The Making of a Giant Walnut Prop

4,167

52

18

About: I'm an Artist, Designer, and Maker of Things.

This Giant Walnut prop was originally inspired by Paul Jackman of Jackman Works, when he began building his Life-Size Nutcracker recently.

The original art sculpture for my giant walnut was created digitally using Maxon Cinema4D modeling software. Silicone molds were then made using 3D prints as masters. The finished casts are made of "Water Putty", a plaster-like material. A special "Nut Filling" hides inside!

This was my first time making silicone molds. I found some helpful information and tutorials on Evan and Katelyn's YouTube channel, along with the Smooth-On channel. (YouTube links below)

Check out Jackman Works

Check out Evan & Katelyn

Check out Smooth-On

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Some of the tools used in this project:

Table Saw

14” Deluxe Bandsaw

Cordless Drill

Utility Cutter

Utility Knife

Cutting Mat

Mechanical Pencil

Graph Paper

Wood Rasp-File

Rockler Glue Brush

3D Printer

Hot Glue Gun

Vinyl Gloves

Some of the materials used in this project:

Smooth-On Silicone Mold

Mold Release

Durham’s Water Putty

Acrylic Paints

Crystal Clear Spray

Clear Coat Spray

Spray Primer

Water Base Primer

Premium Grade Wood Stirrers

Note: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for supporting what I do!

Step 2: 3D CAD Modeling and Digital Sculpting

To start with, my goal was pretty simple. I wanted to create a super-sized walnut shell that could be cracked (or smashed) open in a realistic manner to reveal something inside. I wasn't quite sure what the finished dimensions were going to be, but that detail wasn't immediately necessary because I was planning to make a digital sculpture. This polygonal model, as long as it had appropriate detail, could be re-sized after it was finished.

I had several real walnuts to use as reference, so I got to work (virtually) carving the nut shell with all the little bumps and crevasses that make a walnut look like a walnut. I use Cinema 4D for polygonal modeling, but there are several other apps that can do digital sculpting. For the sake of proportion, I modeled the full nut, but I really only needed one half of the shell for 3D printing.

Step 3: 3D Printing the Shells

I was now ready to make my virtual nut into something more tangible that I could hold in my hands. I decided to print the model at a size that could fit on the build plate of my Makerbot 3D printer. I made the half-shell approximately 4.5" x 6" x 2.25". My plan was to be able to mold two nuts at a time, so that required four half-shells. Each one of these took about four hours to print.

The 3D model is available for download on my web site.

Step 4: Developing a Recipe for the Casting Material

I did some experimenting, so you don't have to!

Here is what I learned:

Water Putty is AWESOME and inexpensive. Mix it thick or thin. Hardens great, either way.

• Water based acrylic paint works great to add color.

• Too much sawdust is good for texture, but will weaken the putty. A 1:5 ratio (or less) works good.

• Becomes quite hard, but does shatter when hit with a sledge hammer.

Step 5: Prepping the Master Models

Most desktop 3D prints, especially FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) types, will have visible layer lines. For most intents and purposes it really doesn't matter. In this project I wanted to smooth out the surfaces. Typically I would prime - sand - prime - sand several times. This technique usually works well, but these nut shells have so many bumps that I knew sanding would be very difficult. I opted to just apply many coats of thick primer. It worked pretty good.

The finish coat that I applied was "Krylon Crystal Clear". This was recommended in one of the Smooth-On tutorials. It creates a clear fast drying glossy surface.

Step 6: Preparing the Mold Boxes

I came up with dimensions for the mold boxes that would be as economical as I thought practical, in order to use the least amount of silicone. I found a couple of old particle board shelves to up-cycle. It turned out that the smooth melamine surface worked great. I cut all the pieces on the table saw.

Step 7: Building the Molds

I decide to build the boxes with screws to allow for easy disassembly. I found another economy! By adding some small wood triangular prisms, I could further reduce the volume of silicone needed.

The nut shell models were hot glued to the base board. This allowed a small amount of silicone to sneak under. This would give me a more finished edge at the seam where the two shells meet.

At this time, I also gave each mold a quick dusting of mold release.

Step 8: Mixing the Silicone and Pouring It in the Molds

Making molds is all about volume. Even when a material has an A:B mix ratio by weight, we still need to know the volume in order to prepare the correct amount. The package of Smooth-On OOMOO 30 is only marked by weight. I had to refer to the enclosed data sheet in order to determine the volume. My "OOMOO MATHS" images show how I figured it out.... AND IT WORKED!!

It cannot be over stated that mixing thoroughly is very important. That includes mixing each of the components in their own respective containers BEFORE combining. Remember your working time is limited. So, be prepared!

I implemented the advise to pour slowly when filling the molds. This worked great. I ended up with very few bubbles.

Step 9: The Cured Molds Were Ready to Use

After six hours of cure time, I removed the screws and revealed four beautifully detailed molds. I was impressed!

They were ready to use immediately, so I moved on to mixing up the Water Putty, adding my colors, and walnut sawdust. I slowly added water until the mixture was like stiff cookie dough. I pushed it into the molds so that the walls would be about 1/4" thick.

I then set them aside to harden. Water Putty takes about an hour to firm up, but it needs about 6-8 hours to fully harden.

Step 10: De-Mold and Clear Coat

When it was time to take the shells out of the molds, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily they came out. By the way, I used no mold release at this stage.

I filed the edges a little with a wood rasp, just knocking down the high spots to get a good fit between shells.

I added a final satin clear coat. That brought out the color and gave a nice soft and subtle gloss.

Step 11: Add the Filling

These nuts are meant to be cracked, so I wanted to be a little goofy with the insides. The filling consists of real fresh walnuts nested in Walnut and Cedar wood shavings.

Now I just need to find a Nut Cracker big enough to do the job properly!

Step 12: Go Watch the YouTube Video!

I hope enjoyed this Instructable!

Do you like my work? You can also find me on other social platforms!

• My Website: https://www.worksbysolo.com

• YouTube: https://www.worksbysolo.com

• Instagram: https://www.worksbysolo.com

• Twitter: https://www.worksbysolo.com

Note: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Thank you for supporting what I do!

Big and Small Contest

First Prize in the
Big and Small Contest

Share

    Recommendations

    • Trash to Treasure

      Trash to Treasure
    • Tape Contest

      Tape Contest
    • Arduino Contest 2019

      Arduino Contest 2019

    18 Discussions

    1
    None
    jeanniel1

    3 months ago

    Ha ha! I love the fact you filled it with real walnuts! Really great scanning

    1 reply
    1
    None
    nirim

    3 months ago

    Nice..

    1
    None
    videoschmideo

    3 months ago

    Nice work! It looks totally realistic from the photos. How did you figure out the volume of the molds, though? With the mitred corners and the walnut model inside, I imagine the geometry would be pretty tricky.

    2 replies
    0
    None
    Works by Solovideoschmideo

    Reply 3 months ago

    Thanks!
    Finding the mold volume is SUPER easy! Most 3D CAD applications offer object analysis for volume. For example, if you are designing a fancy new style shampoo bottle, then you can check to see if it will hold the correct amount of product liquid.

    I built a virtual mold box in CAD, found the volume of the cavity (including the mitered corners), then subtracted the walnut object. That left the volume that the silicone would occupy. It is very precise.

    There is a quick mention of how I did it in the YouTube video.

    1
    None
    videoschmideoWorks by Solo

    Reply 3 months ago

    Ah, nice - I should have guessed the CAD software had that ability. Good to know! I’m only just starting to scratch the surface with 3D design.

    1
    None
    mjohnson35

    Tip 3 months ago

    Great build!
    To stir the inside of a jar, can or container like that, take a dowel and notch the end about half an inch in. This will allow you add in a cut popsicle stick into the cut. Now, you chuck it into your drill and use it as a stirring propeller.

    1 reply
    0
    None
    Works by Solomjohnson35

    Reply 3 months ago

    I like that idea, because then it could be disposable too! Thanks!

    1
    None
    formender

    3 months ago

    I'm going nuts... GREAT Instructable!!! Thanks for sharing!!! You got my vote. Greetings from Germany.

    1 reply
    1
    None
    attosa

    3 months ago

    That is so darn cool! You've got my vote!

    1 reply
    1
    None
    JackmanWorks

    3 months ago

    It's so good, even I voted for you. It'll be a fight to the end for that iPhone ;)

    1 reply
    0
    None
    Works by SoloJackmanWorks

    Reply 3 months ago

    Well, your nutcracker is an 8:1 scale. So, you’ve got me there! I was originally planning to make my walnut bigger but someone suggested that I keep it under 4-1/2” diameter. ;-) I’m at 5:1 scale. Not quite “Jackman Sized” (or is it?). Lol!