Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Discovery of Earth Shattering Importance

I think I may have made a major breakthrough in the field of "Thing in a Bottle" technology. It's downright embarrassing how little discoveries like this make me giddy. Heh.

One of the reasons I don't make solid polymer clay or resin creatures is that they'll eventually break after repeatedly hitting the glass inside a bottle. I've tried to address that problem with a few experiments using a viscous cationic polymer suspension. Or, as it's more commonly known, "cheap hair gel from the dollar store". Sadly, hair gel is filled with characteristic air bubbles, so every specimen looked like a gruesome monstrosity suspended gel. Ugh.

One of the approaches I tried to get rid of the bubbles while maintaining the semi-solid consistency of the material was boiling it in a microwave. That kind of worked, producing a gel with thousands of very tiny bubbles. Still unsightly, but better than before.

This week I stumbled across the secret of removing all the bubbles from the gel- boiling it twice. Just put about a cup of the stuff inside a pyrex measuring cup or bowl that can hold at least three cups, bring it to a boil in the microwave, then stir in two drops of dish detergent and let it cool overnight. The next day, boil it again, add food coloring to tint, skim the film of bubbles off the surface, pour the gel into your container while it's still warm, and let it cool to room temperature.

Tada! You get an optically clear suspension. The creature I was using for the experiment doesn't have a paint job, but you can see it floating serenely in the jar.

I still want to fiddle around with the technique to make sure temperature or pressure changes don't cause problems, but I'm very optimistic about how useful this will be.


tim said...

Dude, you make the coolest stuff...!

Ethicalcannibal said...

That is brilliant. I have been trying to figure out a way to work with polymer clay when making bottled things. I am sooooo trying this out after Xmas.

Brent said...

A few years ago, I live in a four-story house in which there was a three-story open space down the stairwell. I made a specimen jar with hair gel once when I was there and I put a measuring cup on the floor on a baking sheet and then poured the gel off the stair rail three stories above it. The resulting stream of gel was so thin that about 90% of the little bubbles came out on the way down. It's kind of like pouring resin but overkill.

Raindog951 said...

What sort of paint will you use? To withstand the hair gel for a long life?

Propnomicon said...

@ tim

Thank you for the kind words.

@ Ethicalcannibal

Someday, hopefully years from now, my tombstone will read "He revolutionized the "Thing in a Bottle" industry". Heh.

@ Brent

I never thought of trying that, but it sounds like it would work. Not to mention being fun to do.

@ Raindog951

Normal acrylics, but I'll seal it with a few coats of Future acrylic. Hair gel is 95% water, so I don't think there will be any long term reaction.

Alex Kaeda said...

Utter genius. I'm going to try this on my next specimenm

Phil said...

A friend of mind discovered the magic of hair gel recently when they needed an exotic colored liquid to put in a clear plastic tube for a project. Good stuff.

Hmmmm, so Future makes a good waterproof sealant? I'm going to have to try that then. I've noticed on my first speciment jar that bare latex tends to absorb water and turn milky white. It makes for a cool dead skin effect, but its also hidden all the lovely painting I did on the Skulpy underneath. I'm also worried the latex might eventually peel away.

Propnomicon said...

@ Phil

Future will protect hard surfaces, but not soft ones. On a flexible surface it cracks.

Unfortunately, you can't use liquid latex on the same creature you use Future. The ammonia in the latex attacks the acrylic. Dry latex is fine, and I haven't tried rubber cement.

Phil said...

Ahhh gotcha. Right now I'm basically looking for something to coat latex that will keep it from swelling and turning translucent in water.

Markus said...

I also already thought about the problem of breakage at polymer-models in jars. I came to a similar result as you, when I did remember those liquid gel candles, which you can infuse with all kind of things, for example shells or other decoration items. There is only one problem, because this stuff is comparably expensive, and I can´t really understand why. When I was still at school, we once made a similar burning gel in a chemistry project team, but I don´t remember how we made this gel. But the idea of hair gel is really brilliant, I´ll surely make a try with it, especially since I started to sculpt a small collection of strange parasites.

Jarons20 said...

Just as a heads up a bell jar and vacuum set up could work as well to extract the bubbles, as that was what I do to get rid of bubbles forming in my mold making solutions and sometimes resin.