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Storage and Care of Ceramic Molds: Article or Project

Ceramic molds are expensive and should not be abused or over used

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The most important thing about caring for your mold is to understand that they need to be kept clean and dry.

When you get a new mold from a manufacturer, it can often arrive wet. You need to make sure they are thoroughly dry before you begin casting them. There are several ways to do this, but the best way is to let them dry naturally. Options to speed the process would be to set the unopened, still banded mold on a pad of thick paper, or chalk board, or carpet. These ‘pads’ will help absorb and draw the moisture out of your mold. Every few hours, turn the mold over to one of its sides. Repeat this for a day or two. Your mold should dry by then. You can also set your mold, again banded and unopened, in the sun, rotating it every hour or so. DO NOT leave it in one position in the sun all day, it will dry unevenly and could warp. You can also place a fan, facing away from the mold to help with air circulation and the evaporation process.

DO NOT - open the mold and dry it with the parts separated
DO NOT - put it in or on your heated kiln or oven to dry

Drying your mold too fast will only result in warping and/or stress cracking the mold.

When not in use, you should clean the mold inside and out and store them tightly banded on wooden shelves. If wood shelves are not possible, then line the shelves with thick layers of paper, chalk board (what is used for walls-cut to fit) or other absorbent padding. Store the mold with the pour gate (openings) down if at all possible. This will prevent dust and little critters from crawling inside. See casting instructions to learn how to clean your mold. If you can, you might want to use cut up boxes or card board and cover the pour holes, anchoring them in place with your bands or tape.

When handling your mold, make every effort to keep from banging it down and from banging the pieces together. Also avoid setting parts together and sliding them around until they ‘fit’. This will wear away the keys and seam lines and cause chips, flashing, and damage that will result in ugly seam lines that are a nuisance to clean away. Look at the keys (knobs and indentations around the edge of the mold) that will give you an idea of how to position the pieces. Lay one side on the table surface and slowly lower the top half into position. If you have to rotate, lift the top piece, rotate it and then lower it back to the one on the table.

If you do not band your molds tightly, when you move them or put them on shelves, the pieces can hit together causing chips and damage.

If you discover a white fuzz forming on your molds, it looks like a ‘mold’ that you will need to wipe off. It is not really a fungal mold, but rather chemicals escaping from the ceramic mold. Use a mask and gloves or a cloth, do not use your bare hands. This is typically not dangerous, but it is better to be safe than sorry. If you do have this problem, you may want to analyze the air flow and circulation in your storage area. You may also want to examine the frequency that you cast your molds. You need to resolve the source of the moisture and prevent it as it will affect the performance and life of your mold.

Molds can wear out, especially when over used or stored while wet. Often older molds form a crust on the outside which inhibits evaporation and causes mold to hold moisture longer. This crust can be removed with a wood scraper (Like a course sander) or stiff metal brush. Lightly scrape the surface to remove the crust. That will reopen the pores and allow moisture to escape/evaporate. This will enhance your pouring/set up time for your mold.

If using belts with buckles on your molds for banding, do not set the mold down on its own buckle or set another mold on top of the buckle. When storing, make sure any buckles are on the sides. Heavy rubber bands, cut up tire tubes, and filament tape are great for storing your molds on shelves. Heat will cause your bands to dry out and become brittle, so use care when picking up a mold that has been stored for a long time so that the band does not break and the pieces fall apart causing damage.

You have a mold that won’t open? It is stuck. Don’t panic. There are solutions. One of the safest is to use a rubber mallet and gently thump it along the seam lines. When using the rubber mallet by thumping along the seams, do not get too vigorous, even rubber mallets can cause damage if too much force is used.

If that doesn't work, put a loose band on it and set it in your sink or a trough and fill it with water. The pressure of the water will usually cause the mold to separate and the water to run out. Is your band loose? It needs to be loose, only enough tension to keep the parts from falling away when they come apart. Of course, using the water process, you will need to re-dry your mold before casting it.



That does not work either? Well, this method is high risk, but try setting the mold on a hard, level surface with one seam side down and rock the mold back and forth (opposite the seam line).

Still no luck? This is the last resort and the chance of damage is significant. Take a butter knife and work the middle of the blade into the corner of a seam, pressing it as deep as you can and gently pry it apart. This method can cause the keys to snap, chip the corners and cause some of the seam line to break away, but should ultimately release the parts. I suggest this be used last.

Still no? Ok, this one is almost sure to cause some damage, but if you can’t get it open… what's to lose? Um, maybe you should try the water process again first… No? The mallet, harder? Still no? Ok. Take your mold, pour gate up, seam side down and raise it about one inch above a hard surface and let it drop. I’ll say a prayer for you.

 

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