*UPDATE* I'm going to include some FAQ's to answer some of the questions I've received. {FAQ}

This tutorial will demonstrate how to reliably reproduce cast objects using a two part silicone mold. This technique, when skillfully applied, can have incredible resolution, effectively cast very complex shapes, and can yield parts that need little cleanup. This type of mold is most useful for parts that are fairly small, and therefore will not consume a massive amount of silicone to cast. To save material on large castings, techniques such as glove molding and matrix molding are often applied.

Step 1: Select, Clean, and Add Sprue

I chose a figurine from a comic shop as my demo to mold. This will be what is called the master. It has a fair amount of surface detail, and some small parts that, although tricky, are faithfully reproduced in the final casting.

Begin by inspecting, cleaning, and securing your model. I glued down the small parts that my figurine came with which originally snapped together. I took a cotton swab and got out all the grit and dust from every tiny crevice. Remember that everything you see on your part will be cast into the mold, even down to fingerprints. You will not be able to correct these mistakes once the part is cast, so take the time to do it right.

You will need to create a sprue or sprues on your part. These will become funnel shaped holes in the mold. You need them so you can get your casting material into the mold so don't forget to put them in. I usually use the tops to bottles or machine my own, but you can make most any tube or funnel shaped object work. If you'd like, you can even make your sprue out of clay. I usually smooth the seam in between the sprue and the master as to not catch bubbles on the very bottom of the part. Try to think ahead when you're molding a part, if something looks like it will trap bubbles, try to orient things to avoid it. Your goal is to create a mold that will produce the best quality parts with the least amount of work and fiddling.

Step 2: Clay Up

Once you've prepped your part for the show, it's time to lay up the first half of the mold. Draw a line that defines the very outermost edge of its curved surfaces. You want one continuous seam tangent to a majority of the curves on your part. The goal is to evenly split the part in the mold so it comes out easily without damaging anything. Also, molding this way will make the seam line easier to clean in your final part.

Find or construct a border for the part. You want it to be some sealed volume that at least extends an inch above the part, and an inch to the sides in all directions. I glued the top of a paper mixing bucket to a masonite panel with hot glue. Lay your part in this container securely with some clay. The clay is going to have a tendency to stick to your part, and will need to be cleaned when you begin the second half of the mold, so do yourself a favor and coat the part in a spray release, or wrap it in clingfilm and cut the film away at your mold line. Cleaning clay off your part will most likely result in it pulling up out of the mold before you begin the second half, which will mean that you'll get some silicone dribbling in between the part and the mold and screwing up your texture. Begin making a rough border around the part with clay, coming up to the line you drew earlier. Work the clay layer until it is smooth and even around the part. Leaving a texture to the clay will only make the mold harder to pull apart.

Step 3: Inscribe a Key

For most organically shaped parts like action figures or prosthetics, your mold will fit together in a very specific way. The seam line that these organic shapes have just naturally locks together in one position. For more geometric or mechanical parts like legos or usb drives, your mold seam may be nearly flat, and therefore difficult to align or register. To make sure the mold goes together the same way each time, you add a seam line or a key to the mold. I prefer to make a quarter inch trench along the border of the part, not only to fit it together well each time but to also prevent material from leaking out when I'm casting the final parts.

Step 4: Mix and Pour Your Silicone

Silicone is a great molding material because of its natural tendency to not stick to things. This makes it ideal for casting a wide variety of things from plastics to plaster. However, it does love to stick to itself. If you don't make sure the mold is properly sealed in between castings, you'll find yourself with a big block of silicone with an action figure prize inside. I'm serious.

I recommend you use a digital scale to measure out your materials. I try to gauge the volume of my mold by some simple geometry. Always mix a little more than you think the mold will actually take to fill. It's very difficult to mix up a new batch of material on the fly when this happens. Also, before casting, inspect your entire mold to make sure that there are no possible holes or leaks. Even a tiny pinhole leak in your mold could mean you find a pool of cured silicone on your rug and a lightly silicone glazed part in your mold when you come back to check it the next morning.

Mix as per the manufacturer's instructions, and pour in a high, thin, even stream to eliminate air bubbles.

Step 5: Walk Away

I have a tendency to fiddle with the mold, hoping to improve things as it cures. This doesn't often work to my advantage. The more fiddling you do, the more chance you have at screwing things up. What you should do is vibrate the table the mold is on to dislodge bubbles for a few minutes, and then go somewhere and read a nice book. You should let the mold do it's thing. When the silicone is cured (this will vary depending on the manufacturer) come back and take another look.

If all goes well, you should be able to simply flip the part over, take off the clay, and pour the second half. For me, that meant cutting the bottom off of the mold container (the paper mixing bucket) and turning the whole thing over. Remember to apply a generous coat of sealant. I use Smooth-on SuperSeal spray. It requires two thorough coats spaced twenty minutes apart. Check for bubbles in your sealant, smooth them out with a soft brush if there are any.

Mix and pour again.

Step 6: Molding: Complete

After the second silicone piece has cured, you're done with the mold. You can take your master out and inspect the mold. Now you're ready to clap it back together and cast your final parts. I usually hold molds together with rubber bands wrapped tightly enough around the mold to keep it together without distorting it. I'll use a bucket or something similar to hold it in the right position for casting.

This kind of mold is perfect for a wide range of liquid casting agents, from hot wax, to plastics, to resins, to plaster. Remember a few key factors:

  • Each molding material has a different cure time, viscosity, and surface tension. Some of these materials are prone to capturing bubbles in the mold. To prevent this, make sure to read up on how to prep the mold, whether it's adding talc, or a release agent, to get the best quality casting you can.
  • Learn what the mold tends to do, and make procedures to correct the errors. I found that this mold tended to catch bubbles in the little spheres that stick out from the base. I found that by shaking the mold, and poking at the bubbles with a small rod, I could get a flawless casting.
  • You can make multiples of this mold by repeating step five over and over again. Professionals tend to make a plastic or silicone copy of their part just for this purpose, so they can duplicate as many molds as necessary without damaging the master.
  • Recycle your scrap silicone. Since silicone is so eager to stick to silicone, it makes sense to extend your materials by mixing in chunks of cured scrap silicone with large castings. It saves a lot of material. You can also cast excess silicone into sheets in a loaf pan or muffin tins to use as mixing boards. They make great palettes as paint and epoxy won't stick to them.

For video tutorials on mold making, visit Freeman Mold Making and Casting Supply. There is a great tutorial on a more complex molding technique on ConceptArt. You can also check smooth-on.com for information on various molding materials and suppliers.

Step 7: FAQ

*UPDATE* I'm going to include some FAQ's to answer some of the questions I've received.

  • Q: What resin did you use? What sealant did you use to prevent it from sticking to the mold?
    • A: I had decent luck using crystal clear spray varnish as a sealant. I would recommend you use mold soap or SuperSeal to coat the mold. Spraying a coat of PVA in the mold before casting will also provide a solid seal. For casting parts out of your mold, silicone usually doesn't need any release or sealant, but the particular resin I was using met some cure inhibition against the RTV. You can find a non polyester clear casting resin and it will probably cast fine without needing any release or sealant.
    • Q: Is the mold reusable?
    • A: The mold is completely reusable. Cured silicone has an average shelf life of five years and will hold up to thousands of castings. It will break down depending on what material you use, but that's still in hundreds of castings with the most abusive materials. You'll know when the mold's at the end of its life when it's not flexible and begins to yellow.
    • Q: Where can you get silicone and other molding materials? How much will they cost?
    • A: Good silicones can go for $100/gallon and more. You're going to pay more per oz by buying smaller batches, but it's easier to live with the expense. The material I used comes in a 2 pint batch at $22 { manufacturer's site }. The polyester resin I used was CastinCraft clear resin, and cost $15/pint. You can pick this and the colorants I used up at most craft stores. I also used SmoothCast for the white model you see below and C-1515 for the translucent model. Each of these are about $15/pint as well. For more resources, you can check Smooth On, Freeman Casting Supply, and MicroMark.
    • Q: Silicone is too expensive. I heard you can use molding rubber. How is it used?
    • A: Actually, if you're using a molding rubber, your process is a little different. When you take out your original part, and lay it up in clay. Before you pour your rubber over you'll need to coat it in a molding sealant and then a release. I recommend you use something like PVA, liquid floor polish wax (wax is both a seal and a release), SuperSeal, or Mold Soap. SuperSeal is pretty easy to find, and usually comes in a spray bottle. Personally, I love the mold wax. You'll want to clean up everything with a soft brush if you see any streaks. Then you apply a release like EZrelease, or Universal Mold Release. After doing all that, you can pour up your rubber. Wait for it to cure, flip the mold, clean out the clay, repeat the seal/release process and pour again. Once your mold cures, you remove the piece, apply a coat of seal to the mold, and then a coat of release (this is why I prefer silicone, because you don't have to fiddle with releases.) After everything is sealed and released, you should be ok to cast. If everything's done right, you should be able to produce some nice shiny pieces. Allow the plastic to cure overnight and wake up to some brand new toys.
<p>I've never done anything like this before. Is this both clay and silicon? A clay bottom with a silicone top?</p>
I have a few silicone molds i hate and cant resell. Ive also heard cured silicone fant be remelted or re moulded. If it is how please?
<p>I just want to say I used your Instructable's tip about using a key line for a pair of pattern plates I 3d printed to make silicone molds for a personal project. I showed my manufacturing processes professor my silicone molds when we were going over molds in class, and he was highly impressed with the keys. I tried using 'peg' type keys before and I couldn't get my halves to line up properly. Even though I didn't use clay, your method worked out highly for me. So I just wanted to say kudos and thank you! </p>
I've carved some rings out of jewelers wax and I'd like to cast silicone molds for them so I can cast polyester resin versions. Do you think Sculpey will work for the clay up? I'm totally new to the whole process and I've become weirdly attached to the wax rings...
<p>(Not sure I asked this before) I need to cast lead, from a steel piece (3/4&quot;X3/4&quot;X4&quot; long), which has a couple of &quot;rings&quot; (from the same material) around itself. Can I use silicon (please specify if special compound of it is required for lead's melting temp) to mold the original part and make the casting mold? Should I use mold rel;ease on the part and silicon sides of the mold?</p><p>Thanks, </p><p>john</p>
<p>HI we were going to cast a lead design its ok to use and we were looking at casting a dragon would this be too complicated to use for this or what would you suggest</p>
I only wish you could cast aluminum in it...
You can cast many low-melt alloys into silicone - it can withstand many hundred degrees celcius; it can do pewter, or lead no problem. Not sure about aluminium.
Seriously watch out for moisture and water if casting aluminium. Ensure the mould is totally dry, and above 100 C, before a steam explosion ruins your day. Silicone won't take that heat from liquid aluminium, though.
<p>i once had a plaster paris mould explode in my hand as i poured moulten lead into it....i rushed and the plaster was not completely dry....i will not make that mistake again ...scary when hot lead flies all over the place....luckily i was not seriously burned....i was however burned....</p>
Silicone should work with low-melt alloys; tin, lead, pewter...not sure about aluminium... it can handle temps uip to 588Kelvin (600F) aluminium melts at ~933Kelvin - definitely not a good plan. Good thought on the steam/water. Dry the mold, and pour slowly :D
you could however take this mold pour melted wax in to it and make a wax master for lost wax casting. all you would have to do is add vents and set it in casting sand
Indeed - just wouldn't work for single-step processing. Damn I hate living in an apartment - i want so much to do so many...garage-y things.
I agree with you completely. I didn't realize until I moved into my own place just how necessary a yard and garage are. I also totally miss having a BBQ... Oh well, just plans for the future!
yea im kinda in the same position. i just made a vent hood and workbench in my place. not the safest idea but it works. i do small castings in the house.
FYI there are additives to resin to give a metal effect (&quot;metal cold casts&quot;)
that would be sweet
<p>How do you make the item you pour hollow? for instance if you want to mold a doll head complete with the holes to put hair into the head, etc?</p>
<p>i have never tried but i believe hollow castings are made by rapidly spinning the mould as you pour...the centrifugal force forces the resin to the outer surface....alternativly you could try making a wax spacer that fits into the mould cavity with out touching the sides...i would imaging you would have to secure this with a stick through the pour hole......melt the wax out of the final casting later... </p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>I would like to do anatomical skull model mold but not sure what to do. If I use silicone as you did can I re-use that over and over again? Silicone is quite expensive and I would like to make few molds. Also, would I be able to do the same thing with alginate ( two stages)? I would really appreciate your help. </p><p>Thank you </p>
<p>I have Smooth-on Dragon Skin silicone and there is a warning about proper ventilation on the box. I live in an apartment and I don't have access to a workshop so I was wondering, how dangerous is it to work with small batches in an apartment? Should I only do it when I can leave the window open and have a fan blowing the fumes outside?</p>
<p>can you use it to mold metal</p>
<p>Hmm, I wish i would have read this prior to making my mold. I just went on instinct and everything came out near perfect as per your method, except i used old legos as my box. Well almost everything. . . I now am the owner of 4 blocks of silicone and toy prizes inside. I learned the hard way that you have to apply the sealant as silicone adheres perfectly to itself, even if the first half of the mold is fully cured after 2 days. Good news is when i do this a second time, i can reuse the cured silicone in the new mold and save a ton of volume of raw materials.</p>
<p>Hi</p><p>If possible please tell me, if the same procedure applies while using PC-ABS granules to create designs. Will it require the same silicone mould?</p><p>The product which I want to build is a pair of headphones.</p><p>Thanks.</p>
<p>Is the clay you use just standard clay? I take it it isn't air drying or some such? And does it come away cleanly from the model? </p>
Can I use it to make cakes or gummy candies? :)
<p>If you use food grade silicon and a non-toxic release, I would say that it would be perfectly fine. </p>
Corn starch is used for gummies. Just spread the powder into a tray, press your master into the it and pour slowly into each cast. This is the method used at a candy shop I worked at some time ago. Once set, dump the whole thing over a screen and reuse the powder.
<p>Great tutorial ... I have a question about making another type of mold. We make wax fake food and use Silicone as our molding material. I'm having trouble making a mold for a pile of something.....like a serving of corn, or hash browns...something that doesn't ordinarily come in one piece but I want to make a one piece mold using real food. Any idea how to stick real food together to be molds together? Any advice would be greatly appreciated...thanks My Email addy is <a href="mailto:LaudineTyme@aol.com" rel="nofollow">LaudineTyme@aol.com</a> if you want to contact me more directly....</p>
<p>I recognize that robot from Giant Robo! Thats one of the rarer ones.</p>
oh thank you! I've been on the hunt for 'how to make mold' tuts lately! <br>rachel of OddModicum <br>http://www.OddModicum.etsy.com
So ive sculpted an animal type figure and ive ran into mold problems. I want my seam to bisect it so i lie it in the box sideways but it buries the legs in silicone and i cant figure out how to not destroy the mold to remove it. Anything will help. Thanks
..this is great tutorial..thank you for this.. <br> <br>..i have few questions sir, if I'm going to use RTV, would the process be different? <br> <br>and for example I'll make a mold of something that i created, let say from modelling clay, would you please suggest how i can make a mold of that?
wow thanks
I am using window silicone, clear, sealant for my two part molds. I have not done this in 15 years and have forgotten what to use for a release, not for the clay, but for the seams around the clay. The silicone will stick to itself, so what do you use for the second half of the mold. Does this make sense?<br>Can I use canola spray on the silicone to release or vaseline, or do I have to buy a can of silicone release?
I'm looking to make soap molds and need a good supplier for the silicone, any suggestions?
hello, we are a professional manufacturer silicone rubber, contact me at my email hyjb@szrl.net. we can provide you most competitive silicone rubber to make molds for soap.
This is EXACTLY what I was looking for some small sculptures I wanted to cast in resin! Thank you for this awesome ible!!!
I have a pair of detailed flexible plastic wings that are curved. The wingspan is about 8 inches. Would this method work for them?
hello,this is Annie,you can contact with me more information about silicone rubber for making molds,annie7301011@live.cn.
I would like to know about your offer &quot; information about silicone rubber for making molds&quot; <br> <br>Hernando Delgado Hdelgado2@verizon.net
&nbsp;Hi. &nbsp;If your master is really detailed, you might want to think about vacuum casting it- this process helps a lot with fine details.
how can i mold this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/14455307@N07/3804998669/in/set-72157618890095073/ i want it empty from inside
Do you know of any casting materials that cure near crystal clear (like for lenses, etc)?
&nbsp;I've used a lot of water clear urethanes from various companies- what they all have in common is that you'll need to use platinum-based RTV. &nbsp;Tin based silicone has trace amounts of alcohol in it, which soft durometer urethanes/clears don't get along with. &nbsp;Of course, you can also heat a tin mold or let it age naturally to get rid of the alcohol, but that takes time.
How long is the aging process and what temp. and length would would you need to bake it for. thanks ASAP<br />
It depends a lot on the thickness of the mold...the thicker it is, the longer it takes to bake out the alcohol.&nbsp; If the mold is 1/2 in thick, I'd guesstimate 90 degree F. for about 2 days.&nbsp; I wouldn't go over 100 degrees F, because increasing the temp, while perhaps shortening the time needed, might also damage your mold.&nbsp; Of course, this is done with the silicone fully cured, the master removed, and the mold laid out in the oven opened up, if possible.&nbsp; Let the mold cool to room temp. before casting the urethane, and do a test shot if possible on the outside of the mold to check if the alcohol is gone before trying it in the cavity.&nbsp; If the test shot is still tacky, bake some more.
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Hi, I was wondering if you could point out the sprues in this picture. Im new at this and I want to follow your recipe to the T. Thank you.
I am looking for a business partner to help design and patent a idea&nbsp;I have.&nbsp; Setting up a mold design is key.&nbsp; This product also uses recycled plastic and wood.&nbsp; I have done some research on my idea and no one has come up with this idea as of&nbsp; yet.<br /> <br /> This would be a great product to sale on HSN or QVC.&nbsp; This product would repeat it's sales yearly.&nbsp; Indefinitely!<br /> <br /> If interested, contact me (James) <a href="mailto:oakleyrest@yahoo.com" rel="nofollow">oakleyrest@yahoo.com</a>

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