resin molds online that are specifically made for making jewelry. The real molds make the finished product turn out completely shiny on all sides, which is important if you are making rings, bracelets or something that needs a complete 3D mold. The side of the fruit pendant turns out a little cloudy with my mold, but I'm okay with that! Cut the slices of sealed fruit into the shape of your mold. I make mine to cover as much of the mold surface as possible.
With the mold I have been using, the skin/rind/crust (whatever) ends up being cut off of the fruit slice. Sometimes the skin ends up wrinkling and shriveling in the drying process anyway. There aren't really any rules to this part though! Just make sure the pieces of fruit do indeed fit into the bottom of the mold.
*A Note About Prepping Molds - they manufacture sprays to treat molds and prepare them for resin casting. Supposedly this makes the solidified product easier to remove from the mold. I have used molds both with and without the spray treatment, and to be completely honest I don't see a different between the final products. It's a good idea to use it just in case, but I'm not totally sold on it.
Step 8: Mix & Pour Resin Solution
Okay, resin mixing is a chemical reaction!
You gotta take it a little more seriously than Modge Podge.
You do not want to get this stuff on any of your clothes, hands, or really anything else important to you. It's pretty much permanent on anything that isn't your skin and wax paper. (Thank god or half of my fingers would be casted in resin at this point)
I use a plastic tray and wax paper as my surface. Follow the instructions on your resin kit to the T. The resin to hardener ratio really completely depends on the brand of resin you are using, but the stirring time is usually 60 seconds for all of them. Use the popsicle sticks or tongue depressors to mix, scraping the sides and the bottom a couple of times during the process. It's important that all of the resin is able to react with the hardener, and if not the project will never completely solidify. Disposable liquid medicine cups are perfect for measuring the parts before mixing. I also always pour the mixture into a new cup after the 60 seconds as a fail-safe.
The only other advice I have is to work quickly after it's been mixed.
The unhardened resin mixture is goopy but still easy enough to pour from a cup into the mold. I first pour a penny-sized amount into the bottom of however many molds I am using. Then I pick the fruit disks up with either popsicle sticks or throw away chopsticks, and push it down into the puddle of resin so that it just starts to seep up the sides of the slice. I do this for all of the molds before I pour anymore resin.
An edit from a friendly fellow-instructabler:
The trick I learned is to heat the resin in a hot water bath BEFORE you mix in your hardener. This will reduce the viscosity or goopy-ness and will be way easier to work with! I take an old margine/butter container, put water in it and nuke it till it's somewhat hot. I then pour the resin into my mixing cup (or take the bottle the resin is in), then put that into this hot water bath. After a minute or two, take the resin out - THEN mix in the hardener. Stir as usual and then just pour. You really don't need the extra step of transferring it into another cup. Just stir gently but thoroughly so you don't get too many bubbles.
The temp and airflow DO affect the cure process. Raise the ambient temp in the room and it will cure way faster OR put a hair dryer on it - it will harden up very quickly!
Thank you CraigRJess!
Once all of your fruit slices are in the mold on top of the first pour of resin, pour another layer on top. I usually fill the second layer enough so that the texture of the fruit is below the surface of the resin.
Again depending on the type of resin you use, or if you have mixed your resin thoroughly enough with the right ratio, these pendants will take a while to cure. Resin doesn't really "dry". Airflow, temperature, or environmental factors don't necessarily effect the curing process. It is a chemical reaction between the hardener and the resin. You don't need to turn on any fans, put it in the freezer or oven, or do anything at all except for put the curing molds in a room far away from where you sleep (it stinks up the house). Outside is also not the best idea... Just make sure no little ones or pets can get their hands/paws on it.
Step 9: Add Jewelry Findings
There are a couple of ways to do this part. I'm sure some of you have had to find a way to attach a pendant to a chain or cord that didn't have a hole in it, and you know you have to get a little creative!
Sometimes I actually pre-cut pieces of jewelry wire and put an end into the uncured resin. It solidifies with the attachment permanently in there, so it's pretty convenient. The downside is that you have to make sure you arrange it in a way that it doesn't end up falling into the resin and solidifying completely into the pendant. They also sometimes come loose.
Another option is using a small drill bit to drill a hole. I've never done this personally, but you definitely can!
Lastly, glue! Super glue is pretty amazing and a super obvious solution to attaching the pendant to jewelry findings. This can also be tricky.
Over all, I recommend being proactive and putting the wire into the not yet hardened resin and mold.
Step 10: Enjoy!
These are so unique and turn out beautiful (about half of the time)! Don't be discouraged if your first try does not turn out well. Like I said before, it has taken me two years to get my method right. My way might not even work for you.
Try it without a mold for a little bigger challenge.
I am ALWAYS open to suggestions, corrections, and additional information. Always always always. So please leave feedback in the comments.
Cheers and good luck!