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A while back I did some experimentation with stewing plastic bags in canola oil and then pressing them into solid forms. I did this by following a method for molding a self-lubricating replacement bushing on a washing machine. While the results were certainly interesting, they had a side-effect of being impregnated in the oil, leaving grease stains in their path forever.

I devised a new method to do this, detailed in a Make: Projects piece. Using a double-boiler, I was able to heat the plastic bags to a consistent temperature that made them tacky and malleable, while releasing a minimum amount of fumes, then press them into a solid block.

The resulting material can be readily shaped with a hobby knife, jigsaw, or even a laser cutter. With this process, you can use the stock plastic to create kids’ blocks, jewelry, replacement parts, etc.

The forging process is certainly not perfected, and could definitely be improved with some additional tools (a hydraulic press, for one, would work wonders). How would you modify this process, and what sort of things would you make if you recycled these bags at the point of use like I did?

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Comments

  1. br3ttb says:

    Great idea!  a few years ago I played around with ironing layers of bags together. I used paper as a shield to prevent burning / sticking.  it worked pretty well, but there was a lot of prep involved, and not that much material produced for the effort.

    As far as improvements to your process, after heating maybe you could pass your plastic through some rollers to release entrained air and create a uniform thickness.  I’m thinking of something like the wringers from old-school washing machines.  I’m not sure how sticky this stuff is though.

  2. This would require a great deal of raw material, but how about making them into building blocks of some sort? This has the effect of taking a disposable non-degradable material and giving it a longer life cycle. As I work on my block wall that is to be constructed of at least 80% reclaimed materials, I may have to consider throwing some molded plastic blocks into the mix…. Thanks for the idea.

  3. Interesting idea!  On a side note: you can make a (relatively) cheap hydraulic press by using a hydraulic car jack.  Just build a frame for it to push up against.  You won’t get as much force out of it as one of the professional presses, but you can at least get 2-3 tons!

  4. Interesting idea!  On a side note: you can make a (relatively) cheap hydraulic press by using a hydraulic car jack.  Just build a frame for it to push up against.  You won’t get as much force out of it as one of the professional presses, but you can at least get 2-3 tons!

  5. news article says:

    Very interesting topic, regards for posting