Craft Cast Project: How To Preserve Precious Memories in Clear Glass-Like Casting Resin
Heroes on Ice - a Frozen Moment in Time
Heroes on a Layer Cake
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.
Find it all at Amazon
Who Makes the Grade?
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
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:
Gallon Can Crystal Clear Casting Resin
Resin Craft Surface Coat
2 Oz Bottle Gel Promoter
Mold Release & Conditioner
Shipping UPS Ground
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!
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 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.
The Human Torch
The Incredible Hulk
Some didn't make it
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.
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
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
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!
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 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
Maybe I'll just leave it in there
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
Finished at last
Now, it's out, finished, and available for viewing.
- 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
How Did it Turn Out?
- 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?
- 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.
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?