Author Topic: Yet another keycap making adventure!  (Read 3826 times)

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Offline Oxid

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Yet another keycap making adventure!
« on: Sun, 31 January 2016, 02:36:16 »
Hello all!

I'm new around here, but I lurk enough and eventually came across the famous keycap making threads (Binge's, Booper's, Nubbinator's, and KatzenKinder's; so a preemptive and huge thanks to them for all the invaluable information present in those threads), and I was absolutely taken aback with what seemed like the most fascinating process of making something ever. I did some more reading into resin casting and the more I read, the more it seemed like something I wanted to try and do. I've since done an unholy amount of reading into the specifics of the process and finally placed an order for the materials I think would suit me the best.

I know, this is a little (read: VERY) preemptive of me, but I thought it would be cool to document my progress from absolute 0, to (hopefully) some decent-looking keycaps! Furthermore, I thought it'd be better to consolidate/ask any questions I'll have in one place.  Plus, if all goes wrong, this will be a convenient little place to do a post-mortem and see what went wrong.
I'm not an artist, so I don't know how sculpting will go (I presume not well), but I'm going to try my hand at it anyway. What really interests me are the colors, patterns, weird dust pigment (Alumidust?), clear/translucent color ways.

This is some of what I've read up on so far [targeted to those not entirely versed in the subject: be warned, neither am i], posting it in hopes someone will correct me if I'm wrong (or give me better information than I have), or that it'll help someone looking to purchase materials (it gets a little daunting with the plethora of options):

Silicon Mold
More
There are so many possible silicon molds out there. I was mainly concerned with pot-life, and Shore A Hardness.

Pot Life: Most importantly is the long pot-life, I believe, to be able to work the air bubbles out. A longer pot life mold will give you enough time to degas the silicon before it settles, or fiddle with/vibrate it gently for longer; it also allows you to stir the solution more slowly, to avoid introducing air bubbles in the first place.

Shore A Hardness: This scale is new to me, but I was looking for something that was less hard/more flexible than what came in Alumilite's super casting kit (QuickSet mold which has a hardness of 40-50A). The reason for this is that you are less likely to damage the mold/cast piece when prying the two apart after a completed cast. This was actually confusing me, as I was honestly wondering how some people were even able to pull their keycaps out of their molds, but it turns out stretchy/elastic silicon molds are a thing! Just look for lower Shore A number! The downside of this is that softer, flexible molds don't last for as many casts as the harder ones do.

I ended up picking up Smooth-On OOMOO 30. It has a 30-min pot-life, and hardness is rated at 30A, which gives me the flexibility I was looking for, as opposed to QuickSet's 40-50A. Furthermore, it is MUCH less viscous than Alumilite's QuickSet (4,250 cps vs 13,000 cps).

Resin
More
Research on this took up most of my day today. I was mainly concerned with a low-viscosity resin, that had a long pot-life.

Viscosity: A viscous resin mixture means a higher surface tension, making it less likely for air bubbles to rise/escape, essentially having them stagnate and 'float' in the resin mixture. This is obviously not good for the future finished product. Therefore the goal is a very low-viscosity resin! This search took me far and wide. Alumilite's Super Casting Kit came with a 110 cps viscosity mixture, which is low. However, on Binge's recommendation in his thread, I checked out the Smooth-On 320 series (322 to be specific) of resin. 80 cps, which math dictates is lower than 110. Therefore math dictates this should be a little easier to work with.

Pot Life: Smooth-On's 320 series comes in three varieties, 320, 321, 322. The only differences I see are the Demold time, and (more importantly) the pot life. The longer the pot life, the longer the demold time. So it is a trade off, a longer pot life (and potentially less-bubble filled cast) in exchange for it sitting in the mold considerably longer. I'm more than willing to make this trade off, I'd like more pot-life time to stir slowly, introduce less air bubbles, and screw around with concentrated pigment/weird dust pigment stuff etc. Plus, I'm new at this, I don't want to have to rush anything.

I ended up going with Smooth-On's Smooth-Cast 322 resin.


Scuplting Clay
More
Nothing special, just 1.75 pounds of Sculpey bake-able clay, this generally seems to be the most popular sculpting clay. Not much to add here cause I don't know much about it :O


Mold Release
More
Nothing special, Vaseline seems to work fine. It is necessary for 2 part molds though (and maybe even to coat your master before taking a mold).

Pigment
More
I haven't done as much research into this, and it excites me to no end. Like, How do people layer resin colors? How do people get such vibrant colors? I have no earthly idea but this is what I'm most excited to try and play with/figure out. I want to see what works, what doesn't.

I've ordered the fluroscent Alumilite color pack, also the tester pack kit thing of UVO colorants. I'm not entirely sure what I'm getting myself into. I'll update this section more thoroughly when I gather my thoughts.


Everything should arrive in a week or 10 days, I'll be updating this with any questions I can come up with along the way, in hopes that you fine folk can lend me some guidance when I need it :) Thanks for reading!

Standing Questions
1. Those AlumiDust powder things. Do they actually color the resin or just provide it with different colored effects? Are they called Powders? I don't even know where else I can find products like this, or what to look for.

2. Smooth-On sells two types of dyes. UVO (UV-resist color) to make opaque colors, and SO-Strong for use with translucent colors... What? I was under the impression you achieved opacity or translucence in your finished product by using normal resin (cures to opaque) or clear resin, with an accompanying, non-special color. What happens if you use clear resin with UVO (opaque colors)?, or normal resin SO-strong (translucent)?
« Last Edit: Sun, 31 January 2016, 06:38:52 by Oxid »

Offline Oxid

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #1 on: Sun, 31 January 2016, 03:25:33 »
Reserved for the future (and pictures!)

Offline Zorberema

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #2 on: Sun, 31 January 2016, 04:36:08 »
Awesome to see more makers coming up; can't wait to see how your caps turn out! :) Have you made any sculpts yet/ do you have any plans for how they're going to look?

Offline Oxid

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #3 on: Sun, 31 January 2016, 05:19:24 »
can't wait to see how your caps turn out! :) Have you made any sculpts yet/ do you have any plans for how they're going to look?

I'm excited to see how it turns out too, lol :) I have 2 designs I have in mind that I'm going to try and sculpt, sci-fi/fantasy inspired, also I really really want to make an angry owl. More than anything in this world I need a scowling owl.

Offline Nerdout

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #4 on: Sun, 31 January 2016, 16:07:25 »
Quit teasing OP!  :p  This sounds so cool! Please keep us posted as you go.  :thumb:

Offline Oxid

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #5 on: Mon, 01 February 2016, 04:11:39 »
Sculpting supplies came in today! I took a blank DSA keycap to try my hand at sculpting something on top of the cap. Needless to say, newfound respect for all keycap makers who sculpt their own stuff. This is quite difficult, as I have absolutely 0 artistic ability but it's been a blast!

I set my sights a little lower than a cylon-inspired helmet or owl, until I improve on my sculpting ability. So I made this, and the little grump is cracking me up quite a bit so I decided to share. He needs more work (no idea what to do with his upper lip), but I think I'll definitely go with a simple face for the first time!

 126530-0

126532-1

I'm going to tinker around with it some more, though.
« Last Edit: Mon, 01 February 2016, 04:16:11 by Oxid »

Offline kekman

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #6 on: Mon, 01 February 2016, 04:39:46 »
looks very nice. I'm thinking of maybe making a few of my own too, and I've barely even scratched the surface and I'm already impressed by the people who have managed to make it work.

Offline Oxid

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #7 on: Mon, 01 February 2016, 18:04:42 »
looks very nice. I'm thinking of maybe making a few of my own too, and I've barely even scratched the surface and I'm already impressed by the people who have managed to make it work.

Thanks! You should do it! It's tons of fun and definitely a learning experience. I found a store here in Toronto which carries Smooth-On products, which is great cause I still needed to buy the 322. I ended up buying more OOMOO30 even though I have some on the way.

Gonna try my first mold today!

Update: I've made some (ghetto) progress!

I didn't have anything decent to make a mold container out of, so i jerry rigged one together. I'm going to grab some perfect sized smallish boxes tomrrow that should be great for the job, but for now I couldn't wait. I baked the super simple design I made earlier and poured the first part of the mold.
126646-0

126648-1

Now, the waiting game. I really want to poke it :O

126699-2

I dun' pulled the key out of the mold like an idiot too see how it looked on the inside before I realized I needed to do the second pour. I managed to gently push her back in but I might have screwed things up. Live and learn!

Update 2: oh god. The first full mold is going to be.. Bad. The ghetto box was a leaky disaster at first, but i clayed the **** out of it. One of the sprues fell down near the end of the  second mold pour, so I only have one sprue up and standing lol. Going to have to chopstick a hole through for the air escape hole when its done.

On a positive note, I've learnt the importance of a decent mold container. I got the boxes I was talking about earlier, which are just perfect. You can see the difference in this one picture lol.
126719-3
« Last Edit: Tue, 02 February 2016, 15:34:30 by Oxid »

Offline Oxid

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #8 on: Wed, 03 February 2016, 02:59:01 »
Cast the first piece! I'm pleasantly surprised. I'm also 100% sure my shoddy pour technique is the result of the bubbles on the bottom of the cap, but I'm really happy with the top of the cap, especially for my first resin cast ever!

126781-0

126783-1

Gotta say, I'm happy with it, but disappointed with the defects.

The bubbles:
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And the fact that I appear to be missing a stem:
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I believe a bubble formed perfect on the stem and prevented any of the resin from rising into the stem cavity. Gonna try another pour, but shake it a little to get rid of the bubble and see what happens.


One more "glory" shot:
126789-4

UPDATE:  Pour 2 much more successful no bubbles at base. One bubble from what I can tell its pretty minor. No stem still though, which is kind of annoying. Gonna try a third pour but while the mold is tilted.

126814-5

Update 3: colors! Still no stem. I'm at a loss. I think the top half of my mold needs to be bigger. Not sure. Can't think anymore.

126848-6

Applying the powder to the molds eyes got a little messy as you can see, but for a first test I was pretty impressed with that!

126850-7
« Last Edit: Wed, 03 February 2016, 08:37:14 by Oxid »

Offline Oxid

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #9 on: Sun, 07 February 2016, 02:02:05 »
Updates, woo!
Resin colored eyes, not powder! Big step up!
127362-0

Also stems!
127364-1

Topre love! (Just blanks for now)
127366-2

topre blanks (some with stem problems)
127368-3

Offline kekman

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #10 on: Sun, 07 February 2016, 04:00:24 »
in no time we'll be seeing "Oxid's artisan sale 2016: prices starting from $50!". Keep up the great work man, you're improving at an amazing rate!

Offline theoriginal123123

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #11 on: Sun, 07 February 2016, 14:04:06 »
Hey I've been looking to getting into keycap making as well, how exactly do you cast the different colours? Like the red eyes, without powder?

Offline Oxid

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #12 on: Mon, 08 February 2016, 14:23:21 »
in no time we'll be seeing "Oxid's artisan sale 2016: prices starting from $50!". Keep up the great work man, you're improving at an amazing rate!

Thank you :) also Haha, minus the 50 a pop thing. Unless they're coated in the tears of a morose eagle, and virgins blood. Then.. Maybe.

Hey I've been looking to getting into keycap making as well, how exactly do you cast the different colours? Like the red eyes, without powder?

I just put a bit of resin in the eyes and let it sit! Easy as that. Now doing it non messily. That's a whole other story for me lol.

Edit: spelling

« Last Edit: Mon, 08 February 2016, 17:13:48 by Oxid »

Offline FLFisherman

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #13 on: Mon, 08 February 2016, 14:30:04 »
in no time we'll be seeing "Oxid's artisan sale 2016: prices starting from $50!". Keep up the great work man, you're improving at an amazing rate!

Thanl you :) also Haha, minus the 50 a pop thing. Unless they're coated in the tears of a morose eagle, and virgins blood. Then.. Maybe.

The virgin's blood is in the eyes. What do morose eagle tears do?

Offline Oxid

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #14 on: Mon, 08 February 2016, 17:16:25 »
in no time we'll be seeing "Oxid's artisan sale 2016: prices starting from $50!". Keep up the great work man, you're improving at an amazing rate!

Thanl you :) also Haha, minus the 50 a pop thing. Unless they're coated in the tears of a morose eagle, and virgins blood. Then.. Maybe.

The virgin's blood is in the eyes. What do morose eagle tears do?

They deal with the bubbles -- it also gives it an ever-so-slightly sad-colored tint.

« Last Edit: Mon, 08 February 2016, 17:18:27 by Oxid »

Offline theoriginal123123

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #15 on: Tue, 09 February 2016, 07:02:47 »
in no time we'll be seeing "Oxid's artisan sale 2016: prices starting from $50!". Keep up the great work man, you're improving at an amazing rate!

Thank you :) also Haha, minus the 50 a pop thing. Unless they're coated in the tears of a morose eagle, and virgins blood. Then.. Maybe.

Hey I've been looking to getting into keycap making as well, how exactly do you cast the different colours? Like the red eyes, without powder?

I just put a bit of resin in the eyes and let it sit! Easy as that. Now doing it non messily. That's a whole other story for me lol.

Edit: spelling

So from what I understand, it's all about timing so that different coloured resins harden, so that you can pour over them? Got some sketches going, probably getting materials soon! Your thread has been super helpful!

Offline QuickDelat

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Re: Yet another keycap making adventure!
« Reply #16 on: Tue, 09 February 2016, 07:12:50 »
Also stems!

Lovely to see you progress from 0, I'm also considering making my own keycaps. So I'm curious, how did you solve the problem with the stems?