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Tudor Row Houses – Disaster (Part 6)

An 11th Hour Calamity

This should be a post about the successful completion of this project.  It should be accompanied by another post showing the final pictures of a beautiful piece.  Unfortunately, this tale does not have a happy ending.  Instead, this is a chronicle of how the last step went tragically and devastatingly wrong.

Preparing for the End

As the end drew near, all of the final steps were in place.  After months of delaying, procrastinating, and slow painstaking work, I had finally finished the ivy on the side of of one of the buildings.  In addition, other small details had been painted on, and vegetation had been added. I took a few shots of the progress before the final two steps  were completed.

disaster 1

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Disaster 2

All that was needed at this point was to paint and attach the frame around the base, then once that was done, to fill the canal with resin in order to make the water.  The frame went on fairly easily, and everything looked perfect for the final step.: the water.

Getting Ready for the Water

I had used resin in one other project to this date.  The main issue (or so I thought) with the resin is that the chemicals in the resin will disintegrate or eat the polystyrene foam that I use if they come in contact with each other.  To that end, I knew that I needed to cover the foam with a healthy layer of  paint and PVA glue.  On the first piece that I had used resin there were some small issues, but they were mostly my fault in the way that I constructed the piece.  I had made small cuts in the stream bed, and that allowed the resin to creep into the model and to begin eating the foam.  In the end, the spots were few, not very large and more or less unnoticeable to someone who wasn’t looking for them.

This time I was taking no chances.  I covered up to what I knew would be the water line with multiple coats of PVA.  My biggest worry was the inside of the tunnel.  I had carved that out very poorly, and I was worried that there might be some nooks and crannies that I might not be able to get to with the PVA.  I covered it thoroughly with PVA, then I went pack and covered it again with hot glue.  I didn’t want anything to be able to get through.

This done, it was time to make the resin and pour it into the channel.

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I wanted the water to look nice and green, so I decided to add some transparent resin dye to the mixture to help with the look.  I poured the dye, got a decent color, then added the catalyst to help begin the chemical process.

disaster 6

It was time to pour.  I admit to being nervous, but I thought the most that would go wrong would be a couple of small pockets of foam being eaten away.  Ah, if that were only the case.

I poured the resin and sat down to watch for a few minutes.  If I noticed anything happening, I was ready to try and pour the resin back out and deal with it.

disaster 7

It looked perfect.  Exactly what I the look I was going for.  I didn’t see or hear any issues, and my son was late for Taekwando practice, so at this point I left for what turned out to be an important two hours.


It was, as it turned out, the best two hours I would spend on the project.  I was blissfully happy in thinking that my project was done.  All I needed was to wait for 24 hours or so for the resin to cure and the project that I had been working on for 3 years was finally finished.  If I only knew what was beginning to happen at home.

Disaster 9

What I failed to account for was the heat.  As Predrag Vasiljevic pointed out, the reaction is exothermic, i.e. it gets hot. really hot.  And the more resin you have, the hotter it gets.  Given the large amount of resin I had just poured, it must have heated up quite a bit.

Even with the PVA and paint barrier, the heat of the resin actually melted the foam behind it.  If this had been the extent of the damage, it might have been manageable, but the melting of the foam behind the barrier began to peel the paint.  This opened up holes in the paint and exposed the foam behind.

Disaster 8

And once the foam was exposed, it began to make contact with the resin, which began to eat away at it.

Disaster 10

And, of course once the process of melting and disintegration started, there was no stopping it.  The foam began to melt enough to form chambers, which caused more and more resin to pour into the gap.

DIsaster 11

All of this was compounded by the fact that the transparent dye that I used, plus poor measuring, meant that I did not use enough catalyst during the mixing process.  This meant that instead of curing, the resin stayed viscous.  so rather than gelling, it continued to run into the gaps and eat the foam away.

Some solutions were suggested, like putting rocks into the gap to help try and stem the tide, as well as a solution to the fact that the canal wall was quickly being eaten away.

Disaster 14

But this was completely insufficient for the magnitude of the disaster.  There was simply no stopping the resin.  The only thing left was to try and get the resin out.  In the end, it was down to me using a turkey baster and spoon try and get as much of what was now a toxic sludge out of the model.  It was, to say the least, a complete mess.

Disaster 15

Disaster 16

Even with the majority of the resin out, there was enough still coating the piece to give off plenty of toxic fumes.  Hopefully, with the majority of the resin removed, what still coated the base and the walls would begin to cure and I could begin the process of recovering from this.

Unfortunately, 96 hours later, while the resin had cured in some spots, in others it was still tacky and still others it was still a gel like consistency.  To make matters worse, it is still giving off a toxic smell.

Disaster 17

Disaster 19

So what does all of this mean?  I am unsure.  Unless the resin cures solidly, and at this point I am skeptical that that will happen, I will have to remove the masonite base that it is built on. To do this, I will have to:

  1. take apart the frame,
  2. somehow pry the base off without breaking to much of the top,
  3. scrape out any residual resin from the foam,
  4. put on a new base,
  5. back-fill the gaping cavern of foam that is now missing,
  6. (somehow) come up with an alternative facade for the now missing bottom of the wall,
  7. and figure out what will go in the empty canal space..

All of these are daunting tasks..  Regardless of the solutions, what was to be a finished project has now added an incredible amount of work and frustration.  How long will all of this take? Only time will tell.

I guess I’d better get started………….

Disaster 20


2 thoughts on “Tudor Row Houses – Disaster (Part 6)

  1. Tob says:

    Holy crap dude, a nightmare to be certain! MAIntAIN! You can fix this.
    To remove base, build a horizontal hot wire cutter, or find a saw blade long enough. I was thinking a broken bandsaw blade with two people working it back and forth.

    Let this sit for awhile; your life will be slightly easier if the resin cures fully. You know that already.

    DO NOT be tempted to backfill the caverns with polyurethane foam (the expanding kind)!
    This backfill may not be too important if the caverns are invisible when given a facade.

    Might not have to re-facade the eaten part; might be able to put gravel/talus/rocks there, then refill the canal to a slightly higher level than before to cover the eaten spots. Know what I mean?

    Get some Envirotex Lite for re-pouring the canal.

    I will continue to think about this and post/contact you via TG.

    • Zaboobadidoo says:

      fThanks for the kind words. It helps to have sympathy and advice. Don’t worry, I would never consider using expanding foam for the back-fill. I think you may be right about not needing too much, but I want to make sure that it is stable, so I may put it a layer of pink foam. It looks a bit like one of the layers was eaten away (there were two on the side that got the most damage), so replacing it shouldn’t be too tough. I’ll expand more on my thinking with you on TG.


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