Introduction: Make a Two Part Reusable Mold Using Plaster

Before I start, I'd like to note that this is my first instructable so please excuse any potential gaps in logic I made and some of the blurry pictures. I tried to take as many photos as possible and will explain the process as thoroughly as possible, but should you require additional help feel free to mention it in the comments below.


So What I've done here was develop a cheap way to create molds for various casting projects. Depending on what materials you already have available, the total cost for creating a single two part reusable mold will range from 0-25$.

The advantage of a two part mold over a one part (where molten material is poured into an open mold) is that much more structurally complicated objects can be duplicated in this way. To demonstrate the process for the instructable, I have chosen a sea shell since it is an object that cannot be duplicated with a one part mold system but is very streamlined - it lacks advanced features such as protrusions.

Plaster is an ideal material for this project as it is very malleable in its unhardened shape, and can withstand very high heat when dry. Therefore, finished molds will work for almost any casting material - I preferably like to create projects out of wax, tin, silver, and gold as these materials are very easy to work with. For this project, and for cost issues, I will make a casting in wax.

Step 1: Materials

The materials listed here can be easily interchanged with others of similar properties. Get creative! instead of buying what I listed here try to find alternative supplies

Materials needed for making the mold:

an object to duplicate - make sure it is something you can sacrifice in case of a screw-up :)
a generous amount of plaster of Paris
Hot glue, or any glue that can be easily removed when dry
Play doh or modeling clay, or any other material with the same consistency 
Soap (to act as mold release) - there is also professional mold release spray that can be bought from eBay or amazon
paintbrush, or any tool to spread mold release
water
a plastic box, or four strips of plastic or other material that can be glued together to make a hollow box
portfolio paper cover, or a paper plate, or anything other than newspaper to serve as an overspill guard


Additional materials to make a wax based duplicate:

a large candle, or any excess wax
cooking pot and stove
boiling water

Step 2: Making the Mold Perimeter

Whatever perimeter you choose, make sure that it will be big enough to contain the object you chose to duplicate.

If you don't have a spare plastic box, try creating a perimeter out of strips of plastic - a good place to get those would be out of plastic packaging for products. Here I used an old GLAD brand food container.

The overall shape of the perimeter does not matter, as long as it is taller than the height of your object.

Cut out the bottom of the box and glue it to your overspill guard. I prefer to use only four small glue applications, one on each side, as it simplifies detaching the guard later.

Step 3: Play Doh Time!



Use your Play Doh, or substitute material, and pack in down inside your perimeter. Then take your object and press it roughly halfway in the play dough. Make sure to cover any interior crevices before inserting your object (I glued up opening of the shell)

Note- push back the Play Doh so it will not engulf the object any more than half its height. Not doing so will greatly complicate removing the object later, and you will likely have to break either the mold or the object to make either usable.

Step 4: Protrusion and Lubrication

This step will detail the preparations before casting.


If your object does not have a flat base or is not touching the perimeter, it is important to create an artificial tube through which molten material can be poured once the plaster dries. I created mine by cutting and gluing four sections of a drinking straw and placing  them at the top of the shell. As shown in the picture, it does not have to completely touch the edge. It is easy to break off whatever thin layer of plaster will accumulate there.

Using the end of the paintbrush, or a pencil, make indentations in the play doh. These will come up as bumps on one of the halves of the mold and will make for easy alignment of the two parts (think of two Lego bricks locking together).

Now spread a generous amount of soap all over the play doh, object, and sides of the perimeter. This will serve as a non stick layer and allow for easy removal.

Step 5: Pouring the First Half

Mix your plaster to an even consistency with as little clumps as possible. Tap your mixing container repeatedly on a table or other hard surface to remove air bubbles - remember that air bubbles trapped around your object will distort the final shape and give it a tumorous look.

When pouring, pour only at one corner of the perimeter and let the plaster slide naturally over the object. Pouring directly over the object will heighten the chances of air bubbles forming in crucial areas. 

Top off using as much plaster as possible without spilling.

Step 6: Pouring the Second Half

Detach the perimeter from the overspill guard, flip it upside down, and re glue.

Remove the play doh - be careful to not knead it back into its container before washing so it can be reused for later projects

give the mold and sides a generous coat of soap before pouring the plaster, using the same method as the first pour.

Step 7: Observe Your Creation

Separate your two halves and remove your object.
If needed, break off the thin layer of plaster covering your pour-access tube.



This step concludes the mold making part of the instructable. From here, I will describe how to make a duplication using wax as a medium.

Make sure to wash out any remaining soap as it will distort the shape of your duplicates.

Step 8: Gather Materials for Wax

Melt your wax inside the pot. If your candle has a wick, fish it out using a toothpick or Popsicle stick.

Tie your mold together with string or hold it together with rubber bands.

Boil your water in preparation for cleanup

Step 9: Pouring

I did not take pictures of the actual pouring as I needed both hands for the procedure.

Place your mold over a spill guard, with the hole facing up.

My pot had a prebuilt spout in it which made pouring easier. If you do not have one, pour as carefully as possible. I highly suggest to not hold the mold while pouring to avoid an accidental spill over your fingers.

Wax shrinks in volume as it hardens- continue pouring and topping off the mold every few minutes until the reduction ceases.

I recommend letting the mold sit for at least 20 minutes to ensure that the wax has hardened.

Pour any excess wax into another container for future use.

After the wax hardens, pour boiling water over the mold to melt off any wax that spilled down the sides. Try to remove as much wax as possible from the half line as this will make separating the two halves a lot easier.

Unfortunately, my cast broke when I separated the two halves. Perhaps lubricating the insides will assist in preserving the duplication's integrity but I highly recommend against lubricating the mold when using mediums hotter than wax, such as silver. It's ok though, as I can always scrape out the wax and remelt it for another attempt.





Thanks for viewing my first instructable. Feel free to ask questions and add recommendations in the comments.

Comments

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BenB271 made it!(author)2017-02-27

I did this with a wax indeed but didn't make two halves it's a destructive mold will the mold explode whe silver is poured in because of moisture?

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electricaveman made it!(author)2017-03-02

If you preheat the mold, this shouldn't be an issue. I'm not an expert on the subject but I've read that they preheat the plaster molds almost to the temperature of the molten metal to prevent thermal shock but the mold is also broken to get the part out. They were casting iron with the lost wax method of making the molds.

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timtak made it!(author)2016-04-17

I am not sure why you need playdough. Can't you just make the first half mold using plaster? I guess not but I am not sure why.

Also, as joemellin says, the need for a "spill guard" is unclear. Why not just use a tupperware (as you did) and keep the bottom intact, grease oil or soap it and prize the first half out of the still intact tupperware container?

The way I had envisioned is
1) fill a tupperware half full with plaster

2) Press in an object well greased.

3) (Thanks to you) Add some straws for pouring and some small objects around the half submerged object for the "lego-like" fit.

4) Wait till solid. Grease/oil/soap again and pour on another half of plaster.

I am not sure of the need for the playdough.

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Rugnineteen made it!(author)2016-09-17

Quote "2) Press in an object well greased" You are suggesting placing the object directly into the wet plaster? This has issues depending on the object being cast. The most obvious issue is the object may just sink into the plaster and be impossible to remove without breaking and therefore ruining the mold. The play-doh is there to help control the mold line.

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graymachine+ made it!(author)2016-06-21

Hi, I'm going to ale a mold for a bronze casting and am torn about the medium to use. I am casting a finale, a pyramidal shape with a height of about 6 inches, as well as a base width of about 6 inches. I was originally going to cast it using sand, but this method seems far easier, all things considered. Do you think that this plaster method will work with that volume? I think I'll need to make it a three part mold to accommodate the void in it.

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RobertH199 made it!(author)2016-01-28

I really like your method of creating a seal around each half of the model with play doh. It's so much easier and quicker than trying to cut the shape of the model into a base board and sealing the gaps around the edges after.

For small models like that shell though, I would suggest using mold putty to create a mold. It's significantly quicker and easier than using plaster which has a tendency to break when de-molding, espiecally from objects with fine detail like that shell. Plus wax is delicate to begin with so fine detail won't survive a rigid mold being ripped off.

Also worth noting with wax is that it will crack with sudden temperature changes. In other words, don't put it in the freezer to dry quicker or it will fall apart when you take it out.

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Gary+J.O made it!(author)2016-01-05

Thanks for the info. I am planning on doing my first pewter pour of a small art object. I have two questions. Is there a special kind of plaster I should use when pouring pewter? and also. Can I pour into a plaster multi-piece mold? Thanks. Gary O

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shaddoty made it!(author)2013-05-12

can this plaster take 480F

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treymartin82 made it!(author)2015-12-07

It sure can. Once your plaster molds have dried overnight put them in your oven at about 100F after about 20 minutes turn it up to 250 for 15 minutes and work your way up to 400F. This takes all of the moisture out and then the mold can withstand temps up to 2200F.

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armorlord made it!(author)2013-05-13

I use these plaster molds to cast molten silver and gold, which I use oxyacetylene to melt. Yes it can take extreme temperatures - just make sure to heat it gradually, preferably using an open flame torch. If you subject plaster to an extreme and sudden temperature change it will crack.

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mcshannon made it!(author)2015-06-09

This was my question, i was wanting a resueable molds that could hold upto at least zinc, but silver and gold even better.

Are you saying before melting my metal warm the mold? Then melt the metal and pour? I have been plan to do all heating with torch either propain or acetylene i have both.

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armorlord made it!(author)2015-06-25

Before pouring your metal make sure your mold is properly heated. Otherwise the sudden heat shock will cause cracks. Depending on the mold complexity it may require sticking the whole torch inside the mold. With some practice you'll get the preheating concept right. Until then - pour over sand!

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mm2187 made it!(author)2015-10-05

Can you use plaster to fill the plaster mold once the mold is set?

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brentonodon made it!(author)2015-11-12

If you are talking about making a plaster part using the plaster mold you can. You just need to use what's called potter's soap as a mold release agent. Mix some gooey potter's soap with water, brush it all over the mold, and cast your part. Best of luck with it! It's worked for me in the past.

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cookies1 made it!(author)2015-09-06

for information yours, both right you are - Yoda

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afridave made it!(author)2015-08-25

I use artists masking fluid as a release agent....on the plaster paris only..ie not on the item being molded...it works very very well....also i find coating the surfaces of the molds with polyester resin...which soaks into the plaster and hardens..i find this makes the molds a ittle stronger and more durable..

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afridave made it!(author)2015-08-25

and...make sure you plaster molds are totally dry before attempting to pour moulten metal....i learned the hardway and got hot lead all over the place...a little went inside my asbestos glove and burned me badly....adding a little salt to plaster speed up drying...

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ChrisJ25 made it!(author)2015-06-25

One thing I would recommend when making the mold is to incorporate some kind of vent to allow air to escape as 'molten' material enters, to avoid air bubbles in the new finished item. We did something like this when I was in 8th grade and the vent(s) were required as we were pouring pewter.

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joemellin made it!(author)2014-09-04

Thanks for making this. The bit about the over spill guard is a bit confusing to me. It looks like from the picture of you glueing (because of the reflection) that you are glueing two boxes together, when it seems it is just a 4 sided box and basically making it so that you can switch which of the other 2 sides is inclosed.

I think a picture where you can tell it is being glued to something / no reflection would be a great help!

Thanks again for making this, I am gonna go get my mold on :)

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mmiles12 made it!(author)2014-07-25

FYI it's FYI

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troopersmachine made it!(author)2013-05-13

Excellent instructable, I am eager to give this method a try. Would you recommend using a mold release on the plaster when using metals instead of wax?

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armorlord made it!(author)2013-05-16

If you can find a temperature resistant mold release, It would definitely be a good idea.

For me, since I already built enough experience to make perfect molds without imperfections, I just use them as one timers. Cast in the metal, then break the mold. I find it easier to create a new mold than mess around with trying to preserve it in perfect shape, especially for complicated shapes.

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I+love+pyrotechnics made it!(author)2013-12-22

Yeah, that's so true, when i do a one time cast, I make single-use molds, but when I make a mold that I want to cast several times in, I have to go with a 2 part, reusable mold. Another minus with single-use molds, if you poured the metal incorrectly into the mold, you can't cast it again, you just wasted: plaster, time, and metal, but with a reusable mold, if you messed up the metal pour once, you can always try again. I tend to make reusable molds for small casts like marbles, but for big intricate casts, I make single use molds, since I know I don't need more than one. Also, what metal do you usually use, I use pewter, zinc or lead, all of them have a minus though, zinc is nontoxic, strong, but it decreases in size greatly as it solidifies, leaving a bad cast, also, zinc is hard to melt on a stove, I prefer a propane torch on a crucible, it leaves the metal molten for long enough to pour cArefully. Pewter is nontoxic, safe, easy to melt, but its very soft and it easily is bent and pewter at times can be pricy. Lead is easy to melt, pretty much cheap, not too expensive, but it is very toxic and carcinogenic, resulting in a cast that you cannot play with to much with your hands. Sorry for long post, thAnks for reading, goodnight to you.

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Peter+Angel made it!(author)2013-05-14

Nice instructable.

An important step is to wet the plaster mould with water than drain it before pouring in the hot wax - otherwise the hot wax will stick to the dry plaster.


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framistan made it!(author)2013-05-13

I once molded a chess pawn similar to your method. Fortunately, it was not valuable, because the "professional" mold release spray didn't work at all. My pawn was sealed halfway into the plaster like LUKE SKYWALKER in carbonite! I notice you used SOFTSOAP. I will try something like that next time.