Sunday, July 27, 2008

Old Skool Rod--Scratch Built Interior Panels

Awhile back I started messing with Super Sculpey polymer clay for scratch building. This week I decided to mess with it some more and came up with an interesting technique for building interior panels from scratch.

Now, I figure this technique isn't a brand new and unique discovery--I am sure dollhouse makers, artists making jewelry out of Sculpey, and about a thousand other people already know about it, but, I stumbled upon it almost purely by accident and don't recall seeing it on any other Sculpey site, at least not yet.

Here's the background. The interior panels are for a 1:25 scale replica of a my dad's old skool Texas hot rod. Back in the 50's Dad made the 1:1 interior panels out of thick cardboard; as a high schooler my dad couldn't afford fancy upholstery work, so he fabricated the interior door panels himself out of whatever he could find.

And as I saw it, to duplicate this home grown look my scale panels had to be built from scratch as well.

The first thing I did was cut the floorboard and side panels out of .010 plastic using a pair of scissors. This was easy enough. I put some Sculpey through a pasta maker and pressed the thin strips onto the plastic. Using a wooden coffee stirring stick I impressed criss-cross lines in it. I thought that all I'd need to do next was fire it (in a toaster oven--that's one thing that makes Scupley so easy to work with: you don't need a kiln.) Presto, instant home-grown interior panels.

However, I couldn't remove the clay in one piece--it stuck to the plastic! Every time I tried to remove it I destroyed the cross-hatch pattern.

So I cut the same interior panel shapes out of thin brass. I figured that way I could leave the Sculpey clay stuck to it and just fire the whole thing; I know from soldering brass that its melting point is far above the 375 degrees F in my toaster oven.

Well here's my first effort--burnt to a crisp! It is interesting to note that the check pattern "puffed up" when it burned, and the result, although black and swollen, still looked like it would take paint and perhaps in the future if I need "puffed" interior finishes this might be a useful path of experimentation.

Ah, that's better. The Sculpey needs to be shaped a bit more but it's fired solid and looks reasonably like the homemade panels in the 1:1 hot rod. It literally only took seconds for the Sculpey to fire--I figure less than a minute. So I had to keep an eye on it so it wouldn't burn.

But the problem (?) was that the Sculpey was still stuck to the brass after firing! I figured this wasn't the end of the world--I would just epoxy the whole thing to the inside of the body--in other words, use Sculpey covered brass instead of plastic for the interior inserts.

So I started to clean up the edges with a 200 grit Dremel sander and a MicroMark sanding stick. To my surprise the Sculpey popped off after I had sanded all the edges! Upon closer examination, some of the clay had wrapped itself around the brass during firing, and the sanding broke this extra clay off. So the Sculpey didn't stick to the brass; it just seemed that way at first.

So now I have the brass inserts, the plastic templates, and a thin and pretty good looking piece of flexible Sculpey to epoxy to whatever I want. I am not done with the interior--not even close, but this is a good step in the right direction.

This brass/Sculpey technique is one I am sure to use in the future....I seem to be able to make whatever thin pieces I want out of Sculpey that conform to the brass shape it's fired on. A thousand and one uses!!!

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