Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Digital Toaster Project: experimentation

At this point I'm still experimenting with materials to use in Yummy's computer.

I bought some non-stick spray to coat the clay figures with and then completely forgot to use it until after I had covered the bits of clay with plaster.

This made it difficult to get the plaster out of the casserole dish later. In fact, the plaster broke down the middle along three of the clay piece. Luckily the break was clean and I could just press the two halves together.

I emptied out a jar of marshmallow fluff that should have been disposed of years ago. I did this because I needed a glass instead of plastic jar to contain the acetone and most things I get from the store have switched to plastic jars. Spaghetti sauce and marshmallow fluff being the only exceptions that I can think of but I'm sure I'm missing something.

Being an experiment, at this early stage I needed to be able to quantify the amount of Styrofoam that could be contained in a set volume of acetone. Since my liquid measuring cup is the final surviving remains of a Sesame Street cooking set I had as a kid and is made of plastic I couldn't use it to measure the acetone. Instead I measured out a cup of water and poured it in the jar. I marked the water level on the jar, decided that was more than I wanted to use, and repeated with half a cup of water. Again, I poured out the water but this time I filled the jar to the half cup mark with acetone.

I should mention that I did all of this near the kitchen stove with the hood fan running so the fumes from the acetone wouldn't build up too much.

Fluid is easy to quantify. Styrofoam is less so. I didn't want to wind up using measurements like "the top piece of packing foam for a 19 inch Dell LCD Monitor". So I decided to use pieces of loose packing peanuts.

I dropped the first peanut in and it sizzled as it melted. It melted pretty fast, too. A snowball on hot coals kind of fast. What remained was as wispy and insubstantial as cobwebs. As the peanuts were white so were the webs.

I kept adding peanuts and kept a tally. Around 20 peanuts I started adding them 5 at a time. Every 5 decapeanuts (1 decapeanut = 10 peanuts) I'd stir the webbing with a screwdriver. This caused the webbing to form into an ooze.

Eventually, I ran low on white peanuts and had to switch to green. I felt that keeping a consistent unit of measure was more important than sticking with a color. The green peanuts left green webbing.

At 3.75 hectopeanuts (375 peanuts) I was sick of this shit. It was getting late and I had work in the morning. The acetone was still a long way from being saturated.

I poked at the goo that the webbing was forming into. It was like runny gum or cheese on really hot pizza.

The ooze didn't want to pour worth anything. I wound up scooping up globs and pressing them into the moulds. For a mould of any real size you'd want to really apply pressure to get it into place.

The leftovers I scooped from the jar and dropped in my hand to try to
roll into a ball. At first it behaved like dough that needs more
flour. It stuck to my hands in a couple dozen places. I rolled it
anyway. Soon it divided into stuff that wanted to stick to my hands
and stuff that wanted to stick to the ball. The stuff on my hands soon
dried, flaked, and fell off.

The remaining acetone in the jar appears to be about 1/3 of a cup. I'd estimate that 1/2 a cup of acetone would hold 1 kilopeanut.

The ball required constant attention to remain a ball. The acetone evaporated from the surface making it pliable but tough. When squeezed the surface would rupture and the gooey core would come out. I'd roll it back into a ball making the goo the outside and the outside the inside. Air got caught between the folds so that when the leathery outside was inside and soaked up enough acetone to get soft there were air bubbles in there. If the ball was left on a counter for more than a few seconds it would start to flatten. The bottom would also get gooey again and stick to whatever it was resting on. Eventually I waited for a tough exterior, ran a tree ornament wire through it, and
hung it up so I could go to sleep. It sagged and became kind of teardrop shaped except for the folds that ran down from the wire. Think what the skin would look like if you hung a fat kid from his belly button ring.

I rather expected it to stretch out more overnight. Instead it remained in much the same shape the next morning as I'd left it. Tougher, yes; stiffer, yes. There was still a soft core but by squeezing it you could tell it was smaller. I stuffed it in my coat pocket without any fear of it adhering to the fabric.

I poked at the stuff in the moulds before going to work. It's still squooshy but much less so than the night before. Since it's enclosed on all sides but the top I don't think it's setting up as quickly as the leftover ball. I could be wrong. I also stuck wires in the back of the stuff in the moulds so that I'd have something to grab to pull them out.

Everything still smells slightly of acetone, but evaporation really slows once the skin has formed. Naturally, the thinner the piece the faster it hardens. So a couple of pieces could come out by the next second morning. All could come out by the third.

The final product.

1 comment:

Sweetly Single said...

this is soooo cool!!! I can't wait to see the finished project