Tag Archives | mistakes

The local pharmacist thinks I am a nutter

I haven’t posted to the blog in a while because I’ve been busy hitting my head against the wall lately. (Apparently my friend Sarah has been doing the same, so at least I had company even if I didn’t know it at the time!) Usually I can find humor in almost any setback, but I’m afraid even my natural optimism was taking a beating.

My problem has been getting a good rubber master of Vixen. Rubber masters are always tempermental things anyway, so I am used to the idea that it’s going to take more than one try to get something useable. But the master is the part that counts, because the it creates the image in the plaster. Any problems there will simply repeat on every casting. It’s a pain, but making several copies until one is perfect is just part of the process.

Vixen has been a whole other ballgame. No matter how I vented the poor mold, I was getting trapped air. Huge areas of trapped air! Each time I’d lose the back raised leg. If I was lucky that’s all I would lose. Usually it was much more.

In frustration I decided to call Barry at Laf’n Bear. Barry is one of those people who are just natural problem-solvers. (He’s the one who first introduced us all to the wonderful uses of Legos.) He was also familiar with Vixen since he’d done the resin casting. He had a number of suggestions, one of which was to use a syringe to inject new rubber into the air pockets.

I thought the idea just might work. What I didn’t think of at the time I spoke to him was to ask where one might get syringes. It would need to have a long, metal tip if it was to get through the tough rubber. Big metal syringes aren’t exactly a common thing one might have lying around the house. Surely, I thought, diabetics must use these things. So I made a trip down to the local pharmacy.

I guess I should point out here that I am about as far removed from any counter-culture as one can get. I’ve never (knowingly, at least) met a drug addict. I’ve never even seen illicit drugs of any sort. I wondered, perhaps, if something like a needle might be controlled in some way because I knew that shared needles was a disease vector among people with drug problems. Surely they wouldn’t take those risks if needles were readily available.

So I checked out the area where diabetic supplies were located. Lots of lancets, but no needles. Getting brave, I went to the counter to see if perhaps they were like the newer cold medicines – available but requiring you to ask. As it turns out, you can get needles if you have an insulin prescription – or if you can convince the pharmacist you have a good reason to need them.

I suspect I must have featured in the lunchroom discussion there at the pharmacy that day. Dressed in a t-shirt for my son’s school chess team and driving up in a minivan with church bumper stickers, I probably didn’t look like a drug addict. But explaining what a rubber mold is, and why you might need a needle (a big needle, I kept telling her – long and with a big opening!) to fix it, isn’t easy. Most people have never heard of rubber master molds, and wouldn’t imagine some suburban housewife makes rubber molds of tiny horses in her kitchen while her kids are at school. Maybe I need to start carrying one around in the car, just in case I need a visual aid, because I think the girl decided that I was a (harmless, probably drug-free) nutter.

But she did sell me some syringes! Unfortunatley even fresh rubber was too viscous to go through the needle, so it didn’t solve my problem. I’m almost glad, because I’m not sure I can bring myself to go back and tell the folks at the CVS that I need more! I think the idea might work if I could find a larger gauge of needle – perhaps vets use larger ones for livestock? But I’m not sure I want to ask anyone!

So it’s back to banging my head against the wall. I do have a few more potential solutions to try that don’t involve convincing anyone I’m not a criminal.

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A day in which I play Junior Scientist

Shortly after I met my husband, we both were given one of those Myers-Briggs personality tests. My test came back saying that I preferred “feeling” to “thinking”. In fact, I topped out the score in that particular category. It is no surprise, then, that I was never particularly attracted to engineering.

So it must amuse my husband that I now routinely come to him (a definite “thinker”) with engineering-type questions. I certainly have come to appreciate good problem-solving skills.

And that is what I needed for the problem with my inner pieces. I needed a way to seal the surface, and only the surface. I had already wondered if it might be better to spray some kind of sealant on them – something that dried almost immediately upon contact. My husband’s suggestion was that I find something with a wax base, since that not only would sit on the surface but could probably be removed with rubbing alcohol. He thought perhaps furniture wax might do the trick.

I decided to set up a test to see what might waterproof my plaster without soaking it through.

I didn’t want to wait for plaster to dry, so I used the backing off one of the bad Vixen rubbers. (I should note that here is where I made my first miscalculation. Well, make that plural. Did I mention that this post could also be entitled “How Lesli wasted a perfectly good day in the studio”? Anyway, the plaster should have been damp, not dry, because that’s how the plaster is when the mold is being made.)

All I had to do was sand off the keys and make it 1/4″ thick. As this picture shows, I made a rather big mess. But I got my thin slab of plaster to test.

Interestingly enough, thin plaster is surprisingly sturdy. It took several smacks with a metal hammer to get my test pieces.

And here are my candidate sealers; ScotchGard, furniture polish, matte varnish, dullcote, and wax resist. Off to the right is my control piece with my usual mold soap. I’ve etched a letter into the plaster chips so I know what’s what.

At this point, all I wanted to know was which of these actually sealed the plaster. As it turned out, plaster is really hard to seal. ScotchGard doesn’t seal it at all, no matter how much is applied. Surprisingly, neither did the DullCote, though the varnish did. Unfortunately the spray was strong enough that I suspected I’d never be able to use an insert to protect the design area from the spray. The only two “alternate” sealants that worked were the furniture polish and the wax resist. Of those two, the wax resist was both more effective and easier to apply, since it brushed on just like the mold soap.

Like I said, this is how I wasted a day in the studio. It probably wasn’t necessary, although it was certainly interesting. After calling Joan to discuss my results, it became clear that my real problem wasn’t that I was using mold soap, but that I was following the mold soap directions. (I tend to do this, much to my husband’s frustration.) The instructions called for 8 parts water to 1 part soap. So yes, Sarah, my soap was simply too wet.

I still plan to make a comparison test. I want to seal one Imp mold with my soap (straight, no water), one with wax resist, and one with Joan’s soap. I am pretty sure all three will work, but I want to know which one works better. And next time I’ll just wait for the time difference (Joan is on the other coast), and use my “phone a friend” option!

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