Plaster cloth sources and prices



Use paper towels (not the super absorbant ones but, the cheapest rough nasty ones that don't really dry your hand smuch when you use them) or coffee filters (you can by huge piles of them at CostCo for a few bucks). Mix up your Hydrocal soup (a little thinner than usual) make sure you have it in a large flat bottomed container (a cake pan 9"x13"??) or a pan for paint rollers. Tear the paper towels, coffee filters into managable pieces (8"x10" is a pretty big piece). Drag the paper/filter through the thin mud mixture so it is completely coated. Give it a chance to drip off a little bit and throw it down on your framework (woven tag board, cardboard, foam, screen ... whatever). I find that 3 layers of that will harden into a very nice hard shell.
Mix a few small batches and practice getting the consistency of the mud where it works well for you.
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You make a bucket of plaster and then just dip the sheets in. It's that simple. Anything that can take a little weight can be substituted for cheesecloth - beefy paper towels, newspaper, or used dryer sheets for example. Plaster cloth is vastly overpriced. *
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PV wrote:

Well, I've done the dip-the-stuff-in-plaster-then-drape-over-whatever thing, too, and I just don't like the mess. Also, there's a limited working time. So I'm willing to pay for the plaster cloth.
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writes:

Most everyone misunderstood my original post... I was wondering how to make the plaster cloth in such a way that the dry plaster would stick to it. I've done some of the "mix your own on the spot" variety and it works OK. But with the plaster cloth method, you have plenty of time between sheets to get things the way you want them w/o worrying about the dipping plaster setting up. That and the mess doesn't seem to be as bad... those are the two biggest advantages that I see with the plaster cloth.
Yes, the plaster cloth does seem to be way more expensive than what it "should" cost.
dlm
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There is probably a reason for this. My guess is that plaster cloth is in fact manufactured like this:
0) Mix up plaster.
1) Dip sheets of cheese cloth in wet plaster.
2) Let dry/harden.
3) Bake the water out. (This undos steps 0 and 2, but leaves the powered plaster embedded in the cheese cloth.)
4) Place in package.
Basicly, you don't really avoid the dripping stage, just add an additional couple of steps. I suspect that the major cost of plaster is the 'Bake the water out' process. With plaster cloth, this happens *twice*. I can't think of how else one would get the plaster 'stuck' to the cloth without causing other problems -- any kind of adhesive would introduce impurities to the final plaster, which would comprimize its strenght and whatnot.
It seems that step 3 above is somewhat of a costly extra step. It makes better sense to be well enough organized to just do:
0) Mix up plaster.
1) Dip sheets of cheese cloth in wet plaster.
2) Lay on mountain framework.
If your mountain framework is set up properly, you shouldn't need too much time with "worrying about the dipping plaster setting up". You just need to work quickly and have things suffiently set up in advance so as not no need the time to "get things the way you want". Or else you need to work in smaller batches and/or smaller sized sheets of 'cloth' or some combination. If things are not really set up for this or if your scenery can't be set up for this (certain kinds of terrain might not be suitable for plaster cloth drapping), then maybe you need to think about another way of doing thing. One option is to rough build the mountain (or whatever) using insulation foam board and then using something like sheet rock compound to 'smooth' things out. This would be less messy and would allow for more detail work.

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I assume that it's done by saturating the cheesecloth in wet plaster and then drying it out in a kiln. Probably not something you could easily do yourself.

I've never had that problem. Just mix the plaster a little wetter than you would if you were actually making a casting, and it takes a long, long time to set up in the bucket. Making a half-gallon or so of plaster at a time will let you cover a lot of mountain. And it's easy to mix.

I'll take a little mess for 1 tenth the cost or less. I've seen the little rolls of plaster cloth in the hobby shop, and it's obscene what they're charging for it. You find that a lot of model railroad stuff is like that - if you know where to look, you can find a lot of the same things you buy from woodland scenics for a lot less. *
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On 8/7/2008 11:22 AM PV spake thus:
>

Well, ackshooly, you might oughta be able to do that yourself. After all, plaster is made by drying gypsum at about 150 C (~300 F). which ought to be do-able in a regular oven.
But somehow I think all the effort to make the plaster cloth, and then to actually use it, wouldn't be worth the trouble. It'd probably be more of a mess making the stuff than using it.
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Heh. If you were single maybe. If not, you would be shortly after pulling that stunt.

For sure! Since you're going to get it wet again anyway, I don't see the point. Paper mache is very forgiving - it works with almost anything, and it's hard to mess up the plaster. *
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