Introduction: Customizable Clay Creature
Snuffi is your friend, Snuffi is your project and this is how to bring it to life.
This is a great project do with your kids, help them make the mold and when that's done let them decorate Snuffi however they want.
Once the mold is done you can make as many as you'd like and you can even save them for later or give them out as gifts, just make sure they don't dry out.
To make Snuffi you'll need:
- A 3D printer and a 3D print of Snuffi:
To make a casting mold you need an object to make a cavity on a plaster mold, this cavity can then be filled with liquid ceramic, since you're making Snuffi you'll need to 3D print the model I sculpted in fusion 360.
To get the STL download the file "Snuffi.stl", if you don't have a 3d printer you can use 3dhubs to get it printed, and shipped to your door.
- Hot glue:
You'll need hot glue to make the mold
This is what you'll use to make the mold.
- Scotch tape or a waterproof tape:
- Dish soap:
Dish soap acts as a barrier between the plaster mold part 1 and 2, any dish soap works but I've used salvo and arm and hammer so I can vouch for those brands.
- A box to make the mold form:
Any box can work, however, a cardboard box can make the demolding process easier, just make sure you have at least an inch of clearance in every direction.
- liquid ceramic, often called sip:
Ceramic slip info. the best way to ger ceramic slip is to source it locally.
- Clay ball or solid clay to decorate Snuffi:
Youll also need some tools to decorate and fix any imperfections on Snuffi, these tools can be plastic forks, toothpicks, damp sponge, etc. I've included a 3D printable tool, the file is titled "tool.stl"
Step 1: 3D Print Snuffi
When you import the model to your slicer you'll need to position it and scale it, I scaled it to a 100mm in the Z axis and printed it standing up with support, I know printing with support sucks but its a downside of the FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) technology, however since you're making a mold you don't have to clean it up much since you can do this when the cast comes to of the mold.
I printed Snuffi with 3 perimeters, 3 top/bottom layers and 10% infill.
I've included an image of where I added support material but most slicers do this automatically and with a high degree of accuracy.
TIP: print with wood fill PLA, sanding this material is very easy and the supports come off like stickers off of parchment paper, this is the filament I used
Step 2: Print Post-processing
Carefully remove the support material, you can do this using players, a cutter or your hands
TIP: if you use a cutter make sure to ALWAYS cut away from you, and take your time.
If you'd like this is the perfect time to sand and fix any imperfections, mine came out with some defects, the layers shifted a bit and the left hand of Snuffi had a hole, however this is a happy accident since ill get to tell you how to fix it
Step 3: Fixing Defects
If you're satisfied with the way your print looks you can skip this step however, if you have any issues you'd like to fix this might help you.
As you can see from the images above my print had a hole, to fix this I just used some modeling clay, you can also use bondo body filler or dap spackling, bondo is wonderful but for this project, it might be overkill, dap spackling works great but you have to be careful because even once it dries water can dissolve it and ruin all your work, the fastest way to fix this is modeling clay.
When you pick what method to use take into account how big the problem is and how bad it looks, is it something you can fix once the mold is done?, is it worth fixing or should I just print it again? those are some questions you should ask yourself
Step 4: Getting Started With the Mold
Once you're happy with the way your 3D printed Snuffi looks you're ready to begin making the mold.
The first step is to make a line on the side of Snuffi, this is to help you know when to stop when you pour the plaster.
TIP: If you have experience making molds I've included a pre-split version of Snuffi.
Once you've marked half of the 3D printed Snuffi its time to get a box. When you look for a box make sure you have at least 1 inch of clearance on all sides, otherwise your mold might be too fragile or take too long to dry the liquid ceramic.
Step 5: Preparing the Mold Form
Now you have to make a form for the mold, a form is just a fancy name for the box that holds the plaster while it hardens.
To make a quick form you can use a small box, just make sure Snuffi has at least 1 inch of clearance on all sides.
TIP: if you can't find a box you can make your own using foam board or cardboard and hot glue, I like foam board because its cheap, strong and somewhat waterproof.
To make sure the form is watertight and minimize the risk of spillage seal the edges with Scotch tape, if you feel like it's going to leak or it won't hold just add more tape, I promise if you wrap it well it will hold.
Step 6: Glue Snuffi
Now that the box is watertight its time to glue Snuffi to the box.
Start by covering Snuffi with vaseline or mold release, this will help you get him out when its time to pour the liquid clay, when you cover Snuffi with vaseline take extra care not to cover the bottom of the feet since these is where you'll add the glue.
Now that Snuffi is covered add glue to the bottom of the feet and glue it to the box making sure it has at least an inch of clearance behind and that it's perpendicular to the front of the box, check the render to get a better idea.
TIP: don't worry if the inside of the box is ugly, as long as it doesn't interfere with the 1-inch clearance rule it's all good.
Step 7: Mixing the Plaster
After the glue is dry and you're certain the box won't leak and Snuffi won't move you can get ready to mix the plaster.
The ratio of water to plaster powder varies between brands, location, weather and application, the best way to mix it is by following the instructions that came with it and by asking the person that sells it (you can get it at home depot and sometimes the guys that work there can give very good advice so ask them any questions you might have), however, here's how I do it:
TIP: when mixing plaster it's better to add the powder to the liquid, this way it's much easier to mix.
Start by adding 1 cup of water to a bowl, then and add plaster powder with a spoon and mix by hand breaking up any clumps that may form, repeated this step until you get a mix with the consistent of yogurt or until your hand is covered with a consistent layer that stays in your hand, see the pictures to get a better idea.
Once you have the paster mixed you'll have to act quickly, depending on your mix and the weather the plaster can start to harden in as little as 5 minutes so it's important to have a clean protected work surface and a mind map of what you have to do.
TIP: mix more plaster than you need but if you have to mix more plaster make sure to mix it well with the plaster you added before, this will help it dry evenly and at the same time.
Step 8: Pouring the Plaster
Since this is a 2 part mold you'll have to our the parts in 2 steps, the first step is the back of the mold.
Pur your the mixed plaster up to the line you previously made on the 3D printed Snuffi, make sure not to get any on top of Snuffi, if you do you'll have to clean it with a wet rag or chip it off before you put the 2 part of the mold.
Once you've poured the plaster onto the mold gently tap the sides of the form to release any air bubbles.
Step 9: Registration Marks
Once you've poured this part of the mold you have to let it dry for a 12 hrs.
But stay close because when the plaster is beginning to harden (about 2 hrs after pouring) you'll have to make some registration marks (registration marks are indentations on the mold that help you align it).
To make the registration marks just grab a spoon and make an indentation on the mold, make as many as you need to help the mold align, usually 2 on each side is a good amount.
Once you're done you can clean the spoon and put it back in your kitchen, don't worry it's safe to use again and plaster is surprisingly easy to clean off of flat nonporous surfaces.
TIP: hold the spoon like I do in the picture to avoid getting water everywhere.
While you wait I've included a silhouette of Snuffi so you or your little helper can design and make some awesome drawings of how Snuffi is going to look, the file is called "Snuffi Drawing.pdf"
Step 10: Mold Part 2
Once you've made the registration marks and the mold is completely dry you can get started with the second and final part of the mold, to make sure the parts don't stick together when you put the player over the previously made mold part you'll have to use dish soap or mold release, I've used both and I've found that soap is the best, however, feel free to experiment.
To apply the soap you'll need to mix it, the ratio is 50% water to 50% soap, you don't have to be extra precise but make sure its roughly that.
To apply the soap you just have to pour it over the mold and spread it, a soft bristle brush might help but I didn't use one so I didn't include it in the supplies section.
once you've applied the soap let it sit for a minute and drain the excess.
Then let it dry, after it dries you've just applied 1 coat of soap, you'll need to apply 3, to do so just repeat the process.
once you've applied 3 coat and the soap is dry you're ready to proceed.
Step 11: Final Mold Steps
Mix more plaster like you did for the first mold part, once it's mixed fill the mold form to the top making sure Snuffi is covered, then tap the sides to release air bubbles and finally let it dry for at least 12 hrs
Step 12: Opening the Mold
After 12 hours both parts should be dry and ready to take out.
to ensure the safety of your mold make sure it's dry, if it is, break the cardboard form and start separating the top of the mold from the bottom, a spatula might help, I didn't need one but it's useful to have one but remember, the most useful tool is patience so take your time.
TIP: some 3D printers come with a spatula included so if you have a 3D printer check to see if it came with a spatula.
After you separate both halves of the mold and remove the 3D printed Snuffi you're ready to pour the liquid ceramic.
Step 13: Pour the Liquid Ceramic
To pour the liquid ceramic you'll need your mold and some rubberband, clamps or tape to hold the mold closed.
Close the mold making sure the registration marks fit within each other and fasten both halves together, I used rubberband.
Once the mold is fastened together you can pour the liquid ceramic into it, fill it to the brim and let it sit.
The liquid ceramic is making a layer on the inside of the mold, this layer is what makes Snuffi, the thickness and therefore sturdiness of the cast can be modified if you let it sit for a longer/shorter period of time, here are some rough measurement but bear in mind it depends on a lot of factors, such as dryness of the mold, ambient temp, humidity, etc. the best way to know what works is to experiment:
10 mins= roughly 1/16 inch thick or roughly 1.5mm
15 mins= roughly 1/8 inch thick or roughly 3mm.
30 mins= roughly 3/16 inch thick or roughly 4.5mm
40 mins= roughly 1/4 inch thick or roughly 6mm.
For me the sweet spot is 35 mins.
Once you fill the mold to the brim start a timer for your desired thickness and keep stopping up the mold if the ceramic level goes down.
Once the timer is done, pour back the remaining liquid ceramic to the container you had it in (the remaining liquid ceramic can be reused).
Finally, let Snuffi dry in the mold for 30 mins and then take it out of the mold.
At this point, you can remove the flashing (flashing is the seams that the molding process leaves behind) and fix any imperfections, to remove the flashing use a damp sponge and just wipe it away, this same method can be used to fix imperfections, it takes practice but it's not hard to master.
Step 14: What to Do With Snuffy
At this point you're done If you'd like you can make many and store them in a sealed ziplock bag, this way you can use them later or give them away, otherwise decorate it, you can score the clay using toothpicks, you can add things using ball clay or you can modify the shape by cutting into it or molding the body.
Finally, if you'd like you can bake it in a ceramic oven, this is a specialized process and the best option is to take your creation to a place where they can do it for you, almost always those places sell clay and liquid clay too.
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