Tag Archives | rubber masters

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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The wonders of fresh rubber

A truly pristine, bubble-free and tail-sporting Imp – YAY!

I always forget how much easier it is to work with fresh rubber. Once the containers are opened, the two parts begin to degrade. My molds are small enough that I rarely use up what I have before it goes stale. At close to $70 for 5 lbs. (the minimum order), it’s really tempting to use what’s left anyway. As the Imp above shows, freshness does make a difference. I should have remembered that lost production days are a lot more expensive!

I am also trying to work a little smarter this time, so I use as much of the rubber as possible while it is still fresh. I have three horses to mold, and a previous mold I would like to redesign. The holidays are an ideal time to do moldmaking because it’s the kind of work that gets done in spurts, with lots of waiting in between. Little bits of work time is pretty much all I get at this time of year!

Claying up for the first side of the Vixen mold

The other reason for doing all the molds at once is that I won’t have to relearn things (like, “always use fresh rubber”) with each one. That is one of the greatest downsides to being a one-person pottery studio. There are a lot of different skills to master, and working on one takes time away from the others. With established skills, like glazing, I find that can be helpful because a break often allows me to look at technical issues with a new eye. With developing skills, however, absence often means losing some of what I’ve already learned. My hope is that not only will a marathon session of moldmaking save me a few wrong turns, but that repetition will move some of that know-how into my permanent memory!

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