Mould and model manufacture.

In order to experiment with a range of materials I needed to create a mould and to do so I first needed to create my form  from wood. I created some wooden models based of the form of the ceramic funnels using a lathe, this is a very quick method that allows you a great deal of freedom and controle so my forms where relatively accurate in shape and size.


I created the blocks first by glueing together smaller blocks to the correct height and width needed with a small amount added so there was room for error.




Here are the three wooden models I created. The largest will serve to create a mould and the smaller two will act as test models in a user experiment to see how users feel about their form and feel in their hand.

Making a mould.


Firstly I cut up the Vina Mould into 1inch square pieces. Vinyl rubber is a re-usable self-releasing rubber supplied in solid blocks. It is extremely versatile and can be used to produce moulds for a wide range of casting applications such as polyesters, epoxies, plaster and concrete. The material requires heating to approx. 160ºC before being poured over formers or originals to produce moulds


I created an outer shell to sit around the center of the wooden form to stop any vina mould from leaking through to the other side.


The form and the outer shell where nailed into an outer box that would house the mould. As you can see I added key’s to the surface of the outer shell. These would act as guides when pieces the two sides of mould together.


The vina mould is poured into the box to set, this takes about 2-3 hours but I left mine over night to be sure it sett well.


The next day the vina mould looked like this, very bubbly on the surface. This is because I hadn’t sealed the wood I had used to create my mould. Because I knew this mould was for the purpose of experimenting with materials and not for a final product I skipped the sealing stage. This would be a huge misstake if I where creating my final prototype, the vina mould should be smooth.


Close up of the bubbled surface of the vina mould where the porous wood of the model had let air travel through the liquid as it set.


The mould once the steps above where repeated. Once set and opened you can clearly see if the form has taken well.  The registration points I added to help when lining up the mould in the next stage are also clear.


After lining up the mould and making a hole at the top to pour in the plaster, I held it together by creating a 4 sided box. I then mixed some plaster ready to pour.


I poured in the plaster and left it to set for an hour.


This was the first plaster model cast from the mould. It wasn’t hollow because I’d filled the mould entirely and left it to set int this position. To get the form to he hollow I would need to attempt a process that was a merge between to slip casting and rotational moulding.



I plugged the hole I’d made at the top of the mould with clay and instead cut away around the base of the mould to allow me to pour in plaster that would only coat the sides of the form and a lip around the base.


Here is a link to a video that demonstrates how I got the plaster to form a hollow version


First hollow model

IMG_0963I decided I would need to experiment with different textures of plaster to see if I could improve the strength of the form or create areas for light to escape by adding clear components such as wax discs or glass beads. Below are the images of the several models with various textures and effects using the same method of rotating the plaster I used in the video above, but with added elements to the plaster.


The first model with wax disks failed as the beads where too heavy and cracked th thin walls of plaster around them.


Close up of the cracked model with the wax beads.


The wax beads can be melted once in the plaster, I thought this may be worth trying even thought the mould had cracked. Where the beads melt light could perforate the plaster.

I made a new wax bead model that was made stronger by adding another layer of plaster later on, I also created models using fibre glass fibres to strengthen and glass beads. Here are the images of the models when placed in front of a light.

The light escaping through the melted wax beads

The light escaping through the melted wax beads



Fiber glass strands created a texture with more light escaping from some areas than others. It was a much stronger model because of the crossing fibres but had a very uneven surface and feel.

Fibre glass strands



Glass Beads.


This was my favourite of all the experiments with the plaster because the beads brought the form of the lamp to life, the piercings of light gave the whole model a more organic feel and the beads spread very evenly throughout the plaster because they where small and light.IMG_0974


Some small cracks occurred but with practise or a better quality plaster the form could be of better quality.

The plaster gave a warm, orange light and it let a great deal through because it was thin. The light that escapes the bottom is a more concentrated light that falls in a small pool directly below. I wanted to conduct this experiment to see how a ceramic like material would work with the light source I’d eventually use but unfortunately because the electric components come from the USA they havent arrived in time for me to make an informed decision. Using a simple eco lamp I could get a good idea of how a ceramic could look alone and with a variety of added textures so I’m happy with the experiment as a whole.

The visual appeal of the lamps is equally as important as their usability in this brief and so I have to consider if ceramics would be the best option for both. The finish and slight glow of  the ceramic used to create the funnels is what first made me want to conduct these experiments but now I’ve seen  how thin the ceramic would need to be to achieve the right amount of glow I don’t think it’s realistically the right material for the lamps I’ve designed. If I were to create them through a slip casting process shown in this video   the walls would be a minimum of 5mm thick making them stronger to move around but very little light if any would come through. I also would need to consider how the electronics might be hidden and supported discreetly , a charge must be carried across from the large lamp to the two smaller ones and ceramic slip casting doesn’t allow for detailed additions such as indentations or holes.

After much model making in plaster I decided I’d like to use the mould one further time to make a model from resin. Resin is a clear, viscous liquid that can appear almost glass like in some occasions. I used the resin to create a model of my form but also to create a small disk base to see what my form would look like if light escaped evenly from underneath.

Using the same mould (but cleaned thoroughly) I poured in the resin and rotated the mould at regularly over the course of an hour.




Because the mould had already been used to many times with the plaster models, the inside had become very uneven. When modelling with resin its important that the mould is almost perfect as its unforgiving translucency and ability to get into every nook makes any tiny imperfection visible.





The mould that was entirely resin was very effective in distributing light as you would expect but it was very flexible and easily manipulated even when set.  It wouldn’t be suitable for the production of my lamps for this reason but also because it doesn’t have the clean finish needed to flatter the light like a glass would.

Placing the resin underneath showed me a new possibility. The lip around the edge of the lamp could be altered by adding small 5mm lifting points at three corners, this would allow light to disperse creating a hovering effect. This would co-inside with my inspiration of escapism and add another element to the simple form of the lamps. I will investigate how lifting at three points on the lip of the lamp could work instead of adding a full disk of another material as I feel this over complicates and takes away the simplicity of the form I want to create.

Incase you’d like to see more, here is a short video that shows a similar mould making process to the one I used above.


These experiments have proved to be the most valuable so far as they have given me the opportunity to combine various areas of questioning and gain strong answers to move forward. Through the process of creating all these models I have explored from, surface, usability, light quality ,strength and manufacture. I have gained knowledge of ceramics and resin through researching in preparation and carrying out the mould making and casting processes. By pushing myself to consider the behaviour of the form and how it works in a variety of materials I now feel I can safely say that the lamps will look and feel best with a smooth cast surface the even glow, which unfortunately cannot be created with my basic ceramic knowledge and non specific workshop. If the project had been spread over the space of a year , I could have made external contacts and experimented further with a variety of slip casting techniques to see if the wall thickness could be made both thinner and stronger. I could also have then experimented with adding pattern and indentations to the slip when wet so that light could perforate, and copper could be embedded into the form to carry a charge.

Benefits of a ceramics / mould process

1. A hands on approach I enjoy.

2. A craftsmanship quality to the finished object

3. Individuality. Not many lamps are created in this way in today’s market.

4. The soft and smooth surface that felt nice in the users palm, that also could spread light evenly if thin enough.

5. Familiar material to the user. Making it more accessible.It would translate to them that it was ok to handle but with care.

The disadvantages.

1. The mould used here was too soft, a plaster mould would have been better as it would not have sunk in and altered the shape of the form but vina mould was used for this because it’s quick to make.

2. Too thick or to thin- more experimentation with slip could solve this but it would take a great deal of time.

3. Inaccuracy. This is numerous as with any hand crafted object the process and materials never behave the same way twice.

4. Costly- The margin for error could mean large amounts of wasted material and time.

5. Embedding other materials – I need to incorporate an added material that conducts electrical charge, slip cast ceramics may allow for this but it would be very difficult and inaccurate.

6. A time would inevitably come for change in some aspect of the lamps, be it colour, form, components or scale. The manufacture of the moulds used above took the best part of a day to create. Changing a mould unless done in a mass manufacturing context would take a long time and would not be viable unless it was for continued use.

I’ve come to realise that 3D printing is more likely to be the better option for manufacturing my designs. As mentioned in a pervious post the benefits sit alongside the disadvantages of ceramics and make it seem like the clear answer. I don’t doubt that there will be  some problems with this process also but it’s benefits greatly appeal to me. Attempting to 3D print will require some experimenting also and so my next move will be to finalize all of the added components and measurements needed before starting to  3D model a drawing to print.

This entry was published on April 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm. It’s filed under Final Major Project and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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