Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Roll It Up (Prototype)

Roll Up The World

If you have no idea what you're looking at, go get some context first.  Katamari Damacy is a surrealist Japanese video game series that broke all genres.  That tiny little green guy is rolling around that sticky nodule-coated ball, and as he collects items, the ball grows bigger.  You start off in a house picking up bugs and candy, and by the end of the game...


Yesterday, I got a random idea.  Make a paperclip holder out of Sculpey and rare earth magnets.

While discussing it on Twitter, someone pointed out that the Curie Point might thwart my plans, since polymer clay requires baking in the over to set, and heat can misalign the magic glue fairies inside the metal so they can't stick anymore.

Poly clay bakes at relatively low temperatures, and in theory should be low enough for neodymium to retain its animal magnetism, but someone linked someone else's project where oven-baking ruined perfectly good shiny metal miracles.  So it was clear science needed to be committed.

The above prototype was a success.  It is much tinier than the proposed clip-holder, but in true Katamari Damacy form, the Prince will role up some paperclips now, and grow in size, until in envelopes my pencils, my tea cup, Lorenz the Butterfly, Helga the Skull, the houseplant, Ryuk the Pomeranian, my desk, then finally the children, me, the house, and [SPOILER!] eventually the sun.

As you can clearly see, those paperclips are sticking to something.  I swear it's not superglue.  After heating, the magnet retained its usefulness.  And the resulting product is adorable.

Now I've gone and told the end of the story, so now let's, not-quite-Memento-style, flashback in time to the beginning.

It's actually been a few years since I've done anything with polymer clay.  It's a medium I'm well-familiar with.  I first worked with it as a teen, as I had an infinite supply from my parent's craft store.  Back then I made castles and fairies and dragons.  Aside from the time I tried to make Gir, I've stayed away from replicating licensed memes, and instead stuck to original art, since I had some crazy idea maybe I could make money at it some day.

Freed from my delusions, I now realize the value of the medium for cheap knockoffs of other people's characters. fnord

For supplies, I have a ton of clay I bought in 2005 from my silly Lunafisk urban vinyl projects.  Some of the tools I've had since I was 13, and those are still my favorites.  There are lots of great websites for how to work with this stuff, so I won't go into detail.  Let's just say my favored style has always been to try to do impossibly tiny things, and had I not gotten to do this tiny prototype version, it might have been almost boring.

I stole the magnets from my boy-child.  I'd given them to him in the first place as a Christmas gift, so there.

Most of the clay is actually Premo, not Sculpey, but whatever.  Apparently, it's An Artist's Dream Come True, but other than that, it's just like Sculpey.

More pics:

Tip: Use tracing paper for a surface - easy cleanup! Also clear acrylic sheets work well.
The Katamari grows bumps. Please ignore the Fimo. Fimo sucks.
I was a bit worried about even placement of the nodules, until I noticed it's simple: One at the top, one at the bottom, then five evenly placed in a row encircling the top one, likewise five encircling the bottom (staggering the top ones), and boom.  Not necessarily in that order.

Obviously when working with poly clay, you have to watch the smoosh factor and do things in order of least smooshy.

The bumps ended up mostly even (don't worry, that link is hilariously relevant; you'll see), but I messed up just a little bit, which is another good reason I'm practicing on a prototype. 

There wasn't much room for the magnet, and I had smoosh-factor to worry about, so I placed it on top of the dark-purple circle, under the light-purple circle.  Since it's a prototype, and I didn't know if the oven would obliterate the magnet's awesome, gravity-defying powers, I only wasted one magnet, on one nodule.

"Hello, I have no legs. teeheehee."
But which one is it?
On the baking tile. "Please don't cut me with that scalpel!"
Time for baking.  The instructions have been the same since 1988 when I first squished my first baby dragon into existence.  (Funny, he was exactly the same shade of green as our Prince here!)

15 minutes on 275°F.  If we are to account for any magnetism loss, we should know the exact temperature and time so we can later make adjustments if nec--

When doing science, always be sure to use precise instrumentation.
So yeah... this is our oven.  I set it to gggbbbbleeerrrghghhhhh and took careful records.

Since I didn't know how hot it was, I set my timer for 8 minutes and waited, checking constantly by opening the door, causing heat to leave the oven rapidly, and when it didn't seem hot enough, I turned it up a little, and then decided to leave it in for less time, because, after all, it's a super-tiny piece, and small bakes faster than large projects.

Five minutes in, my daughter reminds me we have a brand new toaster oven.  With a window.


Next time.

When committing acts of science, try to reduce as many variables as possible.  This is an example of all the things not to do.

Nevertheless, after approximately 15 minutes...

Put the "tiny" back into Destiny!
You are my density!

Did I say density?  I mean DESTINY!  Density comes later, when I create the full-size model, and we realize just how dense polymer clay really is.

Now we wait for it to cool, so that we don't end up playing with it too much and accidentally dropping it and breaking his arm off--


No cameras please.

Ok, superglue later, The Prince's arm is back on, he's neatly glued to the Katamari in a brilliant case of ironyappositeness, and my fingers have +1 plasti-armor verses ants.

Do-doo-doot-doo doo doo doo doo doot!

Na NA nananana Na na na NA NA nana NAAAA!

Superglue tip #1: Don't let the tube explode when you open it.

Superglue tip #2: If the tube explodes when you open it, under no circumstances should you try to rub it off of whatever it gets on. Especially yourself.

Superglue tip #3: This is because superglue was developed by the army to glue soldiers back together.

Superglue tip #4: If you have leveled up enough in the skill: Superglue, like I have, you lose all instincts to rub your fingers together, EVEN IF THERE'S GLUE RUINING YOUR KILT.  I made my roll. whew!

Superglue tip #5: Superglue is the only kind of glue that doesn't melt poly clay.

Now back to regularly scheduled Katamari Prototype Pix:

Paperclips of Unusual Size

Now, if only there was an evil villain paperclip around here someplace I could roll up!

In the sequel, I will make the larger Katamari with a magnet in each nodule for holding ALL THE THINGS PAPERCLIP.  Then we can safely store paperclips once and for all!


  1. DANGER Will Robinson!
    Do not put a pre-magneted Sculpey type object in a microwave. Magnets and Magnetrons don't like each other that much

    1. Yeah, I don't think poly clay is supposed to go into the microwave either. :)