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Help With Clay and Wood

  1. Dec 7, 2005 #1
    Help With Clay and Wood....

    I have a couple projects I have been putting off for a while because I need advice before begining them.

    Firstly I have been wanting to make a puzzle box. The same sort of idea as the one in Hellraiser except that I will likely be using wood and mine wont contain a gateway to hell or anything like that. Not that fun I know but if you could get past that I would appreciate the help.
    I have one specific question. I want to make sure that the wood surfaces will slide across one another with minimal friction. More specifically I am concerned about two larger flat surface areas sliding across one another, not just joints where there is a minimal of surface contact.
    I was once told that a higher grade wood sealing wax may do the trick and that I could likely use it both for reducing the friction for the sliding parts and for putting a finish on the project as a whole.
    Does any one know anything about using a product like this and just how good it would be for this purpose? Maybe someone knows a better technique?

    Also I have had a hard time finding any sort of site that might help me with design concepts for the working mechanisms of the puzzle. If anyone has any idea where I might find such a site or reading material please let me know.

    Second, does anyone have any experience with using polymer clays like Sculpey and Fimo?
    Specifically what I want to do is create a skeletal structure using one or two colours of clay then emerse this structure in a translucent clay and further sculpt the translucent clay into a desired shape.

    I have two particular questions regarding this.
    1) Does polymer clay tend to warp and crack due to variation in thickness like normal clay? And will different colour clays set and/or shrink at different rates?
    2) In regards to the skeletal structure; it would seem that baking this first before adding the translucent exterior would go a long way in making sure the structure is not warped or mangled in the process of adding and sculpting the translucent outter portion of the sculpture. Is this feasible? That is, can the clay go through a second baking without adverse side effects? And will the fact that the inner structure is not shrinking and setting the same way that the outter portion is compromise the outter portion in any way such as cracking?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2005 #2
    I've never had any luck with Fimo and you would have a hard time making a skeleton out of it. It's hard keeping thin pieces straight. You wouldn't have a problem using different colors and I don't think shrinkage is a factor. I've seen two different type of Fimo hard and soft. The hard is too hard and the soft is too soft. Fimo is good for making beads anything else looks homemade.
  4. Dec 7, 2005 #3
    The box thing is a pretty advanced project if you want it to be nice. It's the sort of thing I'd want to apprentice myself to a fine cabinet maker to for a couple years before trying it. Wood is very unstable and a pain to master when you want to create "fine" things. Swelling and shrinking with changes in humidity and all that.

    No harm in trying though. You want your sliding surfaces to be super-smooth: which comes with sanding with progressively finer grits. I've never used good wax and don't know if it'll work. In cases where I wan't to reduce sliding friction in wood, I would just lubricate them with common soap (rub it on dry, of course) which is what you use when a dresser drawer is sticking.

    I've worked with Fimo, and you can't bake it twice. There's a point after which it just starts to carbonize. (Yeah, I left a few things in there too long.)
  5. Dec 7, 2005 #4
    Fifty bucks says "mystery box" turns into "dominos"
  6. Dec 7, 2005 #5
    Thanks guys.

    So neither of you have used Sculpey before?

    Zoob, do you think that I could get away with a partial bake to make the clay firmer and then rebake it? What exactly happens to the clay when you bake it too long and what sort of effect do you think that would have if the overbaked clay is encased in as of yet unbaked clay? Does it get bubbly or crack or something?

    In regards to the box I have found an article or two on master artisans from japan that hone their skills for decades as apprentices.
    All the same I'd like to give it a whirl. I'm not looking to create an exquisite masterpiece, just a neat little toy with some artistic quality.
    Wouldn't the soap damage the wood somewhat? Do you think it's lubrication would be a lasting help?
  7. Dec 7, 2005 #6
    I know I used FIMO, but can't remember if I tried the sculpy.
    I don't know, but there's no harm in doing a couple tests. Throw something sloppy together you won't mind losing if it doesn't work, and try it out.
    What happened is that it gets darker and darker untill it gets downright black.
    No, soap does nothing bad to the wood as long as it's dry. But, don't take anyone's word for anything, just test it out on an unimportant piece if you're not sure. Even well meant suggestions can be wrong if you're doing something different than the person doing the suggesting. Try the wood wax as well.
    For a stable, close fitting sliding fit I would try to work in teak, I think. It is full of silica, of all things, and stands up to moisture better than all other readily available woods. If you cut it with power tools it's best to use carbide blades, but I don't suppose you'd be doing enough table sawing to hurt the blade for a small box.
  8. Dec 7, 2005 #7

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    The first thing that popped into my mind was Sculpey Puzzle Box Kit, Gateway to Hell sold separately.

    I've used Sculpey for really small things. The main problem with it (IMO) is it's expensive, and I've only found it sold in very small blocks. It bakes well, but it does dry out fast so you have to wrap it up really good when you store it.
  9. Dec 7, 2005 #8
    That's a good idea. I'm not quite sure how the translucent turns out. From what I have seen it seems to be more on the transparent side and I just want light enough to pass through so you can see the shapes inside.

    Oh good. That shouldn't be much of a problem unless it effects the new clay too. So there's not any effect on the shape or any shrinkage that you have ever noticed. (ahem, refering to the clay ofcourse)

    I've not done any purchasing yet but have been looking mostly at thin planks of wood at the art supply store that look like they are generally used for modeling. Most of it was bolsa which is definitely not what I am looking for but they had some that was a darker heftier wood. I'll have to see if I can find some teak in smaller thinner planks.
    I couldn't find anything at Home Depot that would be suitable because it's all too thick and bulky and I don't have any table saws or anything like that. I'm going to have to do most of the work with manual hand tools so wood that is already on the proper scale is preferable. A dremel is the only power tool I have.
  10. Dec 7, 2005 #9
    That was another issue. I don't want to waste a bunch of the clay on trial and error because it's a bit on the expensive side but I have found that I can buy it, online at least, in larger quantities for only about ten or twelve dollars.

    I think there's a clay that isn't supposed to dry out at all before baking.
  11. Dec 7, 2005 #10
    we use fimo at camp. not like anything you're doing. we'd use it for beads and to decorate bic pens. i made a nifty little squid pen, very cool.

    for the wood, not that i took shop very long or anything, but if you aren't coloring the wood at all, i dunno that i'd bother waxing it. if you sand it well enough, it'll be really smooth and should be little friction. with wax, if friction builds enough, it'll warp the wax more than it would just wood, and then there will be more friction and more warpage and so on, don't you think? of all the boxes i made in shop, (jewelry boxes, incense boxes, photo boxes... yeah i'm a girl...) the one's whose lid's stuck most were waxed. but then, maybe i'm just a bad waxer!
  12. Dec 8, 2005 #11
    Round here they have a woodworker's store and they have alot of precut fine woods of all kinds in thin sizes. They're expensive, but you won't need much.
    I've never tried to double-bake the stuff, and I never tested to see if it shrank. I was just making off beat beads for off beat dream catchers. (I used to play around with "theme" dreamcatchers. My most popular was a Goth/Biker one, all done in black leather, with black webbing, and black feathers. I meticulously tied little shards of clear quartz to the webbing, and these ended up looking like star charts of the night sky with the little crystals representing the stars. ) Anyway, I WAS IN THE POOL!!!!!
  13. Dec 8, 2005 #12
    Do you want a puzzle box because it is cool or because you are hiding something?
  14. Dec 8, 2005 #13


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    I've never seen Hellraiser, so I don't know what the hell a puzzle box is; I just want to suggest that possibly shuffleboard wax might be an appropriate lubricant for it. You'd have to just work the moving parts back and forth to get some sliptivity going, then dump out the crumbs.

    I have worked a lot with Fimo. In fact, I made some Hallowe'en facial appliances out of it (the type that I mould from latex now). It actually stays pretty flexible if you make it cardboard thickness and bake it about 50 - 60% of the recommended time. It does tear easily, though.
    The hardest part that I found was the need to be constantly working it in order to keep it from getting crumbly. I've double-baked it because of having to add parts, with no ill effects, but I took the precaution of making each cycle less than 75% of the normal time. There's no shrinkage or warpage while curing, unless you count gravitational sagging if it's a weak structure. I made the mistake once of inserting stiffening wires to maintain the shape in the oven. They melted through the structure. All of the colours use the same baking time, but for some reason I've found that the darker ones dry out faster during the modelling phase. That might just be because they came from an older stock, though. The stuff that I have is about 10 years old and has just been sitting around exposed to air, and it works the same as it did new.
  15. Dec 9, 2005 #14
    Well, hopefully you shave instead then.
    I've only ever taken on class in woodworking way back in grade school so I don't ahev much experience in the area. I was told specifically to use a particular high grade wax, so maybe that should make a difference. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the wax.:redface:

    I WASN'T LOOKING! I WASN'T LOOKING! It was just a slip of the tongue... er I mean.... never mind. I'm going to shut up now.

    Actually, I was considering the fact that I have never actually seen one anywhere except in the movies and thought that if I could design and build some decent ones there may be a market for them.
    That and ofcourse it would just be cool to say I made one. :biggrin:

    Any way... thank you to every one for your advice. Hopefully I will be successful with at least one of these projects and find a camera so I can show you all what they look like.
  16. Dec 9, 2005 #15
    along with a price list and a 1-800 number?

    Based on the questions you asked I'd like to make another prediction, but feel free to prove me wrong. There is not a market for what you are capable of making. In order to make high end wood items you need to have some serious skill. In order to make low end wood items you need to make a lot of them and you need to be fast and use the cheapest material you can find. There isn't a market for low-skill good-material projects. The time you would have to invest vs. the money you could sell it for would probably average out to about $0.05/hr.
    Make your puzzle box to say you did it, enjoy having a puzzle box. Don't expect to become TheStatutoryIkea. Now go out and prove me wrong, I'm just basing my prediction on personal experience. the only way I've found to make money by selling woodworking is to watch antiques roadshow and try to forge an antique then unload it in a garage sale.
  17. Dec 9, 2005 #16
    Lol... you sound just like I do when my friends tell me about their crazy schemes.
    I'm fully prepared to have nothing to say for my venture but that I made a puzzle box once. If I find that I actually can make something worthwile then I'll go from there.
    I'd had the idea that I could just come up with the design and prototype and see if I could sell it to some sort of manufacturer. I'm afraid that I would have to patent the design though and that takes quite a bit of money. The manufacturer would also be likely to screw me over.

    I have this little problem that so many things catch my interest but I never find any one of them interesting enough to spend several years working on at the expense of my other interests. Unfortunately because of this all of my interests stay at the hobby level.
  18. Dec 9, 2005 #17
    It's like I'm listening to myself talk.

    Anyone wan't about 30 dreamcatchers, cheap? They're cool. I also have about 20 really neat walking sticks. I took all this stuff to a craft show once, had a fair day of sales, but never got round to going to another. I seem to be able to maintain interest in stuff like that for 3 months tops.
  19. Dec 9, 2005 #18
    I wonder how the Renaissance men kept up with all of their pursuits.
    Just well funded, or maybe a bit manic perhaps.
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