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September 26, 2012 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Mrs. hamandcheese teaches children education programs. About dinosaurs. She needs your help with a specific crafty art activity teaching kids about bugs stuck in amber. Suggest us some amber-like glue solutions!

She is developing a program for grade 2 in which the kids will make their own insect caught in prehistoric amber. She has the plastic insects, but is having a tough time finding glue or epoxy or some other resin solution that will do these things:

- dry quick and transparent (preferably 30mins or less, but she is open to having something that the kids will be able to take away within 24hrs)
- relatively cheap
- accept some dye to make it look like amber
- be something safe that the kids can pump themselves
- no crazy fumes for the kiddies

She has tried Elmer's glue (too long to dry), nail polish (bad idea), Castin' Casts Resins (made for beaders -- but is too finicky). We've thought of hot glue, but it's not something the kids can do themselves.

She would love to be able to put it into a pump that she can disguise in a fake prehistoric "tree" that the kids can go up to, and do a pump or two pumps to get their bug covered.

Any ideas?
posted by hamandcheese to Education (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Jello? >30 min setting time and a bit jigglier than amber, but otherwise fits the bill. Bonus: edible.
posted by googly at 4:58 PM on September 26, 2012

Gelatin but the Knox unflavored kind made with less water than regular jello, so it's more solid when set.
posted by headnsouth at 5:01 PM on September 26, 2012

Oh yeah, get sugar free orange flavored jello, do it to the "jigglers" recipe (half the fluid). Individual cups that the kids put their bug in, and an adult dispenses the jello/amber; it sets pretty fast.

Maybe even find some edible bugs? I wouldn't put plastic bugs in anything you're going to let the kids eat - they will end up in someone's mouth and maybe down the gullet. But there's got to be something that could work.
posted by lemniskate at 5:12 PM on September 26, 2012

On the much longer time frame (though possibly solid enough to handle earlier) might be a melt-and-pour soap base. Not sure it would work with the pump though, and that is a great idea.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:18 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by rhizome at 5:22 PM on September 26, 2012

How about Golden Tar Gel? It is a very viscous, clear acrylic resin, intended for use as a medium for acrylic paints. It could be colored, if mixed with a small amount of yellow and/or brown. It will dry overnight, depending on how thick of a layer is poured over the bugs.
posted by fancyoats at 5:28 PM on September 26, 2012

You could always use water, which the kids get to mix food coloring in, and then freeze it for them. Obviously not permanent, but might be fun for kids, is cheap, and is definitely safe.
posted by itsamermaid at 5:39 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hmm. I think rubber cement would work wonderfully, however, not sure if this would be too toxic or not. You wouldn't even really need to add colour.
posted by SpecialSpaghettiBowl at 5:54 PM on September 26, 2012

Lo-temp hot glue, the kind that comes out of a gun? The craft-store stuff is generally cloudy, but crystal-clear versions are out there; it appears to be readily dyeable; and it solidifies at roughly the same volume it occupied when liquid (which seems like it'd be the key problem with a lot of solvent-based options). The downside is that it wouldn't really be safe for kids to be on the bug end, but you could certainly do a setup where they positioned the bug, then walked around the back of a tree-mounted glue gun to squeeze the trigger from a safe distance. Might want to try a cold mold (inverse ice cube tray, maybe, so it'd melt away when done?) to speed the hardening process.
posted by Bardolph at 6:09 PM on September 26, 2012

What you want is polyester casting resin. Art hobby shops sometimes carry it. The stuff is clear and very thick. You use a waxed paper cup and mix it with a catalyst and whatever dye you want.

Then you pour it into a mold, and it will eventually harden. How long it takes is mostly a function of how much catalyst you use, but I don't think that half an hour is practical. Overnight is easy; it always takes less than that.

Dumping a dead insect into it would be really easy, but it would trap air next to the bug.

I did a bunch of messing around with it when I was in 4th grade. I think it would be fine for 2nd graders, as long as they don't spend any time trying to whiff the catalyst.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:22 PM on September 26, 2012

I love the jello/edible bugs in amber idea!

You can get gummy bugs to embed in the "amber."

Would want to be educational, though. Maybe have a drop of "tree sap" smeared onto a greased cookie sheet (molten jello, spread with a spatula, let cool). Drop gummy bugs on tray, then tip the tray over. Gummy bugs landing on jello skid marks get stuck, the rest fall off. Pour almost-ready-to-set-cool jello on top of bugs.

If (lemon flavoured) jello proves to be too tricky, maybe try agar with a little sugar and food colouring. I think 1% w/v should give a reasonable consistency both during handling and congealed consistency. You can pour melted agar into a jar, and place jar into a pail of (tap/faucet) hot water. Swirl every so often. Once it starts sticking to the sides a little, it'll set fairly quickly once you pour it but you might have to experiment a bit.
posted by porpoise at 8:38 PM on September 26, 2012

Whoops, sorry, wrong link. gummy. bugs. I'm sure there are tons of other brands. I've seen lots of gummy bugs at my local candy emporium.
posted by porpoise at 8:41 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: UV cure polyester resin? Maybe something like this or this?

Similar stuff I've used for ¾"~1" thick pieces takes literally minutes to completely set in full sun, though tinting will affect that. If your local craft shop doesn't a range of tubes or bottles to try out, have a look in surf, fishing, or off-road shops.
posted by Pinback at 9:24 PM on September 26, 2012

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