Craft Cast Project: How To Preserve Precious Memories in Clear Glass-Like Casting Resin

Heroes on Ice - a Frozen Moment in Time

Like a block of glass
Like a block of glass

Heroes on a Layer Cake

Actually, the cake itself was Rice Krispies Treat!
Actually, the cake itself was Rice Krispies Treat!

A Unique and Memorable Birthday Gift

This all started because I turned 50.  I know, it's already depressing.  But it gets better.  I had a lot of friends and family going all out to make sure I had fun.  No matter how over the hill I was. 

In the midst of all the wonderful gifts and surprises, my sister-in-law Ann hand-created a birthday cake full of super-heroes… and made me the leading super-hero!  I've always loved comic books and movies relating to super-powers, so this was a cool idea.  She and my nephew, David, spent painstaking hours creating something that, by it's very nature, is impermanent.  I can't believe how much work they put into making them for me, knowing it was unlikely to last more than a few days beyond my birthday.

Who Makes the Grade?

I wanted to save them all!
I wanted to save them all!

How do you preserve Fondant?

I felt that the work they did needed to be acknowledged.  I really liked the thoughtfulness, creativity, and skill that went into the heroes.  And I wanted to beat the system.  I wanted to keep them… forever. 

A few concerns came up.  First of all, it's fondant.  Can you store it?  Does it melt?  Go bad? Mold or mildew?  Heck if I knew.  Another thought - will it attract bugs and rodents?  How can I keep it safe from all that? 

A Can of Casting Resin

I had one gallon to work with
I had one gallon to work with

Preserving in Casting Resin

Polyester Resin.  As it states on the container "A crystal clear polyester that preserves and embeds items in a solid glass-like case."  I don't remember exactly who thought of it, or what brought it up.  My earliest recollection was in the late 1980's, a friend experimented with embedding toys for his children.  I remember seeing how it turned out, and thinking how neat that was.  And then forgot about it for 20 years.

It's Never that Simple

Now, I'm all keen to go to the store, buy some casting resin, grab a couple of molds, and save my heroes.  And just like in the comics, it's never that simple.  The first problem was the cost.  At the craft store, it was $32 for a 32-ounce container.  I'm sure I made an odd noise, some of the people nearby turned to look.  Wow - there's just no way - That's barely enough to cover ONE figure, much less the whole team!

Then you've got other expenses; the catalyst to make it turn solid, the molds, the spray to keep the mold from sticking to the finished product.  Okay, this is an expensive hobby. 

Total cost of the Materials:

Product:
Cost:
Gallon Can Crystal Clear Casting Resin
$48.00
Resin Craft Surface Coat
$5.50
2 Oz Bottle Gel Promoter
$4.00
Mold Release & Conditioner
$4.00
Shipping UPS Ground
$17.81
Total Cost:
$79.31
This was the best price we could find at the time

The Supplies

All these came in the order
All these came in the order

Monique to the Rescue

My amazing, tech-savvy, internet expert wife, as usual, came to my rescue.  Not the usual way a super-hero story goes, but I'm not much of a hero, and she's not your typical damsel in distress.  Monique found a gallon of the resin, plus Resin Craft Surface Coat, Gel Promoter, and Mold Release/Conditioner, including shipping, for $79.31.  That's still expensive, but it's much more do-able as a means of saving something important to me.

It's a Fish Tank... No, it's the Mold!

Used an old aquarium for the mold.  Bought some cheap measuring cups to mix in. The stir sticks were free.
Used an old aquarium for the mold. Bought some cheap measuring cups to mix in. The stir sticks were free.

Now for the Mold

Okay, next problem: The mold.  Originally, I thought one hero, one block.  I wanted rectangles that could be stacked in any order, by any whim of the moment.  With only one gallon of casting resin, there just wasn't enough to cover every figure.  Some of them were 6" tall (or wide, in the Hulk's case!)

So, the first concession to practicality… make a diorama with all of them together.  That'll take less resin, because for every figure I add, the volume displacement will cause the resin to rise that much higher.  Hopefully enough to cover most of them.  Now, I just need to find a mold that big.  I want straight edges, so it'll stand nicely.  You'd think it'd be pretty easy to find, but nope.  All over town, looking at cooking ware, craft stores, storage containers.  They all have problems.  Rounded corners, sloped edges, nothing that would work. 

So again, Monique.  She suggests the old 10-gallon aquarium in the shed.  There are problems, but not any deal-killers.  Old aquariums NEVER totally come clean.  But it was the best idea, and we ran with it.

Selecting the Team

The Chosen Ones
The Chosen Ones
Not so displayable from the back, but worth a look anyway
Not so displayable from the back, but worth a look anyway

The Hall of Heroes

When the supplies came in the mail, they were very securely packaged, but still managed to take some damage.  Lucky for me, nothing was leaking.

Now we've got all the parts, it's time to hit the gas.  You can see from the pictures which ones made it into my 'Hall of Heroes'

Me (absolutely of course!)

The Greatest American Hero - Never any doubt here.  He's my top favorite in the whole bunch.

Batman

Spider-man

Superman

Captain America

Iron Man

Wonder Woman

The Human Torch

The Incredible Hulk

Some didn't make it

Mr. Fantastic was... well, fantastic.  But his arms took up too much room
Mr. Fantastic was... well, fantastic. But his arms took up too much room
Ben suffered a particularly gruesome end under the jaws of... "The Chihuahua!"
Ben suffered a particularly gruesome end under the jaws of... "The Chihuahua!"
Aquaman was luckier than the other two.  We're still trying to save him.
Aquaman was luckier than the other two. We're still trying to save him.

The Fallen Heroes

Now a moment of silence for those who didn't make it:


Mr. Fantastic… he looked great, but with those long arms, just took up too much volume.



We tried a sealant polyurthane spray to preserve Ben Grimm. Unfortunately, while the Thing has beaten many villains in his career, a greedy Chihuahua managed to do him in. Rest in Peace, Ben.


With Aquaman, we also tried the sealant polyurethane spray. I'm not sure yet if it'll work or not, but he took up more space than I could cover with the resin.  So far, the results seem promising.


Spraying the Mold Release/Conditioner

Not pressurized, it's just a pump spray bottle
Not pressurized, it's just a pump spray bottle

Using the Mold Release / Conditioner

Next up, it's time to do the magic.  First off, we spritz the tank thoroughly with the mold release/conditioner.   Like it says, that's so we don't have to break the glass when it's done.  Hopefully.  We weren't really sure how this would work, especially with the lip at the top. 

Putting the Catalyst In

Catalyst goes in the measuring cup drop by drop.
Catalyst goes in the measuring cup drop by drop.

Pour the Resin

When that dries, it's time to use the resin.  There's a chart on the back of the can.  It tells you how many drops of catalyst to use based on depth, temperature, and drying time desired.  That doesn't mean shake the whole bottle in for a quick-dry.  If you don't use enough, you don't generate enough heat to catalyze the resin into hardening.  Use too much, and it heats too fast, generating flaws, cracks, and possibly damaging the embedded item.

Mini-Me has the same broken bones I have!

Same knee, same foot.  That's a bit too Twilight Zone for me.
Same knee, same foot. That's a bit too Twilight Zone for me.

Art Imitates Life

I really goofed up at this point. Figured out number of drops of catalyst per ounce. Forgot to multiply by the number of ounces… hours later, Monique and I are wondering why we still had 'soup', and it hit me. After correcting for stupidity, the bottom layer hardened up nicely.

While it was still gelling, I put the heroes in. First one in was… me! Wouldn't you know it, there was a problem. This requires a flashback to the birthday party. At this point in my life, I've broken my right foot several times, and my left knee. At the party, the 'me' on the cake fell off… and broke his right foot and left knee. Now that's just a little bit eerie, and I still don't know what to make of it.

Now, we're back to putting 'me' in the casting resin. The foot re-broke. The more I tried to fix it, the worse it got. Thank goodness Monique made me put surgical gloves on beforehand. This stuff's caustic to human flesh. I finally pulled the whole thing out, repaired him, and put back in. Then the other heroes. After drying a bit more, the remainder of the casting resin went in.

Toe-ing the Line

Hulk just couldn't go along with the plan.
Hulk just couldn't go along with the plan.

Hulk Not Want to Play

Thankfully, the rest of them went in easily. Except for the Hulk. He never played well with others. In this case, his toes stuck out. No, really. With only a gallon of resin, we just couldn't cover him completely. I tried to salvage it by pouring a lot of resin on his feet. No luck. Now his toes stick out, they're soft and mushy. Not really sure how to fix that, but my strongest impulse is to slice them off smooth with the surface, and seal it with shellac. Or something.

Resin Craft Surface Coat

This can was pressurized, the spray went everywhere.
This can was pressurized, the spray went everywhere.

Maybe I'll just leave it in there

Not sure how it's going to come out.  Maybe I'll leave it, and put fish in the tank.
Not sure how it's going to come out. Maybe I'll leave it, and put fish in the tank.

Now, How do we get it out?

When it dried, it was still sticky.  No problem, that's what the Resin Craft Surface Coat was for.  Sprayed a good coat on, let it sit for a day or so just to be safe.  Now the scary part… can it come out from the fish tank, or does the glass get broken?  Good news, the Mold Release/Conditioner really works!  With a little shaking, it slid right out, no harm to the tank or the project.

The Coming Out Party

How the heck do I get it out?
How the heck do I get it out?
Maybe if I slam it hard upside down?
Maybe if I slam it hard upside down?
That did the job!
That did the job!

Finished at last

For all it's flaws, I think it's excellent.
For all it's flaws, I think it's excellent.

The Downside

Now, it's out, finished, and available for viewing.

The bad:

  • This is expensive for a hobby.  For my purpose, though, it was worth the cost.
  • Not good to leave kids unsupervised.  The casting resin can harm skin.
  • Needs LOTS of ventilation.  We were in a screened-In patio with ceiling fans, and what we inhaled was still strong enough to make Monique and I feel bad the next day.

The Catalyst Chart

Thought I forgot, didn't you?  Here's the chart of how much catalyst to use in the casting resin.
Thought I forgot, didn't you? Here's the chart of how much catalyst to use in the casting resin.

How Did it Turn Out?

The Result:

  • It's not as clear as it could be.  I blame the fish tank.  No matter how you clean those darn things, it's never perfect.  So the slight misting on the back of my block is probably from that.  Maybe I can polish it off some.
  • It's slightly bowed lengthwise.  I don't know what caused it, but kind of like the effect, so that's okay too.
  • The edges are rough.  I guess it's possible to sand it smooth, but I don't care.  It's doing what I want it to do, and looks just fine when viewed from the front on display.
  • There are some bubbles, and some small fractures, both my fault.  First-timer's learning experience.  I should have covered the figures with the casting resin before laying them on the first layer- that prevents bubbles.  (But I was afraid too much fiddling around would make the fondant fall apart.)  The fractures are probably a result of not getting the right amount of catalyst in.

What's the Up Side?

The Good:

  • I had a lot of fun making this.  I mean, like really really fun.
  • It's super-cool to 'freeze' things forever in a clear block.  (Yes, that was a pun.  Monique deals with it all the time.)
  • I would love to do this again.
  • Most of the problems are 'user-malfunctions.'  I believe that with patience, persistence, and actually following the instructions properly, I could do much better the next time.
  • The final product ROCKS!!  It's like magic- I'll always get a kick out of it, knowing where we started, and how it wound up.

All Done

Awesome Stuff
Awesome Stuff

Final Judgement?

The most important part… How do I like it?

Since this is for me, to preserve and store important memories, I didn't need a perfect showroom piece of art. I just wanted to protect my super-heroes. This was my first ever attempt, with no practice runs, and a pretty dodgy aquarium for a mold.

I absolutely love it! It looks like a block of glass. It protects my figurines. I'm going to enjoy having it on display with my other figures. It's exactly what I wanted!

We went to www.Delvie'splastics.com to order from. They had good prices, and good service. I didn't even think about Amazon at the time.  If I do it again, I'll check out Amazon as well.


One last thing - In an attempt to save Hulk's feet from being cut off flat at the surface, Monique has just painted his toenails with clear nail polish.

How many people in this life can say they've painted the Incredible Hulk's toes with nail polish?

Some Different Angles

A fun project
A fun project
I'm proud of it, warts and all!
I'm proud of it, warts and all!

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Comments 4 comments

Barbara_tenBroek profile image

Barbara_tenBroek 6 years ago from Dayton, Ohio

This is great, I have never heard of this before.


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 6 years ago Author

Hi Barbara, thanks for commenting. In spite of the problems, I really did enjoy it. I'd like to do some more when I can. Let me know if you try it!


Seester2 6 years ago

I am so delighted and flattered that you took that much time and investment to preserve what we did for you!! It is so cool that a thousand years from now, someone will dig it up and say, 'What is it? Cool stuff!' because now it will last forever!!!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 6 years ago Author

It was absolutely worth preserving. I loved them!

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