Fun with InstaMorph Plastic (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 10 Feb 2023

Fun with InstaMorph Plastic

Like many cyclists, I always carry a small tire pump on my mountain bike. I've had the pump for many years, and it still works, but the plastic holder that screws into the water bottle cage holder has gotten brittle over the years, and broke a few months ago.

As a stopgap, I lashed the pump to the bike frame with velcro strips, but I was never very happy with that. But you can't buy just the mount for a bike pump; you're supposed to buy a whole new pump.

But you know me: I hate throwing things away, especially plastic things, if I don't have to. And I found the perfect solution.

[Instamorph moldable plastic] Some time ago, I happened upon some reviews of a reusable plastic that sounded too fun to pass up. It's called InstaMorph Moldable Plastic (disclaimer: that Amazon link gives me a small kickback if you buy through it) and it's really pretty neat. It comes as a bag of small rice-grain sized plastic pellets. You heat up some water in the microwave (or your favorite water heating method), dump in a handful of pellets, and they get soft and magically clump together. After a few minutes, you pull out the soft plastic lump and knead it into any shape you want.

Think of it like having your own not-very-precise 3-D printer, only a lot faster and you don't have to learn how to use a CAD program.

[Little brontosaurus] The first time I tried it, I realized once I had the hot lump in my hand that I didn't have any plans for what to make. So I just started kneading, and what emerged was a little brontosaurus.

By the way, one of the cool things about this stuff is that if you don't make something right the first time, no pressure — it's reusable, you can heat the plastic up again and mold it into something completely different. That's one reason I hadn't planned out my first project. But it turned out I liked my little spur-of-the-moment dinosaur, so she's still sitting on the living room table and I haven't had any impulse to re-mold her.

[plastic splint for trigger thumb] Some months later, I acquired a case of "trigger thumb", a condition where the tendon in a thumb or finger "pops" uncomfortably. I found that a splint that kept my thumb slightly bent helped immensely, especially if I wore it overnight. I made a couple of metal thumb splints, but the plastic splint was almost as good.

And then I forgot all about the InstaMorph for a year or more, until last week, when I was staring at my bike pump wondering how to make a pump bracket, and suddenly I remembered the bag of plastic pellets sitting on a shelf, and realized it was perfect for the task.

[bike pump holder made of instamorph plastic] I heated up some water and kneaded some "fingers" that fit tightly around the large and the small parts of the pump. Once they cooled, I drilled screw holes (I could have punched a hole while the plastic was soft, but I opted to use the drill press instead), screwed the brackets to the lower water bottle cage mount that I never use anyway (I prefer a Camelbak), and voila, a nice solid pump holder that works just as well as the original one.

By the way, the indentations in the two brackets are from the rubber bands I used to hold the plastic tightly around the pump while it was cooling.

Anyway, if you always wished for a 3-D printer but are leery of the hassle, I recommend this InstaMorph stuff. It's easy to use and quite versatile. Apparently you can dye it, too, but I haven't tried that yet. The most surprising use I encountered in web searches was the surprising number of people who can't afford dental work and sport InstaMorph false teeth!

[ 13:28 Feb 10, 2023    More misc | permalink to this entry | ]

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