HandGrip Casting Instructions

 

Save your hands

Support your longevity

Realign your forearms

De-stress your work





So you want to make your own set of HandGrips...



You need to choose the silicone rubber casting material which you will use to make your HandGrips.  You have two choices.  Ply-O-Life is the best, very benign and most easily handled, user-friendly material I have found.  Ply-O-Life makes an extremely precise cast of your hand's wrinkles and textures and fingerprints.  If you live in a region of the world where Ply-O-Life is not readily available, your second best choice is to use RTV silicone rubber calking material available in construction supply and hardware stores.  RTV is typically used as kitchen sink or bathroom tile calking compound and is NOT USER FRIENDLY.  RTV must be handled with good intelligence and reasonable care in a well-ventilated work area.  See handling information below for both of these materials.  Ply-O-Life is fast, immediately gratifying, and fairly expensive.  RTV molds are not immediately usable until completely cured, but cheap.  I originally learned casting and mold-making as a volunteer at the Page Museum in Los Angeles, CA (the “La Brea” Tar Pits), where we used RTV to make anatomically accurate copies of ice-age fossil bones and teeth.  Because of its low cost and ready availability, the paleontology lab used RTV in preference to other available products. 


Due to it's caustic chemical formulation, RTV must be used with form-fitting surgeons’ or exam gloves that provide suitable skin protection.  RTV is made from chemical components that have an intense, acrid smell.  Those of us with organic chemical laboratory experience will recognize the intense smell as similar to that of concentrated formic acid (which is used by ants as a trail marker).  HandGrip casts made using RTV are not as exact as those made using Ply-O-Life because surgeon's gloves do not provide a precise, exact fit to the hand.  RTV is a softer, more resilient silicone rubber than Ply-O-Life and you may find that you like the feel better for use in your practice.  I enjoy using grips made from both types of materials in my Structural Integration practice.  The harder material and more precise fit of Ply-O-Life grips facilitate access to harder, dense and generally deeper connective tissues.  The more resilient RTV grips are better for use in addressing softer, more superficial or less dense tissues. 


One significant difference between these two materials is in their curing times.  Ply-O-Life sets and cures completely in 10-15 minutes.  RTV sets in 10-15 minutes however complete curing for a fist-sized glob of RTV —when it doesn't smell any more — can take 2-3 weeks. 


RTV HandGrips seem to last longer than Ply-O-Life.  I am still using my original set of RTV grips, made in the 1980’s!  In contrast to this, I have been through several sets of Ply-O-Life grips.  Ply-O-Life grips seem to wear out after a long period of use (about 5 or more years they might possibly crack although this depends on the material thickness).  Additionally you will probably find that your casting skills and your perception of your need or individual requirements may dictate making several sets over time.   Tools shape the user as well as facilitate doing the work for which they are intended.  Your hands and arms will change their form and muscle tone as a result of being used differently when using HandGrips.  New sets of HandGrips can facilitate these changes. 


As preparation for making a set of HandGrips, I recommend that you read all the relevant instructions below and first obtain some modeling clay.  Squeeze the clay into your hand while reviewing the instructions to help you think about making and sculpting the right shapes for your hands when you are using your chosen material. 


There are three variables you need to understand for correctly casting your set of HandGrips, labeled A, B and C in Figure 1 below,

Handling information for RTV Silicone Rubber


RTV is normally used as a bonding, sealing and insulating material in house construction.  It comes in a number of colors, including translucent or ‘clear’.  If you wish, translucent RTV may be colored using food coloring dyes that are available in the desert isle of most supermarkets.  The pair of HandGrips shown above were made from translucent RTV and colored with a few drops of red food dye.  Why might you like to color your grips?  Have you noticed that in the images of HandGrips, they are not easily recognizable as to which are right and left?  You might like to consider coloring one red and the other blue, or any other color combination that you might like and RTis actually useful, especially if you are new to using them.  I admit it took some time to pick up my grips in my office and not fumble around with them to discover which hand they fit into... 


Uncured RTV has an intense, caustic acrid chemical make-up with a highly irritating odor and is very irritating to eyes and skin.  It is therefore very important to protect your skin from direct contact with the uncured material by wearing close-fitting surgeon's gloves.  Handle RTV only in a well-ventilated work area.  As an extra safety & comfort factor, I suggest that you use a gentle fan to blow vapors away from you as you work. 


Use a coating of soap on your gloves for mold-release purposes, to prevent RTV from sticking to your gloves.  I've successfully used liquid dish washing soaps for this purpose.  Pre-test your local brand to be sure it will function appropriately. 


Water, or water vapor catalyzes RTV to cure or set-up.  This is why it is commonly used in kitchen and bathroom construction.  When mixed with small amounts of water, RTV will set-up in about 10-15 minutes.  To start the curing process, use an atomizer or squirt bottle to spray the liquid RTV with water mist as you squeeze it out of its tube.  Then mix the water into the RTV by gently stirring with a spatula.  Mix or stir it gently so as to avoid making bubbles.  If you are going to use food dye, mix your chosen color in at this time. 


Casting Directions:


If you are working by yourself, cast one hand at a time!


Use a spatula to transfer a handful of water-catalysed RTV to one glove-protected, soap-coated hand.  Fold your hand into the fist shape.  Sculpt with your trusty spatula to create a pleasing and neat shape.   Wait 10-15 minutes for the material to set.  Don't worry about controlling very thin layers of the material as you will trim the final shape after the RTV has set-up. 


—Be sure to leave a full 1/4" of space between your fingertips and palms.  Refer to the photographs above for specifics.


—Be sure to align all four knuckles in the same plane.  Refer to the photographs above for specifics.


The set-up and casting process takes about one hour to make one grip and about 90 minutes for two. 


Full curing is complete when all the acrid chemical smell has evaporated or gone away.  I recommend that you put your curing handgrips in a can or bucket of water in the back yard, well out of reach of children, pets and other curious life-forms and wait for 2-3 weeks for the curing process to complete itself.  Change water every few days.  The curing process is complete when your grips no longer smell. 

Ply-O-Life silicone rubber casting material and all recommended tools for measuring, mixing & handling may be ordered from Pinkhouse Studios in Vermont, USA  (website below).  Pinkhouse Studios supplies casting materials to sculptors and the film industry's special effects artists who work with casts of live subjects.  I recommend using Ply-O-Life because it produces a very high-resolution mold, accurate to fully capture full surface area, skin texture, folds and all wrinkle patterns very precisely.  These are critical for facilitating highly-efficient force transfer to a client's structure and providing precise, effective support for the practitioner's fingers and hands.  


Ply-O-Life is a slightly modified dental casting epoxy that was designed to set-up inside the mouths of dental patients.  Therefore it is as benign and hypoallergenic as chemically possible.  However, in spite of the cleverness of modern chemistry, it is sensible to test for any possible allergy to the material.  Follow the directions for use and handling that come with the product for testing everyone for sensitivity.  If a practitioner's skin tests allergic, they may wear surgeon's gloves for the purposes of having HandGrips made (this has never happened for me in 30+ years of work with this material).  Ply-O-Life is a two-part epoxy consisting of a Catalyst and a Base, designed to be mixed together in equal amounts.  Ply-O-Life is simple to use and may be safely used by virtually everyone who desires to make their own set of HandGrips.  Read and carefully follow all directions for mixing and use found with the product information sheet and on Pink House Studio's website.


There is a good reason to make HandGrips without wearing surgeon's gloves because gloves cannot adhere to all of the contours of your hand.  Ply-O-Life fills ALL of your hand's fine wrinkles, folds and fingerprints at a very fine resolution.  This means that each cast you make will be a VERY precise and exact mold of all the 'negative' space your closed fist encloses.  This is the shape that best provides the very best, optimized stabilization and support when you are working as a Structural Integration Practitioner. 


Ply-O-Life is a two-part epoxy consisting of a Catalyst and a Base, designed to be mixed together in equal amounts.  Ply-O-Life comes in one color, blue.  Read and follow all directions for measuring, mixing and use. 


Two cautionary notes: 


— If you spill a bit of the base or catalyst raw materials you will need to clean them up using Acetone, a solvent readily available from a hardware or painting supply store.  Acetone is a toxic solvent.  Hopefully you will not need to use it, but if you do, follow its directions for use in well ventilated spaces. 


— Prevent mixed-and-setting epoxy from contacting clothing as it WILL NOT WASH OUT!!!  If your gooey-material handling skills are not exemplary, I recommend you wear disposable clothes and use a kitchen, workshop or painting apron.  


Here is an overview of the process: 


If you are working by yourself, cast one hand at a time!


Coat hand(s) (or surgeon's gloves) with mold release creme -Neutrogena Hand cream- or a very thin coat of petroleum jelly.  This prevents the epoxy from sticking to your hands (or gloves). 


Measure equal quantities of the white and blue components of the epoxy.  Mix them together until the color becomes uniform, without white or blue streaks.  Use a spatula (sold by PinkHouse Studios on their website) to transfer a handful to one open hand.  Fold your hand into the fist shape.  Sculpt with your trusty spatula to create a pleasing and neat shape.  Don't worry about controlling very thin layers of the material as you will trim the final shape after the epoxy has set-up. 


—Be sure to leave a full 1/4" of space between your fingertips and palms.  Refer to the photographs above for specifics.


—Be sure to align all four knuckles in the same plane.  Refer to the photographs above for specifics.


At normal room temperatures Ply-O-Life will set-up in about 12 minutes.  The setting epoxy generates a very small about of heat and solidifies very quickly.  When it has set, slowly and gently peel your fingers, one-at-a-time, out of the newly-set HandGrip. 


Wash your hands. 


Trim with small curved scissors. 


Use & Enjoy!


The whole process, from set-up to trimmed product takes about 1.5 hours. 

 



Material List for Ply-O-Life casting:


Ply-O-Life is available from Pink House Studio in Vermont, USA.  Pink House Studio's website:  http://www.pinkhouse.com/Plyolife.html


As of Sept, 2008, the minimum amount of Ply-O-Life you can purchase is 4-lb. (2lb. Base & 2lb. Catylist) for $150.00.  This amount is sufficient for at least 4-5 sets of HandGrips.  This will permit you to repeat the process if you make mistakes, need to refine your process or want to make sets for other practitioners. 


-two large-bore measuring syringes (for Base and Catalyst) available (expensive!) from Pink House Studios, or from surgical equipment supply houses.  If you plan to make more than one set of HandGrips, or if you plan to make many sets for workshops, I recommend purchasing a bulk case of these syringes from a supply house.

- Acetone (for clean-up of any spilled raw materials)

-Neutrogena Hand Cream

-mixing stick(s)

-paper disposable mixing cup(s)

-mixing & shaping spatula (shop in your local art supply store)

-paper towels

-newspapers to protect & help keep clean any work surfaces

-small curved scissors

Materials list for RTV casting.


-RTV Silicone Rubber is available from hardware stores, packaged as Dow Corning Silastic or ABRD 1200, for an average cost ranging from three to six dollars per tube.  For esthetic reasons, I recommend using the transparent product. 


-application tool (see photo above).  This is used for squeezing RTV out of its tube and is available in hardware stores. 

-mixing stick

-paper disposable mixing cup

-mixing & shaping spatula (shop in your hardware or art supply store)

-paper towels

-a coffee can or other suitable sized container to be used for curing.

-newspapers to protect & help keep clean any work surfaces

-small curved scissors

Ply-O-Life

RTV Silicone Rubber

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In Figure 1, the image on the left shows what NOT to do.  “A” shows insufficient clearance between the thumb and side of the first finger.  “B” shows mis-alignment of all 4 knuckles.  “C” shows finger tips too close to the palm. 


The image on the right in Figure 1 above shows all three factors corrected.  “A” shows space, about 1/4”, between the thumb and side of the first finger.  “B” shows correct alignment of all 4 knuckles.  “C” shows about 1/4” clearance between the finger tips and the palm of the hand.

In Figure 2 above, the image on the left, “A”, shows incorrect alignment of all four fingers.  The image on the right, “B”, shows correct, co-planar relationships among all four fingers. 





Casting Instructions

If you have followed this information & attempted to make your own set(s) of HandGrips please let me know how they turned out! 


My Best,  Richard Wheeler

tarpitboss (at) mac (dot) com