Intro: SHOWER CURTAIN -- Silicone and Glass Fiber Mat
This is an outdoor curtain which separates a bathroom area from a patio area. It is made of fiberglass mat material impregnated with clear silicone rubber. The blue plastic tarps I used previously looked cheap, deteriorated from sunlight and had to be replaced every couple of years. The silicone is supposedly guaranteed for 50 years outdoors, so hopefully this curtain will be more economical in the long run. I used about $35 worth of silicone to make the curtain. A friend gave me the mat material.
The thin, rubbery material also has promise for other uses, such as tarps, or camping equipment. It is tear resistant, and can be patched with more silicone.
Although translucent, I find the curtain visually opaque enough for privacy. Over the years, algae will grow over it, as it does on the walls, which will further increase opacity and make the curtain blend in more with nature. If one wanted to get fancy with designs, one could "paint" on it with colored silicone rubber, but I like it just the way it is.
Step 1: Making the Material
The basic idea is that silicone can be forced through the space between the glass fibers to saturate the mat material with silicone. Due to wrinkles in the sheet plastic below and the inability of the relatively inflexible mat material to follow all the wrinkles, some defects are created on the bottom side of the material. To remedy that problem, after the silicone hardens up, it is pealed off the plastic, turned over, and covered with a little more silicone to doctor up the surface.
If I had a factory to make this material, I would probably try to find a rigid and smooth floor surface to work on that the silicone wouldn't stick to. That would avoid the wrinkles and bottom side defects and make saturation a one-step procedure.
It is easy to apply the silicone rubber. Just squeeze some out on the mat material and spread it around with the palette knife. Press down firmly. The final thickness of the saturated material is basically the same as that of the raw material.
Step 2: Embedding Nylon Twine at the Top
To embed twine at the top, and thus make a secure lump for the shower curtain rings to grab onto, first pencil the fold line. Next, fold the dry material over to make a crease and help folding later. Lay down a bead of silicone on the fold line, press the twine into the silicone bead, fold it over and squeegee more silicone over the folded material. The silicone can be forced through the double layer of mat material to stick them both together.
Although the material itself is very tear-resistant, the twine reinforces the edge even more.
Step 3: Hanging the Curtain
These are old shower curtain rings that I scavenged many years ago. They are springy clips that open up when the ring is squeezed and then close firmly when released.
Step 4: Two Ways of Working
You can make a big sheet of the material and then cut it to size with scissors, or you can cut the mat material to size and just saturate the piece you want with silicone. The latter method avoids wasting material to make scraps, but then again scraps are sometimes useful for other projects. Silicone that passes over the edge of the material can be trimmed off later with scissors.
Step 5: Reusing the Empty Silicone Cartridges
I try to recycle everything I can. Since I am also an artist, I buy my acrylic paints in bulk, in pint jars. Opening and closing the jars all the time allows air into the jars which causes some paint to dry in the jar and get wasted. To avoid wasting paint, I transfer it from the jars into the empty silicone cartridges, replacing the original end plugs and capping the nozzles with silicone rubber caps I form over the tips of unused cartridges.
To access the paint, I put the cartridge into the cartridge gun, uncap the nozzle, and squeeze out the paint I need, recapping the nozzle when finished. There is never any wrestling with caps glued in place by dried paint since the paint doesn't stick well to the silicone rubber caps.
After emptying the cartridge, remove the plug, wait for the silicone to harden up, and then remove it from the cartridge and plug.