Introduction: Trying My Hand At: Mold Making and Casting With Silicone RTV [Pittsburgh Tech Shop]

Today at the Pittsburgh Tech Shop, I took a class in mold making and casting. This is a great technique for making multiple copies of a piece out of resin. It's used in sculpting, prop making, special effects makeup, and many more applications. This Instructable is the documentation of the class in which I found a piece to copy from the part bins available at the TechShop, cast a mold out of silicone, and filled the mold with resin.

I will discuss the process of casting beginning with choosing a piece to cast, making the mold, and casting a piece from the mold.

More information about the Pittsburgh TechShop can be found at http://techshop.ws/

I made it at TechShop!

Step 1: Before You Start: the Setup

If you have a silicone mold already available to you, the casting process does not take very long. If you're starting by making the mold, however, be prepared to wait at least two hours for the mold to cure. Be sure you have the following before beginning:

Time: at least 2 hours for a small project
Tools:
-Nitrile gloves (NOT silicone gloves)
-utility knife
-4 paper cups for measuring
-2 paper cups for mixing
-paper or plastic cup to hold the silicone
-hot glue gun
-wooden mixers (popsicle sticks)
Materials:
-something to mold
-silicone RTV
-urethane liquid plastic resin
-Ease Release agent

You should coat the surface that you're working on in a disposable material to catch any spills. It would also be a good idea to have paper towels on hand to clean up messes. 

Necessary materials can be purchased from websites such as http://www.smooth-on.com/

Step 2: Molding: Choose and Prep Your Piece

When choosing what piece to mold, make sure to consider the following guidelines:

Make sure that your piece doesn't have any nooks and crannies for the silicone to get stuck in; complex parts that cannot be lifted from the silicone will tear the mold.

If any of the components of your piece are loose, you may want to hot glue them together to prevent the silicone from shifting into unwanted places during the mold-making process. 

Your piece should be rigid--a good rule of thumb for this kind of casting is that a soft mold like silicone should be used to cast hard objects while a hard mold should be used to cast soft objects.

Be aware that while your piece will probably survive the molding process, it might not. Do not try to cast anything unless you are okay with it potentially being damaged.

Step 3: Molding: Creating a Molding Container (Part 1)

Begin by placing your piece on an index card or piece of cardboard. 

Step 4: Molding: Creating a Molding Container (Part 2)

Using a knife or similar tool, cut the bottom out of a paper cup. 

Step 5: Molding: Creating a Molding Container (Part 3)

Place the cup over the top of your piece. Using a hot glue gun, glue it onto the card. Make sure that the seal is tight--you don't want the liquid silicone to leak. 

Step 6: Molding: Mixing Your Silicone (Part 1)

This particular kind of silicone is made by mixing two liquids that are sold together as a kit. You don't have to wear gloves for this part, but it wouldn't hut. 

Step 7: Molding: Mixing Your Silicone (Part 2)

After opening the containers, be careful to not let the liquids come into contact with one another except during the mixing process. Use separate stirring sticks and mixing cups. If contaminated, the silicone will start to cure inside the bottles.

Step 8: Molding: Mixing Your Silicone (Part 3)

Stir the bottles with separate stirring sticks until you have a nice, even consistency.

In order to determine how much silicone you need, you can fill your empty mold container with water. You should completely cover the object that you're molding in at least half an inch of material. Be aware that you should wait for the mold to dry completely before pouring in the liquid silicone.

Your silicone will be composed of a 1:1 ratio of the two liquids. Therefore, pour half of the amount into a separate cup from each bottle.  Different ratios produce different consistencies, curing time, and lifespan of the mold. Experiment or research this further if you'd like to know more about different ratios.

Step 9: Molding: Mixing Your Silicone (Part 4)

Once you have measured your liquids, pour them together into one cup and stir vigorously until the liquid is a single consistent color. The photo is about halfway stirred--there should be no marbling.

Step 10: Molding: Pour Your Silicone

The curing process begins as soon as you mix the two liquids so you should pour the liquid into your prepared container within a few minutes of making it. Tilt your mold slightly, pinch the cup of liquid to form a narrow spout, and pour a thin, steady stream of liquid onto the index card. Pour from a higher height to achieve a thinner stream. The tilting is to prevent air pockets from being trapped in your mold--make sure to fill the container slowly and steadily to ensure the entire piece is covered.

To remove air bubbles, pick up your container and gently tap it against the table surface for about a minute. The bubbles should rise to the surface.

Step 11: Molding: Removing Your Mold (Part 1)

The mold will take at least 75 minutes to cure. Check the package that the silicone came in for an approximate wait time. When the mold is done curing, it should not be tacky to the touch. If you prod it with a popsicle stick, it should be a firm consistency. The popsicle stick should not leave a mark.

When the mold is done curing, carefully cut or peal away the cup. It may help to cut it away in pieces. Be careful not to damage your mold.

Step 12: Molding: Removing Your Mold (Part 2)

Remove the container.

Step 13: Molding: Removing Your Mold (Part 3)

Flip your mold over and gently pry out your piece. The silicone should retain its shape when pulled or squeezed gently, but it can tear if you aren't careful.

Step 14: Casting: Mixing Your Resin (Part 1)

Now that you have a mold, you can begin to mix the liquid resin that you will use to cast from it. 

This material is extremely irritating to the skin; be sure to wear gloves for this part. If you spill any on yourself, rinse it immediately.

Follow the same procedure as in the silicone mixing. Begin by opening the jars and stirring the liquid with separate popsicle sticks. Pour an equal amount of each into separate cups. Be careful not to cross contaminate the liquids. 

Step 15: Casting: Mixing Your Resin (Part 2)

After you have determined the amounts you want to use, pour them into the same cup.

Step 16: Casting: Mixing Your Resin (Part 3)

Stir vigorously to get an even texture. The curing process will begin immediately and is much quicker than the silicone; be ready to begin casting.

Step 17: Casting: Pouring Your Resin

If your piece is likely to be difficult to remove from the mold, first prepare the mold by spraying some release agent into your mold. 

Pinch the cup and pour a thin, steady stream of the liquid into your mold. 

Step 18: Casting: Wait for It to Cure

The curing process should take about ten minutes. The chemical reaction should cause the liquid to heat up. 

Step 19: Casting: Removing Your Finished Piece

The process should be complete if you can prod the material without it shifting or smudging. It should be completely rigid before you remove it from the mold.

Gently pull the silicone away from your piece and pop it out of the mold.

Step 20: Congratulations!

Your piece is finished! You can use the mold a number of times before it wears out. 

Step 21: From Start to Finish

This is the final image of the three stages of the process: original object, mold, and final cast.

Comments

author
RobertB438 made it!(author)2016-06-02

Wonderful what we can do with technology today, thanks to big 'evil' capitalistic corporations, which get oil and dig and mine minerals, then refine them, make products, which we buy and then we make great things with them!

author
mscott27 made it!(author)2014-01-01

The colors, and ratio are Smooth-on specific. The color thing is something that Smooth-on does to make it easier to see when it's mixed properly, and I believe they also formulate their products to give you the easy mix ratios. It's a good tutorial, if you keep that in-mind. Anyone not using smooth-on products to follow your guide is very likely to not have those colors, mixing colors to indicate consistency, or ease of use. The basic approach is the same, but you might want to emphasize that point, rather than say "materials can be bought somewhere like Smooth-on," in-case anyone reading this has another supplier in-mind, and thinks it'll be the same thing. Or, tell them to "mix the components in the ratios indicated by the manufacturer, and wait until it cures, which may appear different, and have different requirements than shown here."
Personally, I think it reads better, and more accurate if you just point out that the tutorial is for a specific Smooth-On product, and in the materials list, be specific as to what they should order, rather than general terms that invite purchasing mistakes. It's a great tutorial though!

author
spylock made it!(author)2013-06-20

Release agent?Like a cooking spray,or something just made for that purpose?

author
danzo321 made it!(author)2013-06-21

Silicone usually releases from non-porous surfaces without anything but if you do, anything greasy (except silicone oil) will work fine.

author
spylock made it!(author)2013-06-21

Thank you Sir for getting back to me so fast with the info.

author
lamerc made it!(author)2013-06-22

Researching making molds like this for casting jewelry pieces I've seen a lot of people recommend olive oil highly as a mold release (especially in lieu of the expensive sprays usually marketed for this). FWIW.

author
danzo321 made it!(author)2013-06-22

Olive oil, canola oil, nose oil.. extremely thin coating.

author
danzo321 made it!(author)2013-06-21

If the bottom half of the object is nested in plasticine or something, you can pour or paint the top mold, make a mother mold if necessary, then turn it over, remove the clay and make a mold of the bottom half. Plenty of other tricks, like molding in a funnel for pouring, and register-bumps so the halves will line up perfectly.

author
Pignanelli made it!(author)2013-06-20

"This material is irritating to the skin" is somewhat of an understatement. The Methyl ethyl ketone peroxide (MEKP) used as a hardener for the resin is an extreme organic oxidizing agent, and is very dangerous to your body and long-term health. You should work with it (if at all) in open air with the wind blowing away, or in a vacuum hood. You should take every precaution that it does not touch your skin. (Imagine bleach which does not respect the epidermal barrier.)

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

I made the language in that step a bit stronger to reflect this; it's definitely important to stay safe when casting.

author
danzo321 made it!(author)2013-06-21

I use safety glasses when using MEKP.

author
legoyzueta made it!(author)2013-06-20

I have used silicone while molding face and body casts with an artist.
We often used an excelerator to speed up the curing process. You might ask this company about this. We bought by the gallons, but the blue silicone is very fun.

author
danzo321 made it!(author)2013-06-21

Two hours is pretty fast! Lifecasting grade is way faster, like 15 minutes.

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

That's a good idea; I should look into that. Thanks for the tip!

author
jbh123 made it!(author)2013-06-20

Nice I'ble, especially for someone like me with no experience with doing something like this. One question: I'm a little confused by the second photo in step 18 - the one with the horseshoe-shaped pieces. It looks a little out of place. Is that the one you meant to post?

author
Lunarius made it!(author)2013-06-20

Those look like dental impressions to me, but I was wondering why they were pictured, too. I'm all curious to see clear resin teeth as well, if that's what they are. :D

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

The teacher for this class had sculpted and molded a lot of cool teeth to use on masks that he makes; I can't find any pictures of the teeth we made but I'll make a note to take a few.

author
danzo321 made it!(author)2013-06-21

Your dentist makes silicone molds of teeth all the time, and casts them in hard plaster.

author
Lunarius made it!(author)2013-06-20

Ah, cool! If you do get the photos I'm eager to see them.

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

Good point; while we were waiting for the silicone to be done, we cast some teeth molds that had been used for another project. They don't really fit here, though, so I took them out.

author
Edgar made it!(author)2013-06-20

"Norwegian Blue, beautiful Plumage... It's just stunned!"
Gonna do this one day with Oogoo, methinks...
Gone to my Blog, along with a stunning Maplin new venture, 3D Printer on a kit:
http://faz-voce-mesmo.blogspot.pt/2013/06/medusa-da-vos-asas-e-impressora-3d-que.html

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

Hah, glad someone got the joke. Also, thanks for the blog post!

author
Edgar made it!(author)2013-06-20

I saw the original Monty Pithon, I'm that ooold, cough, cough... :)

author
TruFord made it!(author)2013-06-20

First off you did a great job and I enjoy the tutorial. Ive been playing with molds for awhile and Ive found that legos are great for making the containers. just place your object on wax paper and then build a container with legos. Then when youre done you just put the legos away for next time. Just figured Id share what Ive found helpful/useful in mold making. Once again great job and great mold.

author
Spokehedz made it!(author)2013-06-20

I made a vacuum chamber out of a large glass sun tea jar (had a hole in the glass already) and a brake bleeder kit from HarborFreight. Both are under $30 total. I use it to re-bubble all my molds and my resin so I get perfectly clear casts. The glass is handy so you can see how many little bubbles you have, so you can slow down the vacuum pressure if it begins to bubble out too much. I have pulled as much as 25 inches of mercury (25hg) and had no ill effects on the glass. Obviously, you can test yours first.

author
boxcarmj made it!(author)2013-06-20

Thank-you, I can use this.
Mike.

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

You're welcome! Make sure to do some more research on this subject. There are plenty of molding and casting techniques out there and there might be one better suited to your needs.

author
Slabysz made it!(author)2013-06-20

Do you glue the object to the note card so the silicone doesn't flow under it, especially when you lift and tap the cup to free the bubbles?

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

I don't believe I did for this one; that's a good point though. You'd just have to be careful about the glue being completely under the piece so that it doesn't show up in the final mold.

author
dangre made it!(author)2013-06-20

Not an ible but a good explanation of two sided molding.
http://www.alumilite.com/HowTos/2PieceMold.cfm

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

Excellent link; thanks!

author
trophygeek made it!(author)2013-06-20

Great article.

You might want to change latex gloves to "Nitrile gloves" and add "NOT silicone gloves". The powder that sometimes found in latex (as well as many hand lotions) can cause the silicone to not set correctly.

http://www.silicone.pro/2011/06/what-are-bad-materials-to-have-around-lsr/

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

Updated accordingly. Thanks for citing your source!

author
offtherails2010 made it!(author)2013-06-20

Brilliant Tips and Tricks for beginners !

ive already been playing with clear casting resin but used all sorts of things to make the mold, finally admitted defeat and bought some RTV Silicone to try out, GREAT Tip on using the paper cups !

Thanks so much for taking the time to put this instructable together !!

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

No problem! I learned it from good teachers.

author
Aloz made it!(author)2013-06-19

Good job on the piece and the instructable .
will you do a ible on two sided molds? I could use it to duplicate moshlings for my nephew.

author
thisisanexparrot made it!(author)2013-06-20

Two sided molds are definitely possible. I don't have a project documented for that, but you should be able to find another Instructable for it.

The technique is essentially to submerge your object, leave a small hole in the top for pouring in the resin when you're ready, and very carefully cutting an irregular edge around your piece so that when you take the two halves apart you can easily tell how they fit back together (kind of like a puzzle piece).

https://www.instructables.com/id/Two-Part-Silicone-Casting/ Here's a good example.

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