Tuesday, April 2, 2013

And last, but not least: Fusing! (yes, I'm still stuck on Shrinky Dinks)

So, my adventure into soldering hasn't quite begun yet like I'd wanted, mostly because I'm in the process of setting up an area where it will be easy and more importantly, safe to solder in. You know, those 2400 ℉ torches kind of scare me (ok, they really scare me even though I've soldered quite a bit with much more powerful torches before) and aren't something you just start "experimenting" with like Shrinky Dinks… which is a perfect transition to today's tutorial on fusing Shrinky Dinks, yay! In this post I mention several different plastics and modes of coloration and attempt to explain the different effects, but after writing this I may add another post solely about what I've found from my personal experiences using different media since I've read many contradicting information on other websites and even the shrink plastic's instructions.

2nd Fishbowl Attempt
Fusing is quite fun and gives yet another dimension to the wonderful medium that is shrink plastic. When you initially shrink a dink at 325-350 ℉, the plastic doesn't get hot enough to actually melt, but when you fuse, you crank up that temp to 450 ℉ and the plastic can melt and fuse several layers of preshrunk plastic together. Here are some instructions for fusing before I show you my results and the tips I would offer from my own experience:

  1. Pre-shrink your pieces. That is, color the plastic, pop it in a 325-350 ℉ oven depending on your plastic (remember, it needs to be baked on cardboard or glass, not metal), watch it shrink, squeal with glee as they get all curly and tiny and magical, take out of oven, let them cool, admire. Make sure to pre-punch any holes you may want if you're going to attach a jump ring for jewelry/accessories. Also, if the holes appear anywhere you're planning on layer plastic, line up the layer pre-shrunk and then punch. I'll use the Chicago flag as an example for these steps (if you ever visit my Etsy shop you'll see I kind of have a thing for Chicago and its flag). I cut out the back piece from matte Poly Shrink plastic and left it blank since it turns white after baking.
    Chicago Flag Close-up
    Then I measured the stripes, cut those out of crystal clear Shrinky Dinks and colored them with permanent marker. I started with a slightly darker blue since I new some of the color fades on the crystal clear plastic as well as when you use markers. Lastly I cut those damned tiny stars out of crystal clear plastic and colored them with marker on both sides so that they would remain truly red and because I knew I'd never be able to tell which side was colored side up or down, which is kind of important, so I hedged my bets and did both side. Then, and remember to do this, I punched the hole for the jump ring with the stripe lined up on the background so that when I fused them I could attach the ring.
  2. Crank up the oven to 450 ℉. Oh, and also disregard my dirty dirty fingernails in the pictures, please. I've been crafting dammit, I don't have time for manicures!
  3. Using a glass dish, arrange the layers of your piece on top of each other as you would like them to appear. For the sake of color preservation, I would suggest putting the bottom layer color side up, then the next layer or two color side down. If you put the bottom layer color side down, it tends to get baked on the dish and pulls off of the shrink plastic and kind of ruins the effect. When you put the next layer/s color side-down, you get a nice glassy look, as well as a higher likelihood that the colors won't get distorted when the plastic starts to melt. Also make sure to line up any holes you plan to use in the future. These might get a tiny bit distorted in the fusing process, but I found as long as you don't really melt those babies, most of the holes I punched stayed pretty true to its original size/shape. With the flag, the bottom layer had to color so no need to worry about that but the stripes I made sure to put color-side down. The stars I kept getting really frustrated with because I'd think I had them color-side down and then think, wait, it looks like color on top, what the hell! Swearing like a sailor ensued as well as hair-pulling (I take Shrinky Dinks very seriously if you couldn't tell), then remembered my genius idea of coloring both sides just to be sure the color was maintained. Actually, to be honest, I just thought, to hell with it and just shoved them in the over. I only remembered this stress-relieving step I'd taken after I fused the piece. But I digress. I had to use my special, super sharp jeweler's tweezers to place star pieces and if you can tell in the fishbowl pictures, those air bubbles are tiny!
  4. Now, very carefully and without breathing slide your dish into the pre-heated oven and set a timer for 10 minutes or so. Depending on your kind of plastic and oven, it may fuse thoroughly in just that amount of time or it could take up to 30 minutes. It also depends on the effect you'd like: do you want to just get the layers stuck to each other and kind of soften the sharper edges of the outside of the piece or do you want to get a really melted and washed out effect like some art glass? Obviously, the longer you leave it in, the more melted and soft the layers become. I left the flag and fish bowl in for only 8 or 9 minutes since the shapes are so small and I didn't want to lose their integrity by being melted too much.
  5. You are done-zo! Aside from allowing it to cool, of course, which will take more time than when you take a piece out after simply shrinking them. If you're trying to make a ring or bracelet and want to shape your piece around a mold or form, this is the time to do it, but be very cautious. You can't just gingerly use your fingertips like when you only shrink them in the 350 ℉ oven. You'll need some tweezers or maybe a couple layers of latex gloves, not that the plastic will be like molten lava or anything, you just want to be careful with your fingers. The good part about this is that you'll have a little more time to actually get the right shape since the plastic is hotter and don't have to rush like I always did to get certain shapes when shrinking your dinks
Alright, that is enough for instructions, now for a couple more pointers when fusing:
  • Mix and match your types of plastic. That is, make one part the frosty/opaque (make sure these are always color side up, as the plastic doesn't become magically translucent or transparent as I had initially thought) with some crystal clear pieces for even more dimensional effect. However, for some reason on my first attempt at fusing I couldn't get my pieces to melt or soften on the edges. That time I had used two layers of the matter Poly Shrink brand plastic, and not the official Shrinky Dink brand, so that may have had something to do with it. I did manage to fuse the pieces into one, but the colors became really dark and muddy and it just looked awful… I may post a picture of what a failure I was or successfully challenged as I'd like to put it. Use the matte/frosty plastic if you want a stronger, opaque color that will hold its shape and gets less melty. The crystal plastic tends to lose some of the strength of its color and shape as it melts better or faster, I'm not sure which, and takes on a glassier effect.
  • If you happen to have a jewelry torch and think, hey, I'll be sooooo clever and just kinda hold the
    Don't even think about it!
    flame closish to the plastic and it'll shrink it faster and then I'll have more control over the effect and it'll be faster and I won't have to heat up my oven to 450 ℉ thus overheating the entire kitchen… not that those thoughts crossed my mind, I'm just saying, in case you happen to think of this… don't. When exposed to direct heat, which upon re-reading the instructions I realize they warn not to do, shrink plastic tends not only to char, it will go up in flames. Since they are shrinky dinks, luckily the piece only made a small bonfire that I easily blew out (it was like my birthday, yay! :/), but still, torches and shrink plastic don't mix.
  • Makers vs. colored pencils. It seems that every tutorial I've perused about shrink plastic says that sharpies and permanent markers work best for coloration, while colored pencils may be used if you don't have markers as long as you sand the plastic first. They also tend to say that permanent ink also keeps its color better than colored pencils, especially when you fuse. Maybe I have a magic oven or my colored pencils are magic wands or my permanent markers (Bic brand Mark-It) are cursed, but I've had the exact opposite experience. Whether I put the piece colored side up
    1st Fishbowl Attempt
    or down, the markers fade and bleed when fused, in fact, they fade and fuse even when just shrinking the plastic. This is especially apparent on the crystal clear Shrinky Dink brand, which is apparently the most difficult of the kinds of plastic to work with, but still, sanding and colored pencils have maintained their integrity far better than markers. But, like with different kinds of plastic, you can use these results to create different effects. In the 2nd fishbowl pendant, I used colored pencils on the fish, the plants, and the gravel, so that they stand out a little more and so the fish keep looking like fish since they are so small while I used markers for the outside border, water line, and water which creates a glassier and clear effect like you're expect from a, well, glass aquarium filled with water. On the 1st attempt using all markers, you can see the fish really washed out and you don't get the idea of fish in a bowl quite so easily, especially from afar. I also baked the bowl for that one color side down and it lost a lot of its color to the pyrex pie dish I baked it in (sorry mom, I'll clean, I swear). In the picture to the left, you can see the edges lost their color in some parts and the pieces on top are much softer than after an initial shrink of a dink. So, the readers digest version:
    • Sanding + colored pencils = stronger, longer lasting colors. Whether baked colored-side up or down, color maintains integrity.
    • Permanent markers + bare plastic = more transparent colors that tend to get a little watered down. If you sandwich the color between layers of plastic then fuse, the color stays a bit better, but still not as vibrant as when initially shrunk.
  • The amount you bake your plastic depends on your oven and type of plastic, but ultimately the effect you want to achieve will warrant the time you bake for. For the fish bowl and Chicago flag, I only baked them for 10 minutes, actually less now that I think about it, because I wanted the flag to actually look like a flag and not a melty failure of a salute to American colors, especially since those stars were so darn tiny. If I'd left that in there any longer those stars would've been blobs. You can see in the picture to the right how tiny the flag ended up after the first round of shrinking. Same with the fish bowl, since those fish were so small with tiny details I only wanted the pieces to be fused and stuck together, not melted. My 1st fish bowl attempt I left
    A flag in the hand is worth 2 in the… wait, never mind
    in for a full 5 minutes and I kind of liked how it all looked so watery and melty, but noticed the concept was slightly lost with such a small piece. Had I made it bigger in scale, I'd leave it in for that same amount of time or longer because you'd still be able to tell what everything was even with the soft edges.

No comments:

Post a Comment