Modeling/Sculpting Project: Gelatinous Cube

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Update 10/18/2004: Another update, scroll down to the date in red.

Update 10/10/2004: Scroll down to the update notice below for more info.

I was inspired by a pair of gelatinous cube miniatures that people constructed out of clear resin (see here and here) and decided to do my own. This pictorial is about the first prototypes I made.


The first thing I did was figure out how big I wanted the cube. As your staple D&D corridor is 10 ft. wide, I thought I'd start with a 10 ft. wide cube instead of the Monster Manual default cube that's 15 ft. across. After seeing how much space a Dwarven Forge Master Maze 10 ft. wide tunnel was, I built a simple cube out of Hirst Arts bricks, glued it together, and let it dry. This would be the "skeleton" of the clay cube I planned to make.
My friend Jason had given me some marblex air-drying clay because he couldn't get it to do what he wanted for his own Hirst Arts projects. One of the othe gelatinous cube designers mentioned that the clay he used could be smoothed out with water once the model was finished and dried to give the final result a nice clear and smooth texture. Marblex does the same thing (add water and you can shape it again) so I put Marblex around the Hirst Arts cube. Unfortunately, Marblex shrinks a little bit when it dries, so it cracked along the edges and corners; I had to smooth it out with more clay (which also wanted to crack when it dried) and finally just poured some gloss miniature sealant over it to help smooth it out. Next time I'll use Sculpey.
Next step was to make the mold. I build a frame out of LEGO bricks, placed the cube in it after spraying it with mold-release, and added room-temperature vulcanizing (RTV) rubber to make the mold. The mold cured in a few hours and I was able to remove the LEGO brick frame and pop out my clay master. After waiting a day for the mold to fully cure, I mixed some clear resin (Envirotex Pour-On High Gloss Finish, which I bought at my local Michaels craft store) and poured it into the mold. The next day I popped out the cube. This picture is actually of my second casting, this time with a Games Workshop plastic skeleton miniature suspended in the resin, just to see how that aspect of the creature-making looks (I'll post pictures of that one when it's done, I only pour the resin about an hour ago as of this writing).
Here is the resulting cube of the very first cast. As you can see it's 10 ft. in diameter compared to the miniatures, and has no base (I can add a base or cast it with a base, but for this first prototype it wasn't important). It's translucent and faintly yellow, but I think that's OK (I'm going to try another kind of resin to see if I get similar coloration, and I can always add ink to colorize it a bit).
Here's the cube in a Master Maze corner intersection. I made it just the right width ... there's a little clearance on either side so you don't have to worry about scraping the edges when you place it in the dungeon, and you can slide it along the map rather than having to remove it vertically and re-place it.
Here's the cube in a Master Maze curved passageway. As with the corner, ther's enough clearance to let it slide through, though (because of geometry) less so than a straight tunnel.
I think I might redo this cube and make it just a little bit smaller. That way it'll be sure to fit in these hallways without any threat of scratching the cube, and I can make a little more room if I want to put it on a base. Anyway, that's prototype #1, as I said earlier I'll post the picture of the cube with the skeleton in it and perhaps some different-colored versions. If I decide to sell these things, I'd want to have several variations (Small/Medium/Large/Huge size, things it has eaten, gel color, base/no base). Think I should make it narrower in the middle than at the top, like this one? Any other suggestions? Let me know what you think on my Message Boards!

Update 10/10/2004:
Well, I mixed the resin and catalyst in the wrong proportions for the with-skeleton experiment, so I ended up with a cube of goop that spoiled the mold. Into the trash it went! Now I'm working on a new cube prototype that is (1) a slightly smaller so it fits in the corridors a little better and (2) slightly concave on the exposed faces (like this one) to make it look more dynamic. While I'm waiting for the glue on the base blocks for that prototype to set, I made a mold of some Dwarven Forge floor tiles and then cast a different type of resin in that mold.

"Regdar, there's something weird about the floor up ahead." I cast this with a different two part resin (the same stuff I used to make my Wishing Well). Advantage: it doesn't have the yellow color of the stuff I used for the prototype, it's almost colorless. Disadvantages: It's not a simple 1:1 ratio of resin to catalyst (so it's not so easy to mix), it smells while it's curing, and it takes longer to set up. I don't know which I'm going to use for the final cubes yet; it depends on how each of them takes color.
Another view of one of the clear resin floor tiles. These floor tiles could be a wall of force spell, a wall of ice, etc. I might make a vertical version, too.

Update 10/19/2004:
Moving forward! Starting to get the results I want to see in a final product.

This is my first experiment with adding color (blue) to the resin. It turned out a little darker than I wanted, but it turned out a reasonably transparent blue, suitable for water.
Another view of the blue water tile next to a regular floor tile.
Here's the Sculpey second prototype next to a resin cast of the first prototype. Notice how the second prototype is smaller (to fit through corridors better) and concave on its faces.
Here's a cast of the second prototype ... and an example of using too much ink. The ink I'm using is printer's ink (like for block-printing a sign), it's a paste that you dilute with water to make a strong ink. A very strong ink. Just by getting a teeny tiny dab of ink of the bottom of the mixing cup I got this result. Note to self, use less ink. :) The dark spots on the bottom are spare painted shields I had, which I put in the cube as a visibility test. Too much ink means not visible. :P I also ran out of the non-smelly resin when I cast this, so he's a little shorter than he should be (the mold is upside-down, so when you don't use enough resin you lose part of the "feet" of the object).
Ah, much better! I used an even smaller amount of the green ink with the smelly resin and this is the result. It's transparent (I can read my computer screen through it if I hold it against the screen), faintly greenish, and looks nice and goopy.
Another view of the cast prototype #2, this time in a curved hallway to show how it's a little more narrow and won't get caught on the edges.

My next step is to try a different resin; I've ordered some stuff that takes only 10 minutes to cure hard instead of 24-72 hours; not only does this mean I can handle the thing the same day without getting thumprints on it, if I'm going to sell these I can't want 2-3 days to make each one. That resin arrives in a week; I'll post new pictures after I get a chance to test it out. I'm growing more pleased with the results every day....