Introduction: Make New Tools From Shapelock / Friendly Plastic

Picture of Make New Tools From Shapelock / Friendly Plastic

You can construct new/replacement/prototypes replacement tools from Friendly Plastic.
See for a variety of other tools, prototypes, sources and recommendations using this interesting plastic is available at:

friendly plastic shapelock tools

Step 1: Friendly Plastic Introduction

Picture of Friendly Plastic Introduction

Friendly plastic, also known as Shapelock plastic, is a plastic that becomes soft and malleable at about 160 degree F, and then hardens back into a opaque plastic when cooled. It has a lot of applications.

I've used it here to make a duplicate for a hard-to-find plastic wrench from a child's construction toy that is no longer easily available.

Step 2: Visualize the Shape & Mass of the Tool You Want to Build

Picture of Visualize the Shape & Mass of the Tool You Want to Build

This is the original tool. I had located an original by the time I made this Instructable, so I am able to show you how the original wrench looks and works. At the time I made the tool, I had to make the tool from memory (which wasn't very difficult in this case).

This toy has a variety of colored connector tubes and white tubes of various length.

This blue connector 'locks' into the white tube. The gray knobs in the blue connector stick out into holes in the white tube. The gray wrench has two little nubs that stick into the holes and push the gray knobs in so that the white tube can be removed. Without one of the gray wrenches the lock fit is very snug and hard to unlock or manipulate because the gray knobs are separated 180 degrees on opposite sides of the tubes.

My goal is to make a work-a-like for the gray wrench. The cosmetics are not important.

In order to measure out the Friendly plastic pellets, you need to a have a rough idea of the mass of what you're building. No problem if you overestimate a bit as it is completely reusable.

Step 3: Measure Pellets and Heat

Picture of Measure Pellets and Heat

We're going to make a 'duplicate' of the wrench from the previous step.

In a container that will never be used for food, melt an appropriate amount of pellets. When the temperature reaches about 160 degree F, the pellets will become clear and moldable.

When the pellets are clear, use a stick to gather the melted pellets into a blob and remove carefully.

Step 4: Form the Tool

Picture of Form the Tool

Take the blob of clear plastics (careful, it's hot!) and form it into a replacement tool.

Reinforce the areas that might have extra strain on them with extra plastic.

Since the plastic is reusable, don't worry about using too much.

Once it's in position set it aside carefully and don't touch it.

Step 5: Let Cool, Test Fit, and Use!

Picture of Let Cool, Test Fit, and Use!

Let it cool thoroughly (if you try to use the tool too soon, it will lose its shape).

Compare to original tool if you have it, try a test fit, and use!

My handmade wrench is not terribly attractive, but works well and required just a small portion of the friendly plastic.

For more detailed instructions and a variety of other similar projects (including custom battery holder, and tamper-resistent outlet cover, and some ideas on how to acquire this plastic) see:

friendly plastic shapelock tools

Note: this plastic is heat-sensitive, so don't use it on things that may get too 'warm'.

No MSDS (materials safety data sheet) is available that I am aware of so don't use for anything related to food or that might be accidentally ingested (good advice in general for hobbyists!)


solomonhorses (author)2011-12-24

Nice work! I didnt even know about this product until now! I just ordered some on amazon for 20 bucks for 12 oz. Thanks! Btw, in case anyone hasnt heard of another cool moldable silicone type stuff, its caled Sugru, and you can hand mold it too, and it turns into rubber that is high heat resistant.
keep up the good work!

HobbitComedian (author)2010-07-21

My Dad and I did a similar thing, making a replacement saw blade handle out of a similar material:

peachbean (author)2009-01-07

This may sound like a stupid question but, what is the name of the toy that tool comes from? I played with them when I was little and have been trying to find them for my kids.

creatrope (author)peachbean2009-01-07

It's called 'Quadro'. It's hard to find and quite expensive but still available. My son still enjoys using it.

Sgt.Waffles (author)2007-06-17

I have that pipe stuff. Its pretty cool. To reinforce your tool (that sounded dirty), try using a coathangar doubled over.

lorrwill (author)Sgt.Waffles2008-10-13


darth2o (author)2008-02-01

Dude, I have those old toy/kids thingy things in my basement!

abizar (author)darth2o2008-08-29

Use polymer clay to make the tools ...

royalestel (author)2007-06-19

3d Printer material!

mycroftxxx (author)royalestel2007-06-22

pretty much. the Reprap people have messed about with it.

royalestel (author)mycroftxxx2007-06-22

I'm thinking more of candyfab style material. I think the reprap approach is outdated by the zcorp (Tim Anderson) apporach.

mycroftxxx (author)royalestel2007-06-25

No doubts about the quality of the Zcorp work, but reprap is aiming at a very low pricepoint. If I remember right, they were looking at something running under US$500 for a new unit produced from an existing machine, sans computer.
Mind you, they're nowhere near ready yet, but that's the goal - if I remember it right.

royalestel (author)mycroftxxx2007-06-26

Well, yeah, but I don't think the Zcorp approach would cost all that much if he made an instructable out of it. Candyfab was $500, and it's a similar approach to Zcorp.

mycroftxxx (author)royalestel2007-06-27

Ok, I see what you're getting at. Allright then, if you or someone else wishes to start an InstructaFab project, I would suggest beginning with a method by which one can safely, easily, and effectively grind down the Shapelock into a light powder. Then, of course, you could look into designing a rapid-cycling hot-air gun (presumably a modification of the hot-air pen instructions out there, and an X/Y carrier for same. Alternately, someone could experiment with melting shapelock using the laser from a DVD burner. I hear those things get pretty hot.

Lincoln (author)2007-06-24

Warning about Friendly Plastic. I don't know if it is still made of the same chemicals these days, but I recently found a box full of old projects I made with it back in the late 80's. All the pieces were so brittle that they snapped apart with very little effort. I don't know if this would be a good long term solution for tool making. But, short term, it is very fun stuff to play with.

Honus (author)2007-06-20

Great instuctable! Yep,this stuff is great- I first learned about it at a stone setting class around eight years ago. We use it a lot in the jewelry industry to hold rings and other metal objects during stone setting. We also use it for making custom tool handles for things like gravers and it works well for making non marring forms for hammer faces as well as forming dies.

!Andrew_Modder! (author)2007-06-17

is it non toxic??? Meaning i can make my own plastic sporks?? :-P

oskay (author)!Andrew_Modder!2007-06-18

Yup, but you can't eat hot food with your custom spork. =(

!Andrew_Modder! (author)oskay2007-06-19

oh crap thats wright! :-| well, umm. i could use it for non hot things lol. ****Thinking what types of foods arn't hot to eat with a spork**** heh.

joejoerowley (author)2007-06-17

Man I love this stuff. I made a cup holder out of the stuff today for his car for fathers day. Great instructable!

jtobako (author)joejoerowley2007-06-18

Hope he doesn't like hot coffee : )

poptop (author)2007-06-18

This plastic is great stuff but I have found it has a shelf life and it will get gooey when you heat it. So don't buy too much at one time.

Biopyro (author)2007-06-18

Yes it's non-toxic. "PCL is an Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved material that is used in the human body as (for example) a drug delivery device, suture (sold under the brand name Monocryl or generically), adhesion barrier and is being investigated as a scaffold for tissue repair via tissue engineering."

T3h_Muffinator (author)2007-06-17

Wow, that's really cool! would I be able to find this in my local hardware store?? (Home Depot)

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