Ryan Solins: Perfecting Clear Casting

Ryan Solins and his dog Ever

Longtime skateboarder Ryan Solins has been working in IT for the past 20 years, but his hobby with epoxy only came about more recently.

In the past 5-10 years, Solins spent a lot of time watching makers on YouTube.  He enjoyed watching them document their processes for every project. In 2019,  he decided to stop watching and start applying all the techniques he'd been  learning about.

Above: Solins with his dog, Ever, in front of a ThickSet Epoxy and broken board piece

Ryan Solins Skateboard Decks and finished Floating Dog Bowl Stand

A dog bowl stand Solins made with some of his broken boards

While he had done some basic woodworking in the past to create his own  ramps, Solins hadn't worked with epoxy. But with a big pile of broken  skateboards hanging around, he knew they’d be the perfect base for his first  project.

“Even though they were trashed, each broken board had its own personal story, so I just never threw them out. I wanted to leverage the story and character behind the break.”

Heading straight to TotalBoat, his first project was a dog bowl stand for his now 11-year-old golden retriever, Ever.

Ryan Solins finished Floating Dog Bowl Stand

Solins' first dog bowl stand, with a ThickSet Epoxy leg

“I had always been intrigued by epoxy, especially river tables. Seeing the broken boards there, I felt that they were the skateboard version of working with live edge.”

Using TotalBoat TableTop and ThickSet epoxies, he made a clear epoxy leg, then coated the stand to make it shine and hold up for years to come from all the water slopping around. While Ever was just excited to keep on eating, Solins had found a new passion.

Once his skater friends had seen what he could do, Solins started getting requests for specific projects.

Ryan Solins Bluetooth Speaker Boxes

The first speaker box Solins made, and the 12-sided one he completed more recently

“It was a slow trickle of progress. One friend asked for a speaker box, so I tried that and it worked. I started making more, and worked up to making a 12-sided speaker that could be oriented any way.”

Ryan Solins' customer dog enjoying Floating Dog Bowl Stand

A dog bowl stand with two levels for different sized furry siblings

While he started out using traditional tongue-and-groove joinery, his dog bowl stands now have everything from ThickSet Epoxy waterfall edges to hairpin legs.

Ryan Solins Trinket Trays

Trinket trays Solins made, with ThickSet Epoxy tinted blue

After building trinket trays, Solins decided on a bigger project that would become his own table. 

“I love creating curves with the broken boards, it looks so cool with the skateboard edges. So I went to a circle table.”

Ryan Solins Coffee Table Top and finished Coffee Table

The layout and final table Solins created with a ThickSet Epoxy middle

With a broken board middle, clear epoxy in between, and boards on the outside, the table became a lucky project. Not only did he miss an exothermic reaction due to the cold temps, it also brought some attention to his page.

“I quickly learned to become very meticulous when working with epoxy. Any part that’s off will cascade into the next one. I slowed down, taking time with every step. It can get frustrating, but getting to the end without a detail missed makes it worth the extra effort.”

Ryan Solins using TotalBoat Wood Honey on a piece

Solins’ work on the lathe, coated with Wood Honey

He’s since taken a few woodturning classes to learn more about the craft, using a combo of epoxy, broken boards, and finishing with TotalBoat Wood Honey.

“I love working with a lathe. It’s the most fun, but also the most nuanced tool. I can just zone out, it’s the most pleasurable tunnel vision.”

When a friend reached out asking if he could cast her wedding bouquet in epoxy, Solins agreed enthusiastically. Only after talking to his mom did it occur to him that messing it up could be problematic, as the flowers are so meaningful.

After double-checking with his friend though, Solins still went for it, just being extra mindful of the temperatures and controlling everything he could.

Ryan Solins Wedding Bouquet in Thickset Fathom Epoxy

The first flower casting Solins did for his friend's wedding bouquet

He did his research, watching Matt's Woodworks on YouTube describe every tool, product, and sandpaper grit he uses for clarity.

Solins also reached out to TotalBoat Ambassador Dre Fandetti of @craftswithdre, who had just started using ThickSet Fathom Epoxy to cast flowers. She helped him dry the flowers, a vital aspect of the process. When he found success after pouring and demolding, Solins started looking for other casting projects.

Ryan Solins Ron Swanson in Epoxy

The Ron Swanson casting Solins made 

Inspired by woodworkers always having a mini Ron Swanson in their shops, particularly woodworker and TotalBoat Ambassador John Malecki, Solins pulled out his own Funko Pop of the Parks and Rec character and decided to encase it.

Ryan Solins the Mandalorian Presanded and Finished

The Mandalorian casting, in the middle of the sanding process, and after polishing

Working through the same process as casting the flowers, the figurine was cast in one ThickSet Fathom Epoxy pour inside a homemade HDPE mold. Using only a vacuum chamber to degas the resin, Solins then began the tedious process of sanding and polishing to achieve crystal clarity and a smooth, buttery finish.

“It takes about three hours to sand, with 12 grits of sandpaper and two different polishing compounds. It’s nerve-racking to see that demolding clarity go away, but then it clears up better than ever.”

Ryan Solins Wall Art

A broken board wall hanging with a clear, ThickSet Epoxy river

For an extra enticement, Solins used a CNC machine to add an infamous quote, and continues to do so with other Funko Pop castings.

He wasn’t expecting the first one to be received so well, but has since done Batman, Rick from Rick & Morty, and The Mandalorian, with increasingly intricate CNC carvings.

While his recent success in castings has opened up new doors, Solins still plans to keep on working with local skate shops to create customized pieces. 

Ryan Solins No Skateboarding Sign

A No Skateboarding sign Solins created with broken boards, coated with TableTop Epoxy

“As I consider myself a minimalist, I want all the customers to be stoked to buy my pieces because they can get one or multiple functions out of them.”

Ryan Solins Coaster Bottle Openers

Dual coasters and bottle openers Solins sells at his local skate shop, 303 Boards

To see more of Solins’ work, follow him on Instagram at @foreverskatestuff. To view and purchase his products, go to foreverskatestuff.comTotalBoat logo

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