Looking for a gel-like material for a sculpture

Sometimes I secretly wish I was sculptor, so to satiate my inner starving artist come up with ideas for stuff that looks cool but doesn’t serve any purpose (other than looking cool, that is.)

I’ve decided it’s time to make one of these ideas a reality. I’m looking for some kind of gel that I can use as a medium to suspend ball bearings. My first thought was Jello, but it doesn’t “heal” itself after you shove something into it (a look that may still work but will have to wait until round two.) Right now I’m thinking a bucket of hair gel might give me the properties I’m looking for, though it would be full of bubbles. The only problem is I live in California, about 3000 miles from the only place where it’s legal to buy hair gel by the gallon, New Jersey.

Any thoughts?

Is it a permanent solution or do the bearings need to be removable? If you don’t need to get them back out you can always use a clear epoxy. You might need to hold the balls in place at first, but as it cures you should be able to suspend them without any visible supports.

How big is the whole piece? I’ve been using clear polyester resin for a furniture project and it’s been giving me great results. It also doesn’t heat up as much as epoxy does during the curing process. The only thing is that it’s pretty expensive but Tap Plastics, where I bought the resin, is located in california so maybe you’ll save on shipping.

Maybe build your own gel.

Look at fumed silica, aka Cab-o-sil, or Aerosil. Fumed silica is like a magic material, light like smoke, great big bag of it weighs ten pounds, when mixed with liquids they become thixotropic. Thick. Used to make ketchup, and everything else.

Oleo gels

Cosmetic oils can be readily transformed to highly viscous gels with AEROSIL® fumed silica. This produces largely transparent products with a markedly pseudoplastic flow behavior. Particularly high viscosities are achieved with and AEROSIL® 200 and AEROSIL® 300. —

AEROSIL® fumed silica is typically used in concentrations ranging from 2.0 to 10 percent w/w.

Any idea where you buy that stuff? Can’t seem to find it anywhere.

As previoulsy mentioned there is TAP Plastics, but they are basically a northern CA company. But as nxakt mentioned, cab-o-sil is incredibly light; a ten-pound bag is going to be a very large volume of material … I’m still working on the ten-pound bag I bought a couple of years ago.

I’ve never purchased from FiberGlass Source, but they are probably as good as anyone. They have store in Oceanside.

But you’re still going to need a “medium” to mix with it that will remain… gelatinous.

edit - see: http://www.customcartridge.com/pdfs/BallisticGel.pdf

I googled “fishing lure gel” but didn’t get anywhere with it.

Thanks Lmo. I’m in North County SD, so Oceanside is right up the road. I’ll go check them out.

Use a 2-part silicone. If you don’t want it to set-up, don’t use the part B, part A can be extremely viscous. Adding the part B will make it 35-55 ShoreA when it cures. You can get clear.



One more thought, like with doing silicone rubber casting, there are going to be air bubbles trapped inside your super thick gel mixture. If you can apply a vacuum to the mixture, the air bubbles will expand and rise out of the material leaving it clearer.

There are ways to cure resins really slowly as well, so if you get something thick enough, (although the density of ball bearings is going to be tough to compensate for) you might be able to arrange your elements and then have it cure into a solid.