www.ceramicartsdaily.org | Copyright © 2010, Ceramic Publications Company | Ceramic Mold Making Techniques |2
10 Steps toPerfect Plaster
by Bill Jones
hether you need a drying bat, a simple humpmold, or you’re making a complex slip mold,you’ll need to mix plaster. Getting the plasterright requires a bit more than just “dumpingand mixing.” Here are 10 ways to get the best results or yournext plaster project.
Prepare your mold.
A common mistake potters make is tomix plaster only to realize everything’s not set up or pour-ing. Beore casting, make sure your model is set, the mold boardsor cottles are secure, and all the suraces you’re pouring onto arecoated with a parting agent such as mold soap.
Prepare your work area.
You will need a clean mixing con-tainer or the plaster, a scale or weighing the plaster, a mea-suring cup or the water and a rinse bucket. Note: Plaster cannotbe permitted to go down the drain, because it will orm a rock-like mass. Even small amounts will accumulate over time. Line arinse bucket with a plastic garbage bag and ll it with water orrinsing your hands and tools. Allow the plaster to settle or a day,then pour o the water and discard the bag.
Use resh water.
The mixing water you use should be at roomtemperature or 70°F (21°C). I the water is too warm, theplaster will set too ast and vice versa. Use only clean, drinkabletap water or distilled water. Metallic salts, such as aluminum sul-ate, can accelerate the setting time, and soluble salts can causeeforescence on the mold surace.
Use resh plaster.
Plaster is calcined, meaning chemicallybound water has been driven o through heating. I the plas-ter has been sitting around in a damp environment, it will havelumps in it, in which case it is no longer usable. Pitch it. Useplaster that has been stored dry and is lump ree.
Weigh out materials.
Do not guess about the amounts o plas-ter and water you’ll need. Once you start the mixing process,you do not want to go back and adjust quantities. To determinethe amount you need, estimate the volume in cubic inches thendivide by 231 to give gallons or by 58 to give quarts. Deduct20% to allow or the volume o plaster, then reer to the table.
Add plaster to water.
Slowly sit the plaster onto the suraceo the water. Do not dump the plaster or toss it in by hand-uls. Adding the plaster shouldn’t take more than 3 minutes.
Soak the plaster.
Allow the plaster to soak or 1–2 minutesmaximum. The soaking allows each plaster crystal to becompletely surrounded by water and it removes air rom themix. Small batches require less soaking than large batches. I the
Water to Plaster Mixing Chart
1 quart 2 lbs 14 oz (1,293 grams)1¹/
quarts 4 lbs 4 oz (1,937 grams)2 quarts 5 lbs 11 oz (2,585 grams)2¹/
quarts 7 lbs 2 oz (3,230 grams)3 quarts 8 lbs 9 oz (3,878 grams)3¹/
quarts 10 lbs (4,522 grams)1 gallon 11 lbs 6 oz (5,171 grams)1¹/
gallons 17 lbs 2 oz (7,756 grams)2 gallons 22 lbs 13 oz (10,337 grams)2¹/
gallons 28 lbs 8 oz (12,923 grams)3 gallons 34 lbs 3 oz (15,508 grams)This table is based on USG® No 1 Pottery Plaster mixed to a consistencyof 73 (73 parts plaster to 100 parts water) recommended for most studioapplications Excessive water yields a more porous but more brittle mold,and less water means a very dense, hard mold that will not absorb water
soaking time is too short, it may contribute to pinholes; and i itis too long, it will contribute to ast set times, early stiening andgritty mold suraces.
Mix the plaster.
Small batches o plaster can be mixed byhand. Use a constant motion with your hand and you willnotice a change in consistency rom watery to a thick cream.Break down lumps with your ngers as you mix. Mix only ora minute or two being very careul not to agitate the mixtureso much that air bubbles are incorporated into the mix. Mix-ing time aects absorption rates—longer mixing times producetighter and less-absorptive molds.
Pouring the plaster.
Ater mixing, tap the bucket on a hardsurace to release trapped air. Pour the plaster careully.Wherever possible, pour plaster careully into the deepest area sothe slurry fows evenly across the surace o the mold. Once themold is poured, tap the table with a rubber mallet to vibrate themold and release more air bubbles.
When plaster sets, it heats up because o a chemical reaction. When it has cooled, it is sae to re-move the cottles or orms—about 45 minutes to an hour aterpouring. Molds must be dry beore use. Drying molds properlypromotes good strength development, uniorm absorption andreduced eforescence. Dry molds evenly. Don’t set them near akiln where one side is exposed to excessive heat or the relativehumidity is near zero. Place them on racks in a relatively drylocation away rom drats.