321ArtBlock Instructions

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Formatting Conventions

  1. Standard steps in the process are numbered.
    • Additional information may be attached, such as optional steps, special considerations, or anecdotal information.
    • Important details may be emphasized


  • subject: You need to have something to put in the 321 Art Block. It can be anything that is not going to hurt someone. Specifically, this means non-flammable, non-caustic, and most-likely non-reactive in any reeaally interesting way.
  • ideas: Odd, Interesting, Unusual, Memorable, Personal, Electronic, Common, Timeless, Inside-Joke, Symbolic, Found, Forgotten, Visible, Inaccessible, Curious, Quizzical, Discovered
  • workspace: A flat and sturdy work surface is necessary. We suggest you use a large piece of scrap cardboard as a project surface, as it is easy to clean.
  • environment: You want the ambient temperature to be "summer time." The epoxy works best in temperatures above 75F degrees.


  • Tools:
    • for cutting aluminum: Scissors and wire cutters will do. Tin snips work best.
    • dust protection: cardboard sheet or something similar
    • for shaping: A reference block of the target dimensions: 3" x 2" x 1". A piece of wood or anything that is similarly resilient will do. Best results will come from hardwood blocks or aluminum reference blocks.
  • Consumables:
    • epoxy resin -- Our experiments were all carried out with 1:1 table top resin, from http://www.uscomposites.com/kk121.html. If you use some other type of resin, good luck!
    • casting form: Aluminum soda can.
    • mixing cups: Disposable cups with clear sides are the easiest to work with. Those with any type of line markings around the side are especially helpful for quick measurement.
    • stirring stick: Non-porous stirrers are needed. Plastic knives work well.
    • gloves: Latex or other water-proof gloves are suggested.
    • acid brushes
    • clean-up supplies

Creating the Mold

  1. Be careful with the aluminum. It IS sharp enough to cut you if not handled carefully. Handled carefully, it is relatively safe. If you are not comfortable, or are supervising children with this process, use garden gloves or something similar.
  2. Use tin snips or wire cutters to clip downward into the top lip of the aluminum can. This is important, since it allows you to get your scissors or tin snips into the cylindrical area of the can without denting or puncturing it first. With wire cutters, cut a V-shape with enough clearance to allow your scissors to line up along the rounded edge of the can.
  3. Cut along the round edge of the can, using any printed labeling as a guide. If there are no visual guides, just use the round edge, ensuring that the non-cylindrical part of the can is cut away, leaving as straight an edge as possible.
  4. Find a guideline, and cut a straight line length-ways down the can to the bottom edge.
  5. Cut around the bottom edge of the can, removing the bottom cap from the unrolled cylinder. Save the bottom cap for later.
  6. Use the edge of a table to unroll the cylinder to a flat sheet. The resulting rectangle may not end up completely flat.
  7. Use the shaping block to fold the aluminum into 5-sided box:
    1. Lay the block in the middle, aligning the long dimension of the block with the long dimension of the aluminum.
    2. When working with the aluminum, try not to flex it back and forth along sharp corners too much. If you do, it may weaken enough to make the corners fragile during corner folding.
    3. Fold the aluminum up around the bottom edges of the block, keeping the block as close to the middle as possible. Fold both sides first, then both ends. Do not work the corners first. Once the sides have their 90 degree folds, start work on the edges.
    4. On each corner, hold the adjoining sides to the block, and create a "gift-wrapping" fold with a 45 degree corner protruding. For each corner, fold the 45 degree flap over the end of the block to make as square of a corner as possible.
    5. Once all four corners are folded, hold the aluminum box upside down and remove the shaping block.

Preparing Your Item

Some items require special preparation before pouring time. This is due to the weight and viscosity of the resin as it flows during pouring.

  • For items with very delicate parts, such as flower petals, cloth, or light paper. Fix the item in its preferred shape before casting by painting on a coat of resin ahead of time. This has to cure first, so adjust your times accordingly.
  • For items which have voids, hidden air cavities, or porous sections which trap air, Fill the item to seal-in or expunge any air bubbles. This can be done by pouring resin into the item, or painting the section in question with resin.
  • For items which should be cast extremely close the the surface of the block, Coat the item first with resin. This allows you to lay the item in the base of the mold for the first pour.

Planning the Pour

There are multiple pour phases. Whether you do a single pour or multiple pours depends on what type of item you have and how long you are willing/able to wait for curing. Ideally, your items have the same specific gravity as the prepared resin. This is almost never the case. For the first time, it is suggested that you do a 3-phase pour, which accommodates a combination of heavy and light items regardless of their density.

Generally, you can think of the base, middle, and top pour as layers of 1/8", 3/4" and 1/8" deep layers, respectively. If you need to use the full 1" depth of the block, use the techniques described in the previous section to prepare your items first.

  1. Base pour: The first resin pour will establish a base upon which items may be placed. This pour is only required to create an initial boundary layer upon which to rest heavy objects. It is generally a very thin pour, only using enough epoxy to touch the sides of the mold, or about 1/4" to 1/8" deep. If you do not have any heavy items, you can pour the base and the middle as one pour.
  2. Middle pour: The second resin pour will affix your item within the block. This is the pour for which you either pour resin over the item, or which you push your item into.
  3. Top pour: The final pour will finish the top with flat surface. This pour is only required to accommodate very light things which float on top of the middle pour. If you do not have any light objects, you can go ahead and pour to the top at the time of the middle pour.

Light Objects

Special considerations for light objects:

Heavy Objects

Special considerations for heavy objects:





Squaring Up