Have you ever seen a piece of clipart, or perhaps made a drawing of something that you would like to make into an actual object - perhaps to wear, or as a piece of art ? Have you wanted to hang Space invaders from your Christmas tree, but didn't know where to begin ?
Would you like to make something that could look like glass, without it being glass at all ?
Well, this Instructable is for you !
If you follow along, you too will be able to make your own playful items using basic tools and inexpensive items that can be found in craft & hardware stores. The finished items are durable, and will probably last years if cared for. Ready ? Lets go !
Step 1: What You'll Need ..
Before you begin, make sure you have collected everything you need beforehand. This project makes heavy use of epoxy resin, and you will need to plan ahead.
- Metal Foil - I used 30 gauge for this project. Its thin enough to work, yet thick enough to be durable.
- Jewelry Wire - Make sure it isn't 'memory wire' - you need to be able to bend it permanently.
- Wire snips
- Rubber or plastic mallet
- Something that can be used as a small mandrel. I used a plastic paintbrush.
- Tin snips
- A heat resistant surface - I use a common ceramic floor tile.
- Rotary tool with a polishing bit (or elbow grease)
- Polishing compound.
- Paper plates
- Cotton swabs
- Rubbing alcohol
- Rubber cement
- A computer equipped with a printer
- Image editing software (Photoshop or another commercial product if you own it, or a freeware alternative such as GIMP)
- ENAMEL model paint. Don't use other formulas - they may not agree with the epoxy. You have been warned.
- Tintable two part epoxy.
- Protective gloves, eyewear, and proper ventilation
- If you are sensitive to fumes, you may want to wear a mask as well. Epoxy can be smelly.
If you already have the tools, you should be able to get everything you need for US $50 or less. That investment should provide you with enough materials for several projects.
Step 2: Find Some Clipart or Design Something Yourself !
Since I was designing this for one of my children (pictured in the title), I chose something that fit her personality - so I went searching through Clipart Panda ( www.clipartpanda.com ) - they have a giant set of free to use clipart available - in the case of the rainbow heart image, it came from a page that declared "Use these free images for your websites, art projects, reports, and Powerpoint presentations!" - Perfect ! If you are in the need of free clipart for something special, you really can't go wrong with Clipart Panda.
*If you choose to design the image, you may need to import it into the computer somehow. Either scan it or photograph it.
I then loaded the image up into Photoshop, resized the image to what I needed, and printed out two copies of it. Ill explain why later.
If you do not have Photoshop, you can use one of many other image tools out there - Personally, I suggest GIMP. GIMP is a complete package, its available on nearly every computer platform known to man, and best of all, it will cost you nothing. www.gimp.org
Step 3: Prepare the Metal Baseplate.
Next, cut a piece of your metal sheet such that it is an inch or two larger than the item you want to recreate all the way around. Determine which side should be visible (the shiny one) and place it facing up on your work surface. If the metal isn't laying flat, gently flatten it with your rubber or plastic mallet.
Next, apply polishing compound to the sheet, and either use the polishing attachment on your rotary tool, or arm strength to shine the metal up.
Once you are finished, cut out one of your prints of the object you wish to create. Glue it to the center of the sheet with rubber cement.
Let it dry.
Step 4: Cut the Baseplate to Size.
Using your snips, cut around your printed object, leaving about a quarter inch reveal all the way around it. Don't worry if you bend the metal slightly as you cut. Once you finished, you can hammer it flat again using your mallet.
Once completed, use your pliers to bend the reveal straight up at a 90 degree angle to the baseplate. Take your time, and work all the way around. Next bend half of the reveal back down toward the baseplate, leaving behind a ridge that is about an 8th of an inch high.
Don't worry if it isn't perfect. This is a handmade product, and any little irregularities are part of the process.
Once finished, peel off the paper. It will probably come off in pieces. You might need to clean rubber cement residue off afterward. Rubbing alcohol works fine for that. Just make sure your baseplate is completely dry.
Step 5: Bend Wire Segments to Shape.
Using your second printout as a guide, carefully bend wire segments to shape, and snip them to size. In the case of the heart, I used the color bands of the rainbow as a guide. What you may need to do might vary based on your project, and your taste ! Feel free to improvise. I did, I removed the white band in the rainbow heart, and made a larger purple center instead.
Take your time, there is no need to rush and make a mess of things, or worse yet, stab yourself with the snips or the wire.
If the wire doesn't lay flat, tap it gently with your mallet. it shouldn't take much force to flatten it.
Once completed, do a quick dry fit, and adjust as necessary.
Step 6: Epoxy the Wire Down.
Once you are happy with the way everything fits, put the wire aside, and mix up a small amount of two part epoxy on a paper plate with a cotton swab. Place the segments in the baseplate and carefully epoxy them down with the swab. You dont need much - just enough to hold the segments in place and to seal the wire to the plate so that colored epoxy wont leak into the other areas.
I did have one segment leak a little, - I chose to leave it as a 'happy little accident' - big accidents may not be so happy.
Let the segments fully dry before moving on.
Step 7: Tint Your Epoxy, Work One Segment at a Time.
Okay - Epoxy tinting..
Firstly, make sure you are using ENAMEL - and not another type of paint or nail polish. Even though nail polish is often enamel based, it tends to have other ingredients in it. I have no idea how they will react mixed with epoxy, so don't.
*In a very small but real way, you will be performing an act of chemistry. Extra ingredients may have unexpected results.
Mix enough epoxy to finish the segments you wish to color in one pass plus extra. It will probably be nearly impossible to colormatch later on, so too much epoxy is better than not enough.
All it will take is a drop of enamel to tint the epoxy. I just grabbed a little bit of color with a cotton swab and mixed it in.
*Remember, your time is limited. Epoxy starts curing quickly.
Place the object you are creating on a heat resistant surface, and carefully spoon some of the tinted epoxy into a segment with a cotton swab. If the area is too tight, switch to a toothpick to spread some epoxy in.
Once the segments are complete, wait until they cure to move on to the next.
As I am sure you have gathered, the paper plates, swabs, and toothpicks were chosen because they are disposable. No messy cleanup afterward.
*You may have also noticed something else. The object you are making is going to get warm as the epoxy cures. leave it on the heat resistant surface until it falls back to room temperature.
Repeat until all of the spaces are filled.
Step 8: Add Something Special, Then Seal.
After the color segments cured, I chose to add a little bit of glitter to the project for some extra 'sparkle' - you might want to do the same, or maybe add something else, or nothing at all - it's up to you ! Once you have settled on it, arrange it on the project. Once you are satisfied, its time to seal the entire face of the piece in a layer of clear epoxy.
Carefully mix it according to directions, and spoon it in with a cotton swab.
Once its filled, leave it alone. For hours, or maybe days.
You see, - regardless of what is written on the bottle, 5 minute epoxy stops being "5 minute" once it is applied so thickly. And again, it is vitally important that the resin and hardener are in equal measure.
*Not enough hardener means a long, long LONG curing time.
*Too much hardener means it will never fully cure, and remain "sticky".
Step 9: Create a Loop to Hang Your Piece With.
Using a couple of inches of wire, create a loop by twisting the center around whatever you are using as a mandrel - in my case a paintbrush, leaving a long pair of "legs".
Carefully bend the legs to fit your project smoothly , and then epoxy the legs in place. The longer length gives the Epoxy more surface to bind to, making it much harder for your object to break free.
Once again, give the epoxy enough time to cure fully.
Step 10: Display and Enjoy ! Final Thoughts.
Your piece is finished ! HOORAY !
Now, What to do with it ?
- String it on a chain or a cord and wear it.
- Hang it in a window with a hook and a suction cup.
- Loop a small bit of string from it and use it as a Christmas ornament.
- Chain a few together and make a mobile.
- Add it to some wind chimes.
Pretty much whatever you want !
With a little bit of patience, and a touch of ingenuity, anyone can make a decorative item out of virtually any piece of clipart or drawing available - its really up to you. Personally, I am surprised how well this concept came together. I was expecting a level of disaster that never arrived.
Just remember to give your object enough time to fully cure, and be certain to follow the directions on your two part epoxy, and you should be okay. Thanks for taking the time to read this 'ible - If you make something, post it !