Friday, January 11, 2019

Tales of Trial and Terror: DIY Mold Making For Dummies By A Dummy.

One of my many crafting pleasures is sculpting with polymer clay; I hand sculpt and paint all of the clay pieces I sell in my shop. It takes a fair amount of time to craft a single pendant and while I ultimately don't mind, I wondered if I could streamline the production for when I need to make huge batches as supplementary stock to my bigger ticket items at markets and fairs. Y'know, like make a master mold of some kind.

My pumpkin heart pendants turned out to be the second favorite "small purchase" from my shop/booth, aside from my Hallow-Felty pins which for obvious reasons won't work in this experiment, so I chose these pendants to be my test subject.

It glows in the dark, too!
I should note that I'm not completely unknowledgeable on mold making.
My good friend in Texas makes molds as a part of their business in prop making, and I really tried to absorb as much knowledge as I could because they're very good at what they do... but not a whole bunch stuck with me when I left, so while I am not technically starting at square one... it's still like the 2nd square at best with the vague remembrance of what we covered.
We didn't get to do a lot of mold making, to be fair.

This friend offered to help by making the molds for me and ship them up, but me being as stubborn and curious as I am, I want to be able to be part of the process and really get my grubby hands on this action.

Off in search of easy and inexpensive methods I went; I didn't get very far when another good friend, who is also a fellow artist and also really good at what they do, shared a video about making proto putty molds (King of Random) with a bit of silicone caulking and cornstarch...

BINGO! To the creative laboratory! (and the garage to find the box where I put the dang caulking gun in...)

Turns out this friend was also looking to do the same thing with their own creations.
Complete serendipity if you ask me, and to this friend I dedicate this endeavor to. I have to let them know how this turned out; hey, sharing is caring... and helpful! Never know who is on the same path as you. Check out their Etsy Myrcury's Toy box. The stuff they make is very cool (I own many pieces) and we go back a ways as internet buds, hehe.

Back to the nitty gritty at hand!

I sculpted a few pendants up just for the sake of this test because I didn't want to accidentally ruin any of the fully painted and sealed pendants I had prepped for my next shop update lol.
With my limited knowledge on mold making, I gathered the materials and a few extras to help:

  • 100% silicone caulking with caulking gun
  • Cornstarch
  • Cookie cutter that fits your items with plenty of space.
  • Really wide masking tape
  • Glue gun with glue gun mat

So the cookie cutter, the glue gun, and the tape are all extras because I wanted my mold to ultimately be something easy to handle and use my clay rolling pin on then just an impressed ball of rubber. You could just do exactly what the video does-- it doesn't make a difference. I went a little further just because I could.

I remember my friend from Texas gluing the item down into a cardboard mold receptacle (in this instance the cookie cutter), but I thought a layer of tape as the base would be easier to remove for smaller things like this. I saw this somewhere... but I honestly can't recall where I saw it-- book, video? Might not even have been specifically about mold making, most likely from something to do with fusible beads...

I still ended up gluing the edges (what I saw my Tex-friend do)-- the purpose of this was primarily to prevent any liquid mold making material from seeping out of cracks. For my purpose it was to ensure the tape stayed on the cookie cutter while I wrangled the putty into it.
Quick note here too, I ended up switching my bazooka of a glue gun (Surebonder brand) out for my smaller less strong (Artminds from Micheal's, but basically the same quality as one from a dollar store) when I noticed the former gun was burning the heck out of the tape.

Now to the hard part...

When they said it can be messy, they weren't fooling; hand to Gods I tried my very best to keep it clean but... it was impossible to know what you're dealing with if you've never handled it. I know it's like beating a dead horse, but there's still something to be said about how things look easier than done here somewhere...

The caulking was incredibly sticky and hard to work with. I think he grossly understated this by showing most of the process gloveless. Here I am, a dummy thinking 'well he isn't dead and I don't have them but let's do this!'.
WEAR THE GLOVES, any gloves-- kitchen gloves! Anything... just wear them and save yourself from impulsive behavior that leads to poor choices (of which I am utterly prone to).

I could not rub off the caulking leftover from my hands, and although peeling the chunks one by one would satisfy my 10 year old self, I had things I needed to do while the mold cured. Since this is not the first time I disregarded my poor hands well being I have a supply of Gojo in stock, or as I have come to call it hand mayo.

I gave it 30-40 mins to err on the safe side of demolding. I don't know whether or not that helped, but everything came out with very little effort and zero marring to the original sculpts.
However, the mold had some glaring defects; the biggest one being in the left edge, but they're pretty much all over.

Maybe I didn't knead it enough, maybe I didn't pack it in as tight, maybe I used way too much of one thing over the other. Could be a lot of reasons why the mold looks like it's crackling and not smooth... but I definitely couldn't wager a good guess.
It's not dry feeling, however-- it is flexible and sturdy feeling for now. I suspect eventually that big crack will be its Achilles heel.

Anyway! There's only one way to find out whether this mold is good or poo.
I used the mold at the "weak" edge to see how it held up. Not too shabby!
Heck with only the tiniest, infinitesimal bit of clean up work, the resulting pendant looks identical!
So was this foray a success? You bet your topper it was.

And so concludes this episode of:
Tales of Trial and Terror

P.S. While I don't feel like I should even have to say this, it's important to mention nevertheless: DO NOT use this to make copies of another artist's work to sell. Aside from being quite illegal with intellectual property rights and all that, it's also a very shitty thing to do. Ultimately, people will do what they please, but as long as you're not profiting off the backs of hard working peeps, you should be ok.


  1. wow...the duplicate looks exactly like the original. I have no sculpting talent, but your post has given me an idea to use some of the pre-made molds on etsy for clay stuff--I never thought of using clay with them

  2. Okay, I think this might be something I definitely SHOULD NOT TRY AT HOME! 😂💜


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