Plaster casting is a great skill that we often introduce to kids from a young age. With the right mold and mixture, we can make casts of all kinds of imprints. But, there is now a growing interest in creating decorative items on a larger scale. Part of this niche craft is the interest in hand casting. So, what are hand casting kits, what can you make, and what are some of the best kits around right now?
What does a hand casting kit do?
The basic aim with a hand casting kit is to mix up a molding solution, as directed, in the bucket provided, place your hand into the mixture to create the mold, wait for it to set, and then pour in the plaster. Once this hardens, you can then free it from the mold and you should have a perfect replica of your hand.
What models can you make with a hand casting kit?
The opportunities for creating different shapes and ornaments are only limited by your own creativity and dexterity. There are lots of people that use these to make models of couples holding hands. They are used as wedding decorations and keepsakes to express their union. But, you can do pretty much any pose or gesture that you want. This could be something created on your own, with a partner, or as a family.
Can you cast the hands of children and babies?
You can use these kits with children and babies as long as you are careful. There are lots of powder and mixtures that kids shouldn’t be near without supervision. But, some of these larger buckets are designed for parent and child configurations. As long as the kids are good and follow direction it should be fine. There are also some smaller kits that you can use for casting the hands of babies. But, you may prefer to stick with handprint and footprint casing kits for safety there.
Can you cast your feet in these hand casting kits?
While these products are sold as hand casting kits for decoration and symbolic gifts, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to create a cast of a foot. The process would be the same, with models plunging their feet into the mixture and then pouring in the plaster. You don’t get the same room for expression and interesting models with a foot. Although, it might be fun for someone like a ballet dancer to have their foot cast.
Can you paint or decorate a finished model from a hand casting kit?
You should be able to get a really nice finish with enough detail on some of the best hand casting kits. However, this level of detail and realism should be enhanced further with some color and decoration. Creators that are good with color matching and careful brushwork could build up some realistic tones with acrylic paint. You can also paint any jewelry used in the mold, such as wedding bands, and add color to the nails. You may want to add a varnish afterward for protection.
Things to remember when choosing the best hand casting kit possible.
One of the most important things to remember when looking at pictures of kits online is to ignore the image of the cast hands. This gives the impression that this is a gesture that you will be able to create, when, in fact, you should be able to make any gesture you want. Don’t overlook a kit just because the cute image of people holding hands isn’t what you were going for. Instead, you need to focus on the practical side of the kit and the features provided. This means looking at the following aspects.
1) The capacity/quantity provided.
You need to be sure that the kit has enough materials to create the mold and cast, as well as a big enough receptacle for them. Most kits come in a big bucket, which is usually more than big enough for putting your limbs inside. The bigger the bucket, the more people can take part. There should be some guidance on the weights of the alginate and plaster powders.
2) The tools provided.
You should get more than just the powders and the bucket in the box. The best hand casting kits have additional tools to help you get the cast out of the mold. Some provide sandpaper and demolding tools to chip away and get the cast completely clean and ready for display. Some will also provide some paint and brushes for decoration. However, it is probably better to use your own acrylics for any realistic or detailed work.
3) The ease of use.
These kits could easily be overwhelming to any child unsure about the materials or a relative receiving a kit as a gift. It looks like a chemistry experiment as much as a craft kit at times. So, it helps if the company provides enough instructions for the mixtures and for using the various tools. Some are great at those with detailed guides in different languages, others provide online videos, and others are lacking in any guidance.
4) The quality of the finished piece.
It is a good idea to look at user reviews for any kit you find online as users will often share their experiences and photos of their finished casts. You could find that the results are mixed, with a minority hating the process and final look of the hand, and others with no complaints at all. If those with problems are in a small minority, this is more than likely due to user error than an issue with the mixture. But, if there are far more failures than successes, you should look elsewhere. Watch out for people talking about air bubbles and the amount of detail achieved.
1) Luna Bean Keepsake Hands Casting Kit
Luna Bean is one of those companies that you will see a lot in online listings. There are lots of different options out there with various sized buckets and suggested purposes. This one stands out a little more because of the XL set. There are 3.1lbs of molding powder and 5.5lb of plaster. It is big enough for up to four adults or two adults and four kids. The suggested pose is a series of hands clasped around each other. But, you can use it for something else. There are detailed instructions online with a full-length video, rather than written guidance. This could be a problem for some users. You also get sandpaper, a demolding stick, and a detailing pin. I think they are worth any higher cost because you get a high-end mold material that is 100% safe and hypoallergenic. Also, it is worth the effort to clean it up for the details created.
2) Wellap Baby Keepsake Hands Casting Kit
What I like about this kit is that the company has taken the time to consider all the little things that users might want when casting their hands. As with the other sets, you get the necessary mixtures for molding and casting your hands. But, there is also a plastic pad to protect the table from spills and stains, and a pair of bamboo sticks for touching up the finished product. There is also a manual with five different languages to provide clearer instructions than you might get with other brands. This large kit is meant to be enough for two adult hands and one small child if you want a family piece. There is an XL version if needed. You then get 450g of the alginate molding powder and 1200g of the plaster casting powder. Most users are happy with the results and agree that the process was simple enough.
3) Pendle & Birdie Hand Casting Kit
This is another kit where there is a clear goal in mind with the end result. This can be a good idea when gifting these kits to other people. Instead of your parents or siblings wondering what on earth they have, they can see the clear aim with the image on the box and instructions. The fold-out plan for the instructions is a nice touch. This is a common holding hands kit. What I like most here is the effort taken to help makers present the finished cast as best they can. There are the necessary tools for getting the detailed cast out of the mold and also a black stand as a contrast to the white plaster sculpture. It is unclear how much of the alginate and plaster powder you get, but it seems to be enough. You also get the bucket to plunge your hands into and some gloves for cleanliness.
4) Discovering DIY Hand Casting Kit
The main selling point with this alternative kit is that it comes with paint. Granted, the paint is not of the best quality or in a large amount. But, there should be enough here to create a nice metallic bronze finish. This will give the finished cast the look of a more high-end bronze statue – to a point. It is also something not offered by a lot of top companies. The set also includes enough of each powder and a deep bucket to get the mold right past your wrists. The decision to add some sample powder is a brilliant idea for first-time users who want to make sure they get the consistency right. It is a shame that other companies don’t do this. You also get sandpaper and gloves. But perhaps not so many of the cleaning tools. The biggest complaints come from those that tried and failed, sometimes through timing issues with the mixing process.
5) Perfect Craft Hand Mold
This next set does things a little differently and I think that while it won’t be that great for adults, teens and kids may love it. You don’t get the same approach of plunging your hand and wrist into a bucket of mixture. Instead, there is a shallow tray to pout the alginate into you can then put your hand or foot palm down into the mixture and set the cast with the plaster. There are 6oz of alginate and 14oz of plaster. This should be enough for these smaller hands. You aren’t going to get the same interesting gestures or decorative appeal. But, it can be a great option for younger users that want to learn how these processes work. This explains the addition of the educational booklet and paint.
6) Luna Bean Baby Keepsake Hand Casting Kit
Finally, we have an option for babies that comes from that popular brand Luna Bean again. This is basically a miniature version of the other kits and a great way to get full casts of baby’s feet and hands before they grow up. You get two lots of alginate powder and two lots of plaster powder. This means you can do a session with their hands and then another with their feet at a later date. You need your own receptacle for the mold and there are mixed results because of the fast drying time. Some people didn’t have their child in position in time and the mixture hardened. But, those that are successful with this set love the level of detail created and the chance to finish the cast with a sealant. You can choose between a matte or gloss finish. There is also a version with that bronze paint.
Choosing the best hand casting kit for your needs.
There are different routes you can take here. Some of these sets are ideal as gifts because of the focus on displaying the finished model and the easy instructions. Others are better for families that want to experiment because of the larger quantities of material and the big buckets. These provide the opportunity for more creativity in family poses and sculpture. Then some are a little more fun for younger users with the simple processes and decorative elements. Take your time to get a set that fits the reason for getting one of these kits and take your time to understand the process for the best results.
I’m a stay at home mom with our two kids. I really enjoy doing crafts with my toddler however, that is typically a challenge with her limited attention span, messiness, and desire to always have clean hands. So, I’m always looking for ways to make crafting an enjoyable experience and fond memory for the both of us.