Over the past couple of days I’ve tried my hand at casting something other than animal tracks. A friend of mine (and co-worker) who lives in VA, but travels to NH on occasion brought me a piece from one of his kid’s toys. They were missing one just like it and he was wondering if I would fabricate a new one for him. He suggested that wood might be a workable medium, and perhaps he was right.

The piece is a little peg about an inch in diameter, with a smaller peg coming out of the bottom of it. I thought that maybe a good way to do this would be to cast it in plaster, remove the peg, and then fill the plaster with epoxy. The final part would be the epoxy.

First I salvaged a small yogurt cup out of the trash and rinsed it out. Then I mixed up a small batch of plaster, poured it in the yogurt cup, and inserted the original peg. After it set, I tried to extract it from the plaster, and that proved more difficult than I had anticipated. But with the help of a steel punch, I managed to extricate the piece from the plaster while keeping the mold and the piece intact. Yay!

Then I dug out a couple of vials of acrylic epoxy that I bought maybe ten years ago. I lost the instructions long ago, but judging by the fact that the two vials were of equal volume, I assumed that the resin and hardener should be mixed in equal volumes. I added a bit of blue food coloring to it as well, since the original piece is blue.

It took forever for the epoxy to set up. In fact, it never did set up, but rather, assumed the consistency of a piece of dampened hard candy that’s been fished out of the pocket of an elementary school boy, and left on the sidewalk on a hot summer day. Only a bit more gooey than that.

Such a texture is perhaps an undesirable characteristic in a child’s toy.

I didn’t even try to fish it out of the mold. There’s almost no way I could have cleaned the goo out of the plaster for a second go. But I did find some more epoxy – the kind that comes in a dual syringe. I judged that there might be enough in there from which a piece could be cast, but it looked pretty close.

So I salvaged yet another yogurt cup from the trash, made a new mold, and extracted the original piece using the punch again. I mixed up the new batch of epoxy, added a little less food coloring (but still too much), and poured it into the mold. And it filled the void about half way. Groan.

I went to the kitchen and grabbed a medicine cup, cut it down, filled it with a lump of Play-doh, and stuffed it down into the mold. Then I spooned a little more epoxy over the top of that, with the intention of imprisoning the medicine cup and Play-doh in a blue epoxy prison from whence it would never escape. But by then, the epoxy was starting to set already, and the “cap” I had poured over the medicine cup and Play-doh would not smooth out under the influence of gravity. I grabbed the cap off a milk carton and pressed it into the surface so it would have a smooth top.

Then I waited. Once the epoxy was good and hard, I pried off the milk cap revealing a smooth top. I applied the punch again. But the epoxy refuse to budge. I eventually gave up on saving the mold and cracked the plaster off with a chisel. The result was… not completely satisfactory. But maybe satisfactory enough.

It’s just a kid’s game after all. I started paring the mold marks around the top off with a knife when the epoxy cap popped off. Firmly attached to its underside was the Play-doh. So much for my prison manufacturing skills.

But maybe this will work. It has been an interesting exercise if nothing else. If the urge strikes again before I see my friend again, I may give it another go. Except that I’m out of epoxy.

Maybe I’ll make it out of wood this time.

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