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Thread: Workholding with setters wax and alternatives

  1. #1
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    Default Workholding with setters wax and alternatives

    There comes a time - sooner or later - where the things we make get a bit too fiddly to hold. Setting stones in earrings, for example.

    The traditional thing to do in this case is to stick a handle onto the item - usually in the form of a wooden dowel with a blob of setters wax on it. Don't be fooled by the name though - none of the setters waxes I've played with have actually been wax; they've been either shellac or resin based mixes.

    To use them, you just heat them up carefully until they soften - usually with a torch played gently over. Overheat them and they scorch, bubble, smoke and burn - which renders the burned stuff useless. You can break the wax into smaller lumps (with a hammer) quite easily as it is fairly brittle. To coat the end of a dowel with wax, I'll make sure I have a puddle of fully molten wax to stick the end of the dowel into; once this is on, I can put smaller bits onto the cooling wax and melt them slightly. Actually using the waxed stick involves warming the object you want to hold while it is on the stick until the wax in contact starts to melt, allowing the wax to stick to it. Allow it to cool, work on the thing and remove it by heating again Any residue dissolves eventually in meths.

    However... More & more I've been using a low-temperature thermoplastic instead. This stuff melts in hot water and can be formed easily by hand (and it's a bit safer with the lower temperatures). You can make fixtures, jigs, custom clamping jaws for vices - there are all sorts of possibilities. Cleanup is a doddle (although it does like to stick to other plastics if it gets the chance) - just stick everything in hot water and peel it off. I bought mine from Maplin under the name "Polymorph"; chemically it is very close to polycaprolactone. MUTR Teaching Resources also sell it; I believe it is known as "Friendly Plastic" in the US?

    Oh, and I haven't yet found a limit to its reusability. It picks up dirt each time I reform it, but it still works.


    And a pdf about using the stuff: http://www.mutr.co.uk/images/LIT0048.pdf
    Last edited by ps_bond; 12-02-2010 at 11:13 AM.

  2. #2
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    I use friendly plastic too Peter - I had lots left over from papercrafting days, and you can also buy the pellets here
    http://www.theframeworkshop.co.uk/sc...?idproduct=576
    (amongst other places - but this is a nice small quantity).

    It's useful for making quick moulds for things like polyclay and metal clays too.

  3. #3
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    GRS sell something similar called Thermo-Loc - the biggest difference seeming to be that you can nuke it to soften it (so presumably the grey is from some metal dust or similar). Of course, once your work is securely clamped in the thing, nuking it isn't such a good idea...

  4. #4
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    Great "Top Tip" Peter
    Nic xx
    Monthly FREE entry giveaways on Blogs!
    Shop Blog: http://muranosilver.blogspot.com/
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    View images of my work on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/muranosilver

  5. #5
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    Default Polymorph

    Thank you for introducing us to Polymorph Peter. I have become thoroughly fed up with cleaning up small pieces after securing them with setter's wax and shall go round to Maplins on Monday. I also wonder whether it would burn out for castings. Certainly lattice patterns made with a glue gun will. Kind regards Dennis.

  6. #6
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    I've never tried burnout with it, but I can't think of a reason why it wouldn't. Certainly a lot of the rapid prototyping plastics can be burned out using a lost-foam casting approach (although that has been aluminium and rather larger quantities of metal).

    I'd be interested in hearing how you get on with it; the only caveat I'd add is that it is a more mechanical method of workholding - it doesn't stick to the material, it needs to be embedded more than wax tends to require.

  7. #7
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    Hi Peter,
    Does this exist at Cooksons? I tried to set a mount that was hanging off the side of a ring yesterday and it flew off! I've just searched thermoplastic but nothing comes up. Might it be under another name?
    Thanks
    Emmy

  8. #8
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    Hi Emmy Cooksons have GRS Thermo loc, which is very similar found this on Google, https://www.p1an.co.uk/products/poly...ldable-plastic

  9. #9
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    There is also Cool Morph which requires less heat.
    https://www.google.com/search?client...+and+coolmorph Dennis.

  10. #10
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    The link that Bob gave has both the high temp(62deg) and low temp(42deg) versions.

    I'm also using hot melt glue. This is very similar to the polymorph, I've been using it with a brooch which is engraved and has a pear and round stone on it and it's pretty good. The temperature it melts at is slightly less than the high temp polymorph. It should not be used straight from a glue gun it is too hot and fluid.

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