What types of work surfaces will I need to work with Friendly Plastic? It a common question and a good one - especially if you are just starting out. The good news is no matter where you live in the world, you're likely to find a suitable work surface.
Keep in mind that many work surfaces have a texture to them and when the Friendly Plastic is heated, it will take on this texture. Try to find a suitable surface with little to no texture.
Flexible work surfacesFlexible work surfaces such as those listed below are a good choice when you need to melt your plastic on a movable surface so that you can bend it and shape it into desired patterns and shapes. The mats can also go directly into a cold water bath and remove easily once the plastic has been cooled.
What is a hot sheet? I was recently asked this question as this is one of the tools suggested in Jana Ewy's Friendly Plastic 101 book. These are non-stick work surfaces that are teflon coated. They are thin sheets that are coated with teflon. They can be cut to a variety of sizes and shapes using a pair of scissors. Ideal if you are using a melting pot to heat your Friendly Plastic as they can be cut to the same shape as the inside of the pan. They also have very little texture.
Silpat Baking Mats: These are professional quality silicon mats. They can be found online and at a variety of kitchen supply or baking supply stores. They tend to be a little more expensive than teflon sheets but they will wear much better. These are excellent to work on as hardly anything will stick to them - not even 2-part epoxy - which makes cleaning of these mats a breeze. They will however get stained if you use alcohol ink - mine have, but this color does not seem to transfer.
Aluminum foil: Liz Welch uses aluminum foil most of the time that I have seen her work with Friendly Plastic. She uses it to float the Friendly Plastic on top of while its heating in water. Sort of a "float your boat" kind of technique. Aluminum foil also stretches a tad which is great if you are creating puff shapes inside cutters or want to create hollow forms. Coat the aluminum with a drop of oil as this will help the plastic not stick
Cookie Sheets: Many non-stick cookie sheets are available at department stores and kitchen supply stores. Specifically I use a "little gold pan" from Nordic ware - which is essentially a cookie sheet made for the size of a toaster oven. I find these at Bed Bath and Beyond near the toaster ovens. Cookie sheets are a good choice because they come in a variety of sizes.
Base Work SurfacesGlass Cutting Boards or Ceramic Tiles. - Coat these surfaces with a small amount of baby oil. Using glass boards and ceramic tiles is a good choice when working with the heat tool or using the oven method. The surface below wont melt, but will absorb some heat allowing you to have additional time to work on your design before it cools. If the tiles are small enough, they can go directly into the oven to melt and bond your pieces.
Butcher Paper/ Freezer Paper - while this isn't typically used directly for Friendly Plastic, I'm including it because its a surface that I often use to cover my table with. One side of the paper is coated and helps things not to stick to it. I generally tape this down to my work table and lay my non-stick sheets on top. When the freezer paper gets to messy or dirty, I just discard and get another clean slate. The opposite side of the freezer paper has a matte surface that I also find useful in photography -just a little extra snippit of info there.
Below are other articles we've written to help you work with different aspects of Friendly Plastic. What's your favorite technique?
Linda Peterson is compensated and endorsed by AMACO. The guests features may or may not have any affiliation with AMACO.