Archive for DIY

How to Color Shapelock

Shapelock is an awesome moldable plastic that you can use for proptyping. The only issue I have found with it so far, is that it comes in white. Boring white. Since I do not want everything I make to look like it should be on display in the Apple Store, I wanted to find a way to color Shapelock to give more variety to my designs and ideas. You will be happy to know that shapelock is easy to color with just about any dye for expoxy or fiberglass! Water based dyes work well too, and they do not fade or leach out because the color is locked inside the plastic. I recommend using epoxy and fiberglass dyes however for the best result!

So if you want to know how to color Shapelock follow the process below.

1) Shapelock
3) Stainless Steel bowl or porcelain bowl
4) Dye

1) Pour a few of the white Shapelock pellets into 150°F water as you would to start melting them. Do not try to melt too much at once as it is best to work with smaller amounts of Shapelock when coloring. Start small and work your way up to bigger clumps as you get better.
2) When it becomes a clear blob take it out of the water and drop it into your stainless steel or porcelain bowl
3) Put on your gloves – quickly, and then apply a couple of BB sized drips of dye into the Shapelock blob.
4) Vigorously knead it over and over in your hands until the color is uniform. It will stiffen as it cools, so work fast! If the color is not as uniform as you like, just reheat it, and then continue kneading.
5) Once you are done – roll the shapelock into logs shapes to save for later use.

WinMerge – Compare Duplicate PC Files

If you have ever wanted the ability to compare files or folders on your computer to try and find duplicates or outdated information, or if you just want an easy way to update your iTunes library, you need to check out the FreeWard program called WinMerge.

Extreme example of how WinMerge can help you out: If you are like me and you have about 6 1TB external hard-drives, you start to notice that files and folders begin to duplicate across all of them. I am paranoid about backing up my photography, graphic design work, and website work, so I am in the bad habit of duplicating folder backups across my laptops, desktop, and other drive drives. I finally decided to try and consolidate all of this mess, and WinMerge helped me immensly!

More Practical exmaple of WinMerge can help you out:
Lets say iTunes music file merging. Anyone else find it extremely frustrating to have multiple iTunes libraries across different computers, hard-drives, and desktop computers. I also was guilty of that, so I wanted to consolidate all of my iTunes music into one space without losing it. YES – I have lost tons and tons of music in the past – money and good tunes out the window! But WinMerge helped me to compare my different iTunes folders, check for differences, update the folders I wanted to update and then compare everything again. Really great tool and easy to use!

So if you are looking for an awesome free tool to help you compare files and folders on your computer – to check for duplicate backup files, duplicate photographer, design, or website files – and help you merge everything into one place – WinMerge is the ticket!

Lost Wax Casting Process


I came across this process when I was trying to come up with an idea to cast a bronze sculpture I had in my mind.  After reading through this process, it helped me to better understand the process, and I would love to share it.  Site Credit following process.

 1. The artist creates a sculpted model, generally made of plaster, clay, marble, stone, or wood.




 2.The surface of the model is coated with a protective substance. Then the model is put into a bed of very fine elastic material held in place by a rigid outer mold. When the model is removed, its impression remains.




 3. Fireproof clay is carefully put into the impression, making a sharply defined duplicate of the artist’s original model.




 4. The surface of this second clay model is slightly scraped away. When this second model is returned to the mold, there is a gap between the model and the mold. This gap is where the wax will be poured. The final bronze will be of the same thickness as the gap that is created by the scraping.




 5.After closing the mold around the clay model, hot wax is poured into the gap between the model and the mold. This stage is crucial in producing a perfect reproduction of the initial sculpture. The result is a clay model covered with wax, which is then hand-finished to fidelity, incorporating the artist’s signature, cast number, and a foundry seal.




 6. A network of wax pipes, called sprues and gates, is attached to the wax model. These pipes will allow the wax to escape as it melts. The pipes will also spread the molten metal evenly throughout the mold and will let air escape as the metal is poured in.




 7. A finely granulated ceramic is applied to the surface of the model and its pipes until it becomes thick and coarse. The result, now called an “investment mold,” is then dried and heated causing the wax to melt and flow out of the mold, leaving a space between the fire resistant clay model and the investment mold. Accordingly, this method is called the “lost wax process.”




 8. The investment mold is then heated to a high temperature (over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit). Except for a place to pour in the liquid bronze at the top, the mold is covered with a layer of cladding (a protective metal coating), which must be completely dry before bronze pouring begins.




 9.Molten bronze (over 2,000 degree Fahrenheit) is then poured into the investment mold, filling the space left by the “lost” wax. When all is cool, the cladding and investment mold are broken and the metal appears. The bronze sculpture and its sprues and gates are an exact reproduction of the wax in step 6.




 10. The network of sprues and gates is then removed and the surface of the bronze is chiseled and filed so that no trace of them can be seen. This process of hand-finishing the bronze to perfection is called “chasing.” Any remains of the fireproof clay model left inside the bronze are also removed now.




 11.When the chasing is finished, hot or cold oxides are applied to the surface of the bronze, creating a thin layer of corrosion. This layer– slightly brown, green, or blue in color– is called the “patina.” The patina protects and enlivens the surface of the bronze.



Ten Step Lost Wax Casting Process of Auguste Rodin’s Sorrow
Plaster, Clay, Wax, Ceramic and Bronze
10 Models and Final Bronze, approximately 16 x 11 x 11 in. each
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation

Magic-Sculpt Epoxy Clay

Magic-Sculpt expoxy clay is a two-part epoxy clay specifically designed to meet the needs of modelers, crafters and sculptors alike. One of the only epoxies that will smooth out with water. Its grain structure is finer than any other product available and will not shrink or crack even when formed in large structures. It can be shaped by hand or with modeling tools, sanded, carved, painted; you can attack it with a grinding tool and the cured material will not break apart or lose its shape. Magic-Sculpt will cure at room temperature.

I recommend it highly for some quick and easy auto body work or for making custom parts and molds.

Working with Magic-Sculpt* MagicSculpt is a two part epoxy putty that comes in two containers, (as seen above) one resin and one hardener. Magic-Sculpt is mixed 1 to 1 by volume in small quantities as you need it. Almost anything can be used as an armature, such as armature wire, metal mesh, styrofoam, wood and balled up tin foil.

* Once you have completely mixed the two components, you have about 45 min to 1 hour of working time (depending on the temperature in your workspace, cold = longer working time, hot = shorter working time) Magic-Sculpt will cure fully overnight to a rock hard finish that is easily painted.

* Dip your hands in water while mixing if the Magic-Sculpt becomes sticky. Wash hands between mixes to keep it from sticking to your hands. Gloves are not necessary but will keep the Magic-Sculpt from underneath your fingernails and cut out fingerprints on finished works. The surface of your Magic-Sculpt sculpture can be smoothed with water before it cures.

Magic-Sculpt is available in Natural ( light grey ), White, Pink, Brown, and Black in 1 lb. and 5 lb. kits. Natural and White are available in 20 lb. kits.

Approximate Coverage in 1/4in thickness
1lb unit = .5 sq ft
5lb unit = 2.5 sq ft
20lb unit = 10 sq ft

Precious Metal Clay – jewelry making

My daughter once asked me if I knew how to make jewelry.  I know that it is a very complicated process of mold making, lost wax casting, and involves a lot of heat – so I started looking for a really easy fun way to make jewerly at home.  I cam across the Precious Metal Clay product at Michaels and found out more about it online.

Precious Metal Clay lets you make fine jewelry with little experience or equipment. It works like Fimo clay, except it is more crumbly because it contains powdered precious metal, such as silver, or gold. (It will also dry out faster.) The organic clay binding burns off when you fire it and you end up with pure fine silver or gold in the shape of the clay you made.

If you have jewelry skills you can keep working it from there, soldering, shaping, etc.  You do not even have to fire this jewerly in a kiln – as you can use propane torch on a concrete or tile slab to fire your pieces just as effectively. 

Anything you make with this clay will shrink significantly when fired. However since the shrinkage is proportional, jewlers use this shrinkage to produce very fine detail that would be difficult if you had to work at full size. PMC comes in various formulations with different shrinkage rates. The original PMC shrinks 30%, while PMC+ and PMC3 shrinks only 10%. I have used the silver PMC+ and PMC3 on a few small pieces we made at home.

 My one piece of advice about firing PMC with a propane torch: This stuff is very expensive (it’s silver or gold, remember!) so take a small piece and sacrifice it to learn how to heat evenly first. It is very easy to overheat it which will melt the silver into a blob., which is bad. If you aren’t sure if it’s metal yet (it’ll be whitish), pick it up with needle nose plier and drop it very gently on the surface you fired it on.

$13, 6 grams
$43, 28 grams
Available from Metal Clay Supply

EL Wire – Electroluminescent Wire

Electroluminescent Wire – AKA EL –  is kind of like DIY neon. This thin electro-luminescent wire (el-wire) glows very brightly when you run an electric charge through it. You can bend it easily, and you can work it into really unique shapes to light objects and compound structures.   You can find it in flat panel sheets as well as wire.

EL wire or sheets, do not produce any heat.   El sheets and wire also runs off batteries or a consistant 12volt source.  This means you can wire it up in your car, on a motorcycle or bicycle, you can even wear it!  I have seen signs and clothing costumes that integrate EL wire and sheets and they are pretty cool!

It comes in various lengths from .5 m to 10 m (you can cut it if you know what you are doing) and in eight colors. You can also make it strobe. It is the world’s most flexible light.  

Live Wire in bulk
Starting at $1.15 per foot

Custom Kits
Contains up to 20 feet of variously-colored wire
Available from Live Wire

SHAPELOCK – Moldable Plastic

Shapelock is one of the coolest tools I have come across in a long time for a number of DIY applications.

Shapelock is a modlable plastic material – or rather – an “Ultra-High Molecular Weight Low Temperature Thrmoplastic” – impressed yet?  This stuff is really easy to work with and can help you make prototypes, cast parts, create parts, it can be machined, and can be used in a number of other ways.

Shapelock is similar nylon and polypropylene in hardness and toughness, but it is really easy to mold and shape.  The way it works is it starts out as plastic pellets.  You take these plastic pellets and you put them into 160F water.  The heat of the water will actually “melt” them into a soft moldable plastic material.  When you take the pellets out of the water, it is actually cool enough to mold with your hands.  You can then shape the material into your desired form or use it as a mold against another part while it is cooling.

You will want to work quickly with this material as it hardens and gets really strong as it cools.  Do not worry if you mess up and need to re-do your shape, as all you have to do is just put it back in the 160F water and reshape it!However, once you create your final piece you will have a strong, durable, paintable, and machine-able white plastic.

This stuff is great for making prototypes, molds, and even ball-and-socket joint structures for robotics applications.  Very cool stuff!

HOW TO USE IT:  Heating and Melting

WARNING! This article describes an activity that involves a likely risk of getting burned. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and only allow minors to work with adult supervision.

There are a number of techniques to heat the plastic:

  1. Drop into a container of hot water (either on stovetop or in a microwave)
  2. Double-boiler (like for chocolate or poaching eggs)
  3. Hot air gun or hair blow dryer
  4. Skillet or electric griddle
  5. Inside an oven

ADVICE:  If you want to bake this in the oven, use a Wilton silicone bakeware 12 cup muffin pan to heat the material, as it does not stick to this.  If you are using boilin water, use a Glass bowl.

When using this material, do not use plastic molds, as this will stick to them.  Use bare, clean metal molds, and DO NOT use non-stick molds, as it will bond to that material as well.  Silicon muffin trays work the best.

When removed from the oven or hot boiling water, the plastic is clear and pliable. It feels like warm clay. You can snap of chunks with your fingers, and blend it with other softened pieces. Overall, the plastic is a nice balance of being moldable and flexible without dripping. Working time is about 20 seconds (depending on the size of the piece) before more heat needs to be applied.

The metals include: aluminum, anodized aluminum, brass, copper, silver/tin (lead-free) solder, stainless steel, and zinc-plated steel. The plastics/rubber include: Delrin (acetal), FR-4 glass epoxy (PCB), nylon, polypropylene, silicone, and Teflon (PTFE).

Teflon is interesting, in that the ShapeLock did not bond with it, as expected. This means that the Wilton “non-stick” cookie tray that absolutely bonded with ShapeLock is not coated with Teflon.

The metals include: aluminum, anodized aluminum, brass, copper, silver/tin (lead-free) solder, stainless steel, and zinc-plated steel. The plastics/rubber include: Delrin (acetal), FR-4 glass epoxy (PCB), nylon, polypropylene, silicone, and Teflon (PTFE).

Teflon is interesting, in that the ShapeLock did not bond with it, as expected. This means that the Wilton “non-stick” cookie tray that absolutely bonded with ShapeLock is not coated with Teflon.

ShapeLock appears to bond with a number of common plastics. ShapeLock wouldn’t come off of these materials by hand, nor when I put them in a vise and tried to pop off the ShapeLock with a hammer. The ShapeLock material eventually distorted, but wouldn’t dislodge. The plastics that it appears to bind with include: ABS (Lego bricks), acrylic, polycarbonate, polyester (likely), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), and vinyl (likely).  It also bonds to Wood.

$15 for 250 grams

The same stuff, under a different name (Friendly Plastic), is available in larger quantities, at a slightly cheaper rate.
$48 for 793 grams
Available from Sculpt