So, of course, all of you reading this have thought to yourself at one time or another "I would absolutely love to grow some crystals on el-wire and then encase it in silicone and acrylic." No? Oh, well maybe it was just me then. Regardless of whether you have had that thought before or not, I'll show you how I did it. Compared to many things you could spend weeks doing, it is quite a simple matter. It is, however, dirty, messy, prone to failure--don't be surprised if you end up growing the crystals on the structure several times over until you settle for one that isn't what you wanted but "oh hell, it'll do".
This idea initially sprang from a search for crystal based artwork. After poking around a bit, I came to the conclusion that the height of crystal art at the moment can be summed up as "Crystal on Rock", which I found both surprising and unfortunate. Crystals are beautiful and there are so many things that can be done with them. It is my hope that by posting this instructable, it will inspire you to create more interesting and unique crystal based art projects. I also think that 3d printing a sub-structure would be a good idea, but we'll have to try that later.
We'll do this in two parts: the primary art piece and the base. The primary art piece is the interesting bit. Searching for a good base was unproductive, so I built one myself. I'll walk you through some of that process as well.*
*More musings on the reasons behind this decision can be found in the Troubleshooting & Adjustment section at the end of this instructable.
Here is a short video of the end result.
A note on sourcing materials: I found it very difficult to find many of the items on the list. To save you time, I will list the sources I found for purchasing the parts as well as alternate vendors.
Part 1: The DNA Sculpture
Materials you will need:
2x Cast Acrylic Tube - 3"OD 1/4 or 1/8" wall thickness, 12" in length. (76.2mm OD 6.32mm or 3.18mm wall 304.8mm in length) Source: http://www.eplastics.com Note: Cast acrylic tube is higher quality than extruded but will cost a bit more. It is worth it. The striations in the clarity that come from the extrusion process make this less than desirable for the intended use.
1x Mirror backed Clear Acrylic Disk 3" in Diameter. Source: http://www.tapplastics.com Note: Thickness is unimportant.
1x Clear Acrylic Disk 3" in Diameter with two 9mm diameter holes placed roughly 0.5" - 0.75" from center. Source: http://www.tapplastics.com
1x Plastic tube cap 3" Diameter. Source: http://www.tapplastics.com
9-12x 1.06oz Food Grade Potassium Alum. Source: Local grocery store or online vendor. Note: Be careful what you are purchasing here, not all potassium alums are alike. I purchased a 1lb bag from an online source and what it made was mush instead of crystals. In the end I used McCormick's Alum. It is expensive, but it also makes very nice crystals and is relatively consistent in its quality.
42" of 16 gauge Ni-Chrome wire. Note: Do NOT use aluminum mechanic wire. It will react with the alum and rust.
12-16" of 24 gauge Ni-Chrome wire. Note: You can use aluminum wire in this case, but I recommend against it.
1x wooden or plastic rod measuring 1.5" in diameter and greater than 12" in length. Source: Local or online hardware store.
1x wood, plastic or cardboard block measuring 2" x 4"
2x EL-Wire, color and thickness of your choosing. Length ~1ft(304mm). Source: http://www.thatscoolwire.com http://www.sparkfun.com
1x 3v EL-Wire Inverter. Source: same as above.
1x Y splitter cable for el-wire power. Source: same as above.
1x AAA or Coin-Cell Battery pack for El-Wire. Source: same as above.
2x AAA batteries (if you go with the AAA battery pack obviously) Source: The bottom of a drawer in your home somewhere or anywhere that sells batteries.
2x Trial kit of Encapso-K encapsulation silicone. Source: http://www.smoothon.com
1x Aluminum (6061) extruded tubing. 3.5"OD x 3"ID x 2" length. Source: http://www.online-metals.com (Optional depending on taste and budget)
1x Aluminum (6061) extruded rod. 3.5"OD x 2" length. Source: Same as above. (Optional depending on taste and budget)
Several Popsicle sticks or other flat support. Source: Michael's Arts and Crafts had a big box for cheaps.
A bit of nylon line or similar. The smaller and more transparent the better. Source: Hardware store or fabric store.
1x Tube of Silicone Sealant Source: Hardware or Auto store. Also some grocery stores may have it.
1x Tube of Acrylic Adhesive Source: http://www.tapplastics.com
Graduated mixing cups Source: http://www.tapplastics.com
Large measuring cup
Tools you will need
~1.5" Diameter hole saw
~1/8" drill bit.
Latex or Nitrile Gloves (optional but useful for not leaving dirty, grimy finger markings all over the acrylic tube)
Wire cutters or Needle nose pliers
Digital Calipers (optional but useful)
Thermometer (optional if you are approaching it more scientifically than I have)
Safety First! None of the above are safe for human consumption, so don't.
Step 1: Grouping the materials.
First, due to the number of materials, I found it easier to group them based on use.
Out of the list of materials on the first page, separate them into the following groups:
Group one: Crystal Growing Chamber.
Acrylic tube, Plastic Tube Cap, Nylon line, Popsicle Sticks, Alum.
Group two: Wire coiling guide / substrate
EL-Wire, Ni-chrome wire, 1.5"D rod, 2"x4" wood/plastic
Group three: Final Housing
Encapso-K Silicone, Acrylic tube, Acrylic disks, Silicone Sealant, Acrylic Adhesive, Aluminum Tube and Rod.