Because there are more projects that I haven’t gotten to than those which I have, last December I came across an Instagram add for silicone dice molds and thought, “that’s what I want to do with my free time!”.
What I got was literally free time, because I had to harass the supplier in order to receive my order. They first used the “shipping is delayed due to COVID” CYA bullshit, then, once they actually responded to my emails, admitted without surprise that my order “must have gotten lost”. At any rate, three weeks later, my molds arrived in a padded white envelope, because they’re squishy not really much to look at.
Each mold comes in two parts: the majority die mold, and the cap which needs to fit snugly into a groove around the rim of the mold so that theoretically the resin doesn’t leak out. Each cap features a small hole through which the resin can be introduced.
My wife had purchased resin some time ago with the intent to make jewelry parts, but sometimes her project timelines are worse than mine. My daughter actually did use some resin for cosplay parts, and watching her process is what got me thinking about dice-making originally; the Instagram ad merely pushed me over the edge (in more ways than one).
Technically, this is not an involved process. I got some nitrile gloves and facemasks because everywhere I read about using resin complains about the smell (this brand has a low odor and was pretty benign). I also have some mixing sticks, a toothpick because The Internet Said So, and a few syringes for injecting the resin into the molds.
The resin itself comes in two parts: the resin, and the hardener. The two need to be mixed in equal quantities, which required me to measure water in some plastic cups to mark a high-water line, empty the cups, and dry them (I couldn’t find disposable measuring cups locally). Once the amounts were measured, the resin was poured into the hardener cup, and the whole shebang needed to be mixed for five minutes. The general rule is that mixing should commence until there are no more “white streaks” (i.e. resin in the hardener) and the whole mixture looks uniform. This brand of resin didn’t actually streak, but I Followed the Rules and mixed for the full five minutes. The big issue was bubbles, though. Folding such a viscous concoction over itself will naturally introduce air pockets, and while there are methods for removing bubbles from a resin mix, this was merely a test to see if I could manage the process and also if the molds would stand up to repeated use.
After five minutes, I vacuumed the resin into one of the syringes and proceeded to inject the goo through each of the ports. This was not an ideal arrangement, even though I bought the syringes in the resin craft section of Michaels. The tip of the syringe was just wide enough to fit through the hole but was also just big enough to interfere with the process. In the end, resin should harden within the hole itself to be cut or shaved off once the resin has hardened. This did not happen reliably, and for the next run I’m going to need to get some smaller pipettes.
Apparently resin dry times vary, from 8 to 48 hours, probably depending on the brand and the amount in use. I was fully ready to let these sit for up to 48 hours, but I checked the remaining mix in the cup this morning after about 16 hours and it had thoroughly hardened. Since this is more experiment than anything else, I took the chance and started prying the tops off of the molds and popping the dice onto the table.
I didn’t have high expectations seeing as how the resin was sitting around for a few years, and since I had bought the molds from the Internet-era equivalent of a back-of-the-magazine-ad, but I’ll be damned if these didn’t turn out OK, at least for a very first, very dirty attempt. I wouldn’t use these to play with as they’ve got some issues.
Visually, the bubbles are there. Not a massive turn-off for self-use, but these are not production-worthy specimens. On top of that, although I was informed that there would not need to be any sanding, some of the resin leaked around the mold caps and ridges are present. I only managed to score two dice which have the proper “sprue” — the resin post which filled the filling hole, and in the case of the 6-sider, managed to realize the inverse: a bubble formed where the filling hole was, which wrecked the entire integrity of that corner.
Finally, I dug out a fine-tipped Sharpie marker and started filling in the numbers on the D20 to see how well that would work, and it works OK, but I think that if/when I get around to adding color to the resins, I’m going to need to find a better solution for making the face numbers pop.
I am also going to need to figure out an economical and sustainable way to remove the bubbles from the resin. The de facto process is to put the filled molds into a container under very specific pressure. I’ve seen off-the-shelf kits and home-made kits, but the former costs big bucks, and the latter is a project unto itself. But the overall results of this initial test are very pleasing, as the sides of the dice are perfectly smooth, the edges (where they work) are razor sharp, and the numbers are perfectly clear, so I think figuring out a bubble-removal plan is well worth the effort.