Instructables
Picture of Silicone Rubber Fish Sculpture
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This silicone rubber fish sculpture uses an unusual construction technique.  Most of it was done by extruding lines of aluminum-colored silicone in air!  It's like 3-D drawing.   The material is light-weight and basically unbreakable.  

I love the see-through potential of this technique, allowing suggestions of internal anatomy.   Now I can make my own fossils!

A fish swimming in the air is like a fish swimming in water.  Hanging, as a means of display also eliminates the need for bases and dedicated floor space.  

This piece has a temporary string support now.  It is also set up with a socket through the center of the body so it can be mounted on a base with a vertical rebar as a stand.   That way, it can also be displayed in more conventional show settings someday.  

This could have lots of applications in education; such as biological models, architectural models, or really far-out art projects.  


Step 1: Armatures

Picture of Armatures
Sculpture armatures are like skeletons upon which other materials are built up.  In this case, there is a wire running through the spine of the fish, and some smaller ones in the fins to help keep them in position.  Since the silicone is soft and flexible, gravity can make things sag.  If you don't want it to sag, it needs to be thick enough to resist sagging, or have reinforcement.  

Since I was developing the technique as I went along, I didn't really know what I was doing and had to do a lot of adapting -- which was fun.  This armature, a simple line through the spine,  was not ideally shaped for positioning in space.  Ideally, an armature should have three attachment points, not in the same line.  Three points define a plane.  By adjusting the positions of the three points with adjustable lengths of string from overhead, you can position the plane, and your work, in any position.  

A universal armature might be something like three wires radiating out from a central point, each wire with an eye at the end for attaching strings.   When the sculpture is completed, you can cut off any extruding armature wires and patch the spots with more silicone.  

If you want to keep everything flexible and rubbery in the finished piece, you can use string in an armature, instead of wire, attaching the string ends to a temporary, rigid external armature that is cut off later.  








 
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hjjusa2 years ago
You mentioned a socket and that got me to thinking, could this socket be replaced by an electrical socket and the sculpture used as a lamp?
Thinkenstein (author)  hjjusa2 years ago
Silicone does burn, but I don't think it is electrically conductive. I doubt your light bulb would ever get hot enough to start a fire. I could imagine some really nice lamps being made out of silicone this way, maybe using clear silicone. If you saturate cloth with clear silicone, you can get some nice back-lit color effects, too.
I agree with the comment that the silicone could take the heat. But also make sure the bulb gets enough convection to not overhead. Too much silicone coating it or blocking airflow could cause the bulb to overheat and burn out before its time.
It would largely depend on the type of bulb used. Although, an ordinary incandescent bulb probably won't actually burn the silicone, it might weaken it enough to become a concern (particularly a higher-wattage bulb).

However, if you're using low-energy Compact Flourescent Lights (CFL's), I really don't see a problem, given that they put out so comparatively-less  heat.

On the other hand, just to be really sure - and potentially offer more flexibility (pardon the pun) - you could look into using LED's or, even, embedding them along the armature...
Thinkenstein (author)  karlpinturr2 years ago
LED's are a nice idea. A hidden battery pack would be good, except for the need to replace batteries. The only problem with light shows is that you have to do it in the dark, and everybody has to agree to go without light for other things they want to do.

To keep it simple, maybe a string of Christmas lights, with blinking patterns and all, could be incorporated into a sculpture design. If something went wrong with the string of lights, though, you couldn't replace the string easily, or at all.
Silicone is typically good into very high temps well above the 250F or so the surface of an incandescent may reach if in the 60w to 75w range. High temp usage is a hallmark of silicone products. I don't think an incandescent would be a problem. Check the temp range on the product used and if in doubt, use a smaller wattage bulb. A 25w bulb stays below 120F typically for example. CF bulbs run much cooler but also have quite bit of mercury in them and if you wan an interesting read, check out how the procedure recommended by the EPA for cleaning up a broken CF bulb.
A battery pack would "simply" have to be incorporated into the original design - or, at least, a space for it would, in a similar way to your mixing pot formed over a tuna tin. More of an issue might be its colour (if you don't have an almost-clear one - and if you do, then I don't know of any clear batteries), if the sculpture is to be anywhere near clear - again, a design consideration.

The wiring would present similar issues, though I know it's possible to get clear stuff (around 'silver'-coloured strands, in particular).

If your wires (and LED's) are covered in silicone - to the extent of actually being part of the sculpture - then once it sets, they'll be held much more firmly in a working position, so should last much longer. And any weak spots should be more obvious, as the silicone would have to fail first.
chuck_292 years ago
that's cool that you keep and recycle everything. i want to see what your house looks like if it's made up of net and cement.
Thinkenstein (author)  chuck_292 years ago
www.angelfire.com/in2/manythings has photos. Also, do a search on instructables for "nylon-cement" and you will probably come up with lots of projects I have posted.
Oh, very Cool. Love it!
Thinkenstein (author)  a_lil_monkey2 years ago
Thanks. It certainly opens up a lot of possibilities for see-into-and-through sculpture.
Hjjusa, What about using Electro-lum.(EL) wire in the frame of the sculpture & clear silicone. The whole thing would glow !!!
Thinkenstein (author)  Lectric Wizard2 years ago
You may have better access to materials like Electro-lum than I do. It might make a good instructable for you to tackle. It sounds beautiful.
Well,Thinkenstein, outside the box again !! Great idea !!! I often use silicone at work to make parts & shapes I need, but nothing on this scale. Cheers!
l8nite2 years ago
I love trying new materials with no idea how to do it and just see how it goes, this looks like a LOT of fun
Thinkenstein (author)  l8nite2 years ago
It is. Give it a try. It's good for odd-ball architectural model making, too.
canucksgirl2 years ago
Now that's thinking outside the box on materials! It looks amazing.
Jayefuu2 years ago
Wow. You did all of that with just plumbing sealant? Wow.
Thinkenstein (author)  Jayefuu2 years ago
Yep. Get some. Give it a try. It's good for lots of creative projects.