Barbie's Head- Testing Different Moulding Materials!23 January 2020
I wanted a copy of Barbie’s head to mess around with and thought I would take the opportunity to test out different moulding materials. I’ve not had much practice moulding anything before so it was a learning experience for me. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and save yourself some time, effort and money. Some of my moulding materials were several years old, so it was interesting to see what lasted.
Where to Place the Division for the Moulds!
On every moulded object I have the mould line went longitudinally through the ears. I imagined this was because the mould lines are not fully removed from most products and a line through the face isn’t very appealing. I want to remove the moulded medium while it is still soft so that I can sculpt it, so mould lines aren’t a problem. My moulds meet through the middle of the face. I do it this way as it has the least depth of material to remove from the mould and I run less risk of ruining my copy.
[Now that I've had a few goes I think through the ears may have been a better option...]
Sorry about the messy head, I got thermoplastic stuck to it (and she still looks pretty!). I shaved her head with some surgical scissors and a razor blade.
The easiest material to mould Barbie’s head with is probably a liquid silicone epoxy. I didn’t use this as most brands have a maximum shelf life of only six months and it’s not very cost effective for one small mould. I also already had all of the below materials to hand.
Having said that I have just discovered this great looking brand. According to the Amazon customers Q and A, it should last for two years.
Silicone Moulding Putty
The next best thing to the liquid is the epoxy putty equivalent. You mix the white and the blue halves of the epoxy and you have a set working time to create the mould. Working times vary according to the brand.
The brand I used was Silicone Plastique from MYOM: Make Your Own Moulds. There are cheaper varieties out there and brands such as Gédéo which costs twice as much. MYOM used to be available on Amazon but you will now need to purchase from a food based website such as Cake Stuff. I purchased a pot 5 years ago, and left it sitting all that time (having opened the plastic bags inside). The only defect was a small, thin layer of skin on the blue half which was easily removed. It certainly beats the liquid silicone for shelf life.
With the MYOM brand I have noticed the plastic pots are a bit weak and occasionally setting time can vary. A blast with a hairdryer will fix that. Using the hairdryer will greatly soften the already very soft material but it won’t run. The MYOM brand has a 10 minute working time and will set within an hour at room temperature.
According to the makers video the epoxy should be applied as a ‘skim coat’. That is to put a finger tip sized amount onto the object to be moulded at a time and work it in. This will remove any trapped air bubbles. This is the method I used, but with a smooth-faced object like Barbie it should be okay to use as a push mould.
The moulding material was perfect but I’m afraid I was far too slap happy with applying it. I moved the putty around while applying it. The result was horrific!
You’ll notice a second issue also; that the two halves were applied askew.
NB/Care must be taken when constructing a mould that the two halves of the mould can fit back together perfectly.
The silicone is a tough but flexible material so adding a more substantial backing would have helped. Certainly the mould line would not have been so large.
Air Dry Clay
For my second mould I used Gédéo air dry clay. It is wonderfully soft and would easily make a good push mould. It has no smell and is very smooth. A common alternative is Das air dry clay. It is a little courser and needs working with the fingers first. It has quite a harsh smell but is non-toxic. It has nylon strands for strength. Both clays are great for children.
I applied the clay to Barbie’s face as a skim coat again, this time being much more careful. I also used a parting powder in case it stuck to her. I had to wait a couple of days for each half of the mould to dry.
The clay detailed perfectly. There were a few very thin cracks in the clay but no detectable shrinkage. Now that I have a good mould I am still stuck with the other problem; how to add the medium into the mould. I decided to pack it in both halves and stick them together.
Apparently I added too much and Barbie’s head was stretched wide. I have found this technique very difficult to accomplish and unfortunately I broke the mould as it was very thin. Next time I will try ramming it into her neck hole with the mould clasped shut (as I did with the silicone mould).
I used the Whitemorph product from Thermoworx. It is a very exciting product. It is a nylon-like plastic that can be melted in hot water between 60-100 degrees Celsius. It can be reused as many times as you like and is biodegradable and nontoxic. Unfortunately as you saw with Barbie’s face it sticks to plastic at the higher temperatures. It was difficult to remove even while boiling Barbie’s head in a saucepan. It is a very sticky substance while hot so make sure the work area is clean.
I made a few attempts at moulding Barbie’s face while the plastic was cooler and it did take a very detailed moulding. It took me a few attempts to get it right, as while in this cooled form it is becoming more solid and has a great deal more ‘push back’. Work time is consequently much shorter.
The moulding detailed well bar the mouth. It’s possible there was an air bubble or even some water, which I noticed can happen.
I accidentally melted down the top half so I can’t show you the result. I don’t fancy trying again though. As interesting and useful as this stuff is, there are far easier materials to work with for moulding plastic doll heads. The connector hook that extends out from Barbie’s body and attaches the head would be perfect for this material.
I am using Super Sculpey that has been sitting in its box for the last five years. I had thought it as good as new but on comparison to new clay it is a bit firmer, less oily and doesn’t have the nice, fresh smell. It took a bit of kneading too but was perfectly usable.
I decided I wanted to try using the Sculpey as a push mould. As Barbie’s head is flexible and Sculpey is quite firm I first filled Barbie’s head with thermoplastic. It was a bit messy but she is now very firm and I was able to create the mould easily. If you don’t have thermoplastic, Plasticine might work. You could put it into the freezer to harden it.
To fill the mould I first pressed on a thin layer of Super Sculpey inside both halves and then clamped the moulds together. I then rammed more Sculpey in through the neck hole. A parting powder or oil will be necessary to remove the head.
As I try to put the mould halves together again they are not fitting so well. I’m not sure if this is because the Sculpey shrank a bit (unlike the clay) or because I did not make it fit together well enough; it was hard to tell while it was still soft. Next time I will either make some peg holes, or leave a few parts overlapping on one half to slot them together.
Instead I have glued two wooden lollipop sticks;
The detail taken was perfect- except for one of the ears. One problem was that I had to remove Barbie’s head to heat cure the first half of the mould. I then added it back to create the second half. Though her head seemed to fit back perfectly in place it seems it wasn’t and the heads are coming out wrong! Ideally then you would need to make both halves of the mould before curing. If you use a parting powder it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Alternatively we know that Barbie’s head can take a boiling, so simply covering both halves and boiling it should be effective. Just make sure to dust/oil the adjacent surfaces of the mould to separate them again.
Well it has certainly been tricky. I will continue to attempt a successful head harvest and will post successful results at a later date. I suspect creating a mould with the join along the ears to be a better choice but we shall see.
Lessons learned for Making a Perfect Mould
- A skim mould works the best to take fine detail.
- A flexible mould material such as silicone putty will make the medium’s removal easier.
- A flexible mould such as the silicone putty will stretch out when ramming material into the mould so some thickness would be helpful. Do not overstuff!
- Care should be taken so that the two halves will fit together well.