I won this belt buckle online and the madness began. Is there anything cooler than wizards?
I won this belt buckle online and the madness began. Is there anything cooler than wi
Here's a little project that's definitely a weekend job, and the finished product is something you'll probably never see on another bike. Best of all, the whole project uses some basic tools that most people have lying around, so no need to break the bank.
I got motivated on this project because I was looking for an aftermarket taillight for my Shovelhead, and flipped through various vendors' catalogs and couldn't find anything all that personal. I mean, you can get a tombstone light, or a cat's eye, or a STOP light, but it's "been there, done that" to me. I read an article online about guys who were re-casting old car tail lenses, and my mind was made up. I had to try something even crazier.
I went shopping online and found an old wizard belt buckle for $8.99 with free shipping. Sold. Old belt buckles are so killer and this one has just the right amount of detail and the bust is in a good position for a taillight; taking into account screw placement, position on the bike, etc. I also knew I needed a wizard because I'm going with a mystical, weird theme on the bike...but this is where you can use your imagination; this process can work on any belt buckle, or just about any shape for that matter, that you can find.
The belt buckle wasn't deep enough to house a bulb, so I went to work making a clay housing for the wizard that was deep enough for a light; I used an old Harley light as a reference as to how deep to make it for an 1157 bulb. For clay, I used regular modeler's clay that dries in a few hours when exposed to air. Now, you can do this one of two ways. You can 1) build up the clay completely and pour a mold around it, or 2) build the clay up, then dig out the clay at the location where the light bulb will be, and then pour the mold. The second method has an extra step, but it will save you from having to grind out the hole for the light bulb in the cast when it's done (this is a messy process).
Next, you need to pour a mold around this model. I used a two-part silicone mold and you have to pour it around the object, slowly, so air bubbles don't get trapped. The worst part is it comes in 16-oz kits (about $30-$40 each!) so you don't have a ton of material to play with. The good news is that once you have the mold, you can use it hundreds of times with no loss of detail. This stuff is super strong, so you don't really need thick walls. Also, use a plastic container, not a glass one, because getting the mold out of the container requires that you cut it out. You have to get the mold out of the container so that you can peel away the sides and remove the clay model.
Once I had the mold, I used a two-part clear polyurethane resin kit, again found at a local art store. This resin easily poured into the mold, I just had to be careful about air bubbles getting trapped. (As an aside, I wish I had access to a pressure chamber, but this is a fast drying resin so you need a high quality (read: $$$$) compressor to get enough psi, and this is a DIY, so I can live with a few bubbles. You will always get a few here and there, but they're barely noticeable when the light is off, and they reflect amazing when the light is on! How many bubbles you get will depend quite a bit on what shape you try to cast: start out with something easy, and see how it turns out. For me, the wizard's beard was very difficult to get detail out of, but in the end I was very happy with the results.) Back to the resin pour! As you pour you need to add a red transparent dye (again, a local arts store has this; you should know everyone's first name at the store by now). As you're stirring add dye until you think it looks about the right color. It's hard to tell how much you might need/want in there, I added about half an ounce of dye and it was very dark, when I carved it out, it was perfect.
Here's the wizard with a clay build-up on the back. This is regular modeler's clay you can get at any art store. To the right is some of the clay. It dries slow so you really have plenty of time to get it just right.
Here's the wizard with a clay build-up on the back. This is regular modeler's clay yo
This is the reverse mold of the object in the previous picture, done using a two-part silicone rubber mold kit you can get online or at a local art store. You mix the two things in the bottles in a 5:1 ratio, and then pour it over the object to be cast. Here you can see I've dug out the clay for the light, so that the mold material filled that hole in. Now, when I pour the resin, it won't fill up the space where the hole needs to be. Still with me?
This is the reverse mold of the object in the previous picture, done using a two-part
The resin material. You'll need the two-part polyurethane resin, the transparent red dye (regular red dye won't let out the light!), a plastic container for mixing, and a pair of gloves just to be safe. Judge the color as you mix as best as you can. My first taillights all came out pink!
The resin material. You'll need the two-part polyurethane resin, the transparent red