A Mould for Clariel

Yay! After harrowing adventures, I finally have a completed silicone mould for Clariel

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Why is it two different colours? Well, I ran out of the pink silicone from Alumilite halfway through the moulding. It took a little bit more than I thought it would. Then the white silicone from FormX didn’t set the first time I used it because I accidentally mixed too little catalyst. (I thought it said 100:1 but it actually said 100:5.) Annnnd when I was cleaning the un-set silicone off the pink stuff that I did have on the other side, the turpentine shrank the pink silicone and caused parts of it to rip. So I had to re-cast the entire half mould all in the white stuff.

In addition to that, because my workshop is so cold (17 degrees C or 62.6 degrees F) I had to rig up a little hot house out of foam for the white silicone to cure. It’s much happier at 24 degrees C. I almost despaired and tossed it out because it hadn’t gotten totally solid overnight (Thursday night) and when I arrived on Friday, it was still very smushy. The thing about tin-curing silicone is: if it’s not cured by the end of its stated curing time, it’s not gonna. Unless …

Unless it’s too cold. If it’s too cold, it’s probably still curing just reaaaaaally slowly. So I crossed my fingers and warmed it up. In a few hours, it set! Woohoooo! I can’t tell you how happy and relieved I was.

So, today, I still have a bunch of cleaning to do from the failed curing (last Monday) and the retarded curing (last Thurs/Fri). Un-cured silicone is a nightmare to clean up cause it doesn’t react to very many chemicals. I use turpentine, and then concentrated dish-soap to clean up the residual oil. Or I use acetone or 100% isopropyl alcohol. It depends on how cured it ended up, what it’s stuck to, and how stubborn it’s being.

Once I have a nicely cleaned working area, I can tackle the actual casting in resin. I’m kinda terrified. I hope it’s not as challenging as the silicone!

Breakthrough!

Research is annoying, boring, and absolutely necessary. I bet you’re tired of seeing these little squares aren’t you? I sure am. Silicone and resin are both notoriously finicky substances. Each brand and each type has their own particular formula and behaviour. Luckily, I knew to expect this and bought extra to test and fiddle with before casting a big beautiful sword.

Always. Buy. Extra.

So what can you do when your materials are not behaving themselves they way they should? Search online for the answers, do some more digging, ask other artists, watch videos, read tutorials, contact the manufacturer. If it turns out that there’s more than one possibility, you’ll find yourself in the unfortunate situation I’ve been in for the past few weeks.

You have to make the best guess you can as to what went wrong and do it again changing only one thing at a time. It’s tedious and frustrating and you’ll really, really want to make it go faster, but it’s necessary to isolate the problem so you can fix it. If you change more than one thing and suddenly it works, (or messes up even MORE) then you’ll never know where the mistake happened in the first place! The ultimate goal is learning more about how the materials work so you’ll waste less and be more sure of yourself later on.

You’ve all seen my first attempt with Alumilite.

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Why is it sticky!?
What happened? The resin was too cold. My workshop is only about 17-18 degrees Celsius. (Yeah it’s not so comfy this time of year.) That’s too chilly for Alumilite waterclear to cure and not even a heat gun on the mould beforehand made a difference.

For the second attempt, I put the silicone mould in my mini oven that I use for clay baking and propped the door open. This kept the internal temperature of the oven at a toasty 50 degrees Celsius.

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Well, it’s not sticky at least … It cured all the way through, nice and hard, but there were weird, flaky patches on the surface of the resin. What could possibly have caused…

Wait a second. Ah! The plaster “jacket” I made to keep the silicone mould flat and secure was made of gypsum. Why is that important? Gypsum doesn’t conduct heat very well at all. That can be really useful for some projects. For this one, though, it sucked. The plaster caused the temperature of the resin to be inconsistent.

Worse than that, the flaking of the resin actually scratched the silicone mould. That means anything I cast with that mould will have scratches all over it. Greaaaat. So I had to make another mould. I made it double the thickness of the original mould so it could stay flat and secure all by itself.

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Ah yeaaaaah! That’s what I’m talking about! The resin stayed nice and toasty throughout its curing and hardened all the way through. No stickiness, no weird bubbles, no probl- Oh. Yeah there are some dark flecks in there. It’s not a uniform pink.

Sigh.

Yeah, the dropper I used to put the dye in the resin had a semi-dried “booger” in it. (I call bits of congealed paint, glue, whatever that gets stuck in the nozzle of something a “booger”. I don’t think that’s the technical term for it.) So the clump of dye came out in the resin and failed to dissolve into it.

But I’m still happy. “Use a clean dropper” is a really easy fix!

As I always say: “There’s no such thing as perfection; only beauty.” So how can we feel better at being forever imperfect? Just have a look at where we started and see how much we’ve grown!

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Are you stoked? I’m stoked! Let’s get to the workshop and make cool stuff!