Decoding the Benefits of Fiber Alginate Formulations

Alginate is the go-to material for making molds from the human body. But when high tear resistance and low shrinkage is required, it is better to opt for an enhanced version called FiberGel alginate.

Alginate is an organic, water-based material that is considered ideal for making body molds for life casting projects as it is safe for the skin. It is mixed with water to form a creamy paste that can be applied on the hands, feet, face and other body parts to capture a detailed negative impression of the same. These are single-use molds that can be used to make one or two life castings at most before they shrink out of shape.

As we know, alginates are flexible and therefore, need to be reinforced with a shell mold. Plaster bandages are commonly used to form a rigid covering that will hold the alginate mold in place. However, this will work for small body molds only.

When it comes to bigger molds like the torso or full body, higher tear strength is required. Therefore, it is better to opt for fiber-infused alginate instead. These will also capture all the fine details – down to the pores and fingerprints – thus allowing for an accurate reproduction in the final life cast.

How does it work?

Some specialty art manufacturers have designed a special form of alginate powder with additional fiber in the mix. What makes the FiberGel alginate formula stand out is that the fiber matrix in the alginate enhances the strength and tear resistance of the mold. Additionally, it can even hold moisture which delays the shrinkage by a considerable margin. The mold stays soft and flexible beyond normal alginates, thus allowing for additional life castings to be made. What’s more, it prevents runs and drips too. So, it will stay where it is put, making it ideal for vertical section alginate molds. Any clean up that is needed can be easily done by wiping with warm water.

This alginate formulation has been independently tested to be 40% stronger than its closest competing brand! Therefore, it is preferred for professional high-production, high-end detailed E F/X work. The duo fiber matrix system is patent pending.

What can you expect?

FiberGel E F/X Grade Alginate comes in a one pound box. The powder mixes smoothly (avoid using hard water) and goes on easily and uniformly without irritating the skin. It allows an even, creamy, one-coat coverage. For a thicker or thinner mix, simply vary the mix ratio. The mold will set in 5 to 6 minutes to a firm, rubbery consistency. Any water-based material can be cast in the mold.

The alginate works well for everything from small projects such as reproducing an infant’s hands to big projects to molding an entire human body. It lives up to its name in the most complicated of applications, like special effects.

Turn ideas and concepts conceived in the mind’s eye into designs and tangible finished products courtesy the special alginate formulation!

Making Plaster Work for Mold Making and Casting

As we all know; plaster is a very versatile material. A modified version works well for making molds, casts and life casts. The trick is to use the right formulation from a reliable source to get best results.

Plaster is simply a mixture of sand with lime and cement. This soft white powder is mixed with water to create a workable paste that can be applied on different surfaces. It yields a smooth and hard surface finish when dry.

Primarily used as a construction material, plaster can form a protective or even decorative coating on walls, ceilings, etc. The same plaster has found its way into dentistry, orthopedics and other applications. What’s more, it lends itself well to arts like plaster casting, mold making and life casting too!

Indeed, this material can be used to make both molds and casts. Plaster molds serve as the base for industrial applications for making metal castings wherein molten metal is poured into the mold and allowed to harden to form the cast. When used as a casting material, it yields crisp details with an excellent finish. And plaster happens to be the material of choice for making life casts. Be it face, torso, hands, feet or the whole body, the stark relief of a bright white plaster cast stands unparalleled!

Additionally, plaster is infused into gauze that serves well for making shell molds. As the plaster turns stiff on drying, it helps reinforce flexible molds so that they can retain their shape without flopping during the casting process.

Some artists even use the same plaster bandages to make rough belly molds and masks. This captures the basic shape and form of the model without getting into too much detail.

How to use?

Mold making and casting artists should keep in mind that they cannot use regular plaster (or plaster of Paris). This will tend to turn chalky and flaky, not to mention that it fails to hold details well. A specially formulated form of plaster is considered better suited for mold making and casting applications.

Keep in mind that plaster cannot be used directly on the skin. The paste will emit heat as it cures which can even burn the skin. Therefore, it is better to stick to applications on inanimate objects. However, plaster infused bandages can still be used for making body molds.

What is important here is to use the right form of plaster. Take CastRite Art Casting Stone for instance – this comes from a trustworthy manufacturer and is considered the perfect choice for castings and life castings. It has been specially heat-treated and will set fairly hard, but can still be carved and tooled as desired. This fine arts casting stone also holds excellent detail without chipping, cracking or even becoming chalky. The plaster can be used for making castings in alginate, resin and silicone molds.

In sum, indulge in the goodness of plaster, but make sure to opt for the best option!

Delving into the Look and Feel of Cold Cast Pieces

All castings don’t have to look like regular plaster, resin or rubber. It is possible to duplicate a metallic, stone or ceramic effect by using cold casting powders. Even the feel will be very authentic!

Cold casting may sound like a complicated and intricate procedure. After all, who would think that regular resin can be used to replicate the look of metal, ceramic or stone! And the effects achieved are indeed quite realistic and believable. That too, without the expense, risk or other issues associated with crafting the original ones.

But who would think that the procedure is as simple as adding a special cold casting powder to the resin and catalyst!

Indeed, the whole casting procedure basically proceeds as usual. Mix the resin with the catalyst and the cold casting powder – there are options of porcelain, marble, limestone, brass, tin, bronze, copper and even wood. This is brushed or poured into the mold to form a thick coating.

The primary difference is not to fill the mold at one go. Instead, the coating is allowed to cure before backfilling the mold with resin mixed with a filler – this can be fiberglass, steel shots, calcium carbonate or even sand – to get the desired weight. This is the usual process for smaller pieces. For bigger ones, many artists opt to dust, spray or slush the cold casting powder so as to conserve the usage.

After curing, all that is required is abrading or burnishing the surface with fine steel wool. This will remove the microscopic binder to reveal the pure filler powder effect beneath. Keep in mind that tin powder can be used to achieve the look of pewter, aged iron, nickel silver or stainless steel.

What’s more, the metal surface will even tend to oxidize just like the original foundry cast metal sculpture! It can be also be artificially oxidized using patina acids to create a variety of artistic effects.

How does the cast feel?

The best part is that the realistic effect is not limited to the look and weight of the casting. It will even feel like the metal or stone that is being imitated to the extent that it becomes difficult to tell it apart from an original.

The only difference is that it will ‘clink like ceramic’ and feel cool to the touch. Also, it will not take high polish as well as the original. Therefore, cold castings are considered best for cosmetic use. They can be used for making replacement parts and for refurbishing antique items.

When it comes to sourcing the cold casting powders, EnvironMolds is the best resource. It offers a selection of brass, copper, tin, bronze, limestone, pecan shell, marble and porcelain powder 325-mesh that lend themselves well for achieving different effects.

Indulge in the simple and easy procedure of cold casting and enjoy watching the way the replicas turn out looking indecipherable from an original carved from metal, stone or porcelain!