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Adventures in 3-D

In between chaos and gardening and finishing Campbreath art and trying to put together pieces for two back-to-back conventions in June, we’ve been fooling around for the last week and some change with molding and casting.* I’ve done a couple of little sculptures in sculpey, and we’re trying to cast them in hopes of making copies.

This is not terribly easy, and we’ve had a lot of excitement of the sort where you realize AS YOU ARE POURING that this is not going to work, and then you have approximately ninety seconds to find a solution. There has been jury-rigging, by which I mean we have been building mold frames out of Legos and using a decommissioned vibrator to agitate the mold to get the air bubbles out. (Lego works REALLY well, by the way…)

Finally—right about the point we had poured the plaster of paris and I realized that I had no idea how long it took plaster to set—I called my stepfather, who’s a sculptor by trade, who told me all kinds of useful information that would have been really helpful about three hours prior. But never mind! Onward and upward! I will get at least ONE good cast out of this bloody thing if I have to glue the tusks back on and sand every damn piece by hand!

I have a dream that someday I will be able to make a neat mask, but for the moment, I will settle for a couple of paintable plaster bits of wall art.


*And I do mean “we.” Kevin has been doing the heavy lifting on the engineering end of this. If it was just me, I would still be trying to get the lid off one of the jars.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


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My sister does pottery cats. I think she's been going through the same learning curve, but I have no advice whatsoever. Good luck, and lots of pics!

Who has a decommissioned vibrator lying around to be put to other purposes :)

There are other questions I could ask but.........no :) TMI for everyone LOL

So, I was reading this journal entry, burst out laughing, and Clint demanded to know what was so funny. He was eating leftovers at the time, and when I got to the point about the decommissioned vibrator to agitate the bubbles out of the mold he damn near snarfed chicken fajita out his nose...which was ALMOST as amusing as the journal entry itself.

Also? Molding/casting is a pain in the rear. Best of luck in your adventures. ;)

oh lor - partner tried that with a sculpted horse - it ain't fun. Good luck with it!

I initially read "meat mask", which seemed a bit outré for you...but hey, whatever floats your ekranoplane.

I'm now picturing ursulav turning up to a con dressed in The Boots, partially shredded sheets of raw meat, and a domino mask made of bacon, like a Lady Gaga gone superheroine. o.O

Also, bonus points for ekranoplane. :D

Darn, I tried to order the one mask book, and they turned around, canceled the order, and the price took a mysterious jump by twenty bucks. No book for me!

AbeBooks? For half a second, at least, there's one for $30...

Pick Miss Monster's brain! She's very good!

Never try to Google the term "Vibratory Tumbler" while at work.

When I got to the line about realizing things weren't going to work as you were pouring I was thinking you were making metal castings. These can be ever so much more exciting if a mold tips over or fractures open depending on the metal you are casting.

Lead-tin solder melts at about 360F, aluminum at about 1220F, copper at almost 2000F, and steel around 2600-2800F depending on the specific alloy. Solder would make you yell ouch and probably swear like a sailor, anything else and you scream fire and mean it.

**contemplates** I remember the hesitation I went through about getting rid of a damaged vibrator once (my ferrets got hold of it and chewed it. Talk about trauma.) I finally wrapped it in layers of newspaper and snuck it into a dumpster like I was hiding a murder victim's body-parts. Nobody ever tells you how to handle these things.

One of the foremost fossil casters in the nation uses Lego bricks to build his molds. They truly are awesome for that sort of thing.

I think you may have pioneered the use of decommissioned vibrators to get rid of bubbles in the mold, though.

if you're interested in mask-making, you should talk to copperbadge about it. He made really nice leather ones all through graduate school, and if you wanted some practical idea of what you'd be getting into or what equipment you'd need, or even just to chat about it, I'm sure he'd love to talk about it.

also, I feel that you guys would get on well, in terms of quirky art and also probably internet personality.

If you want something more durable than plaster that pours with fewer bubbles, you could try dental stone. It's much heavier, though. We've been casting blocks to build miniature terrain, here. Building the lego frames is one of my favorite parts of the process. Hirst Arts is a good resource for information, too (hirstarts.com).

Interesting! I was gonna try Hydrocal next, but I'll definitely have to keep this stuff in mind...

This is Merlin's Magic die stone. It's a dental hydrocal. You can get it here: clintsales.com/dental

Word of warning about plaster of paris

I suspect you probably knew - and if you didn't, that Kevin or your stepfather told you - that plaster of paris is something you should keep your hands out of.

WARNING - Link contains squicky pictures of what remains of her hands
Art class girl loses eight fingers after putting hands in plaster of Paris

Not that your blog or podcast would lead one to believe you're injury prone or anything.

Re: Word of warning about plaster of paris

I saw that article! No worries, we're being pretty good, except for the bit where no one in this house ever remembers to wear gloves.

Re: Word of warning about plaster of paris

Holy shit.

I am entertained, and intrigued, as I have been considering venturing into 3D as well recently (which has, in the past, not ended terribly well). I too dream of one day being able to make masks, and perhaps those strange sand filled doll creatures that have sculpted faces and feet, and soft middles. Please do keep updating, I am intrigued!

I've done a bit of casting (figures, jewelry, masks) and if you're trying to make it easier on yourself you might consider shifting away from plaster for the mold-making part of production. Two-part silicone works wonders and is great if you have any over-hangs (arms, indents, etc) that can get caught on a plaster mold.

I've used both "Amazing Mold Putty" and Smooth-On's "Oomoo". The mold putty is a great starting point and you can get it at craft stores. (locally I get it at Michaels). Oomoo requires you to make a mold box (the Legos you mentioned are perfect for this) but opens you up to more possibilities such as two and three part 3D molds. Plus, the molds are flexible so you can easily pop out all the molded pieces.

Smooth-on also has a great selection of two-part plastics which are paintable and great for reproducing your sculptures in if you ever wanted to move out of plaster.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I'd love to help!

Best of luck casting!

Let me get this straight: your mom's an artist, your stepdad's a sculptor, and your stepmom's a dog groomer?

I swear, if you and Kevin ever do a podcast where all you do is tell stories of your family, I would be the happiest person alive.

Once you have your process down, be sure and document it for posterity!

Yeah, LEGO has a surprising number of uses. My husband once made a manual yarn-unwinder for me out of LEGO.

have you thought about getting someone to translate your characters into 3D models?

There's always 3d printing... though the printers are hard to come by and expensive. Portland has 3 of them, and the art institute one, so I've used one and they're really pretty cool, if you get a chance.

Please forgive the commas. 24 hour day.

At the risk of having Kevin go, "Oh God, no! No power tools!" ,..an electric sander sans sandpaper works really well for shaking the bubbles out of plaster and mold compounds... turn upside down and put your lego mold thingie on it and run it for a few minutes and it'll likely work better than the decommissioned vibrator. :)

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