Craft & Design Energy & Sustainability Workshop
Skill Builder: Low-Fume Plastic Bag Forging

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?



In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

View more articles by Michael Colombo