For our rock and mineral group’s Holiday Party White Elephant Auction, a friend of mine put some quartz in a snow globe. It was such a simple idea that turned out beautifully. I wanted to win it so badly, but it got locked out before my number ever rolled around. So many of us were fighting over it, my friend offered to present a class on how to make one.
I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with an idea for mine. My first thought was a solar system model, but there is no way I could fit the whole solar system in a tiny snow globe.
No one said I couldn’t use a bigger container, so I ordered a 128oz Clear Plastic Jar with Lid with a leakproof lid. I realized it would be like making a ship in a bottle and I was not prepared for that kind of frustration.
I then ordered a 12.5″ x 8.5″ x 9″ acrylic box. About the time I was stocking my shopping cart full of several gallons of distilled water, it occurred to me that there is no way that plastic box would hold up to all the water I would need to put in it. That’s when the snow globe part of the idea ended.
I had previously ordered some Blackest Black paint for my fluorescent mineral display, so I took the leftovers and painted the inside of the acrylic box. (NOTE: it helps tremendously to use Blackest Black 2.0 or matte black as a primer for Blackest Black 3.0.) Then I added some fluorescent powder to some metallic paint I had on hand and painted the sun and some cosmos-looking details.
I needed a way to attach the planets to the box, so I ordered foam, acrylic rods and discs to glue together and then glue to the box. Then I had the idea to buy fishing line, tie it around the spheres, and attach the fishing line to small eye hooks screwed into flattened wooden dowels. (I took a mallet to the dowels to get them to lie flat against the box and glued them in with E6000.)
That went about as well as you would imagine. I’m sure someone has figured out a way to tie fishing line around a sphere, but I do not have the patience to be one of them.
My mom said she thought the box wouldn’t be large enough and I should use the cubbyhole I had intended for my fluorescent display. After a few days, I agreed with her and did a much better job painting the background scenery.
In the meantime, I ordered a sodalite sphere that was perfect for Earth. The listing for it labeled it as 22mm, so I based all of my calculations on sizes I needed for the planets, sun, and moon on that. It turns out it was actually 26mm. I ordered 22m spheres for Venus and Earth, but didn’t care for either one and ended up with the original spheres. This meant new spheres for everything else.
Originally, I wanted everything to light up under UV light, but trying to find spheres of the correct color and size were difficult. Adding in the requirement for UV reactive made it impossible.
|Object||Multiplier||Relative Size||First Pass Size||Adjusted Relative Size||Final Size|
- Mercury: This was easy. I picked an 8mm Sodalite bead and stuck with it the entire time.
- Venus: Started out with 1″ Uranium glass, switched to 22mm Carnelian Snakeskin, and then back to the Uranium Glass.
- Earth: Started out with 26mm Sodalite, switched to 22mm Sodalite, and then back to the original
- Moon: I originally wanted to go with Selenite because of the association with the Moon, but the color wasn’t right. I chose a 6mm Sodalite Syenite instead.
- Mars: This was the most difficult sphere to choose. I started out with 20mm Red Jasper and then realized Mars should be half the size of Earth. I switched to 12mm Red Jasper, but I was still searching for UV reactive spheres and wanted to try something else. An 11mm Synthetic Ruby definitely glowed, but it was transparent and that would not do. An 11mm Rhodonite sphere was too pink. It was at the 11mm Thulite that I realized I had the size wrong for Earth and needed 13mm. Finally I ordered a 13mm Brick Red Jasper (I forgot I had the 12mm or would have used that).
- Jupiter: The 55mm Pistachio Green Calcite sphere was too small compared to the size of Saturn’s rings I was going to make, so I ordered the 65mm Rainbow Onyx one. It is sooooo much better.
- Saturn: I started out with a 40mm Yellow Fluorite that looks brown with no lines, but in direct light is yellow with lines. Then I switched to a 45mm Banded Calcite that did not work with the rings I made since I used a 50mm cylinder for the interior. Lastly, I found what was advertised as Afghanistan Jade aka Serpentine, which I thought only came in green.
- Uranus: The 30mm Fluorite is a lovely teal color, but ended up being too dark. The 32mm Amazonite was a lovely color, but the pattern on it did not look right. I settled on a 32mm Beryl.
- Neptune: The 32mm Blue Calcite was too crackly. The 30mm Labradorite was too dark. I chose the 30mm Blue Chalcedony, which I actually purchased first.
- Pluto: I know, Pluto got demoted. I was a kid in the ’80s when it was still one of the nine planets. 4mm is not a lot to work with. I started with Picture Jasper, then Pink White “Turquoise,” and finally Breccia Jasper.
I purchased acrylic display stands to set the larger spheres on and painted and tied the fishing line through the smaller beads.
My sun started as a 2 3/8″ reconstituted amber sphere. The look was perfect, but it wasn’t much larger than my Jupiter and that just wouldn’t do at all. So, I bought a 4 inch and then 5 inch silicone sphere mold, put the amber sphere in it, added mica powder, amber chips, and amber dye and did my first resin project.
It took me three tries before I was satisfied with the results. I glued it to a thin plexiglass sheet and my dad screwed it into the wall. It looked like a large nipple on the sun I had painted. (I did not take a picture.)
With the last of my resin, mica powder, and amber chips, I made an 11.8″ sun out of a tray mold. It looked like a pizza, but when you turn it over, it looks fantastic. It completely covered the sun I painted and makes my asteroid belt look wrong, but it was definitely better than the half sphere.
Next I decided I needed an asteroid belt. I had a bunch of fluorescent rock pieces and used a sledge hammer on some bigger rocks that I could live without.
I bought some silicone cake pans, cut the 8″ and 4″ in half and attached a piece of silicone to the ends with construction adhesive (E6000 is a miracle worker, but it will not hold two pieces of silicone together). Then I filled the area between the two cake pans with rocks, rock dust, meteorite shavings, and resin. It ended up being much too wide for my purposes.
I took the 6″ cake pan, glued it into the 8″ pan and put two little pieces of silicone where I wanted to half ring to end. I never needed to cut them in half at all. Also, the rock dust doesn’t do well at all. It just makes the whole thing glow. The second one was perfect…until I moved everything to the cubbyhole and it was much too small.
I bought a 10 inch silicone pan and used it with the 11.8″ tray mold to make my next three asteroid belts. The first didn’t set properly, the second leaked and I broke it while trying to cut off the extra. The third was perfect…until I made the sun larger. Now it looks like it’s going through the sun, but the shelf isn’t deep enough to make it bigger.
My dad cut the acrylic rods I purchased and glued the discs and asteroid belt to it, so it will stand. I took the part of the broken one and placed it in the back to represent the Kuiper Belt.
The toughest part of the whole project was making Saturn’s rings. I searched and searched for something I could use and no one really makes anything either fully done or to make your own. I asked someone on Etsy, but they never really got back to me.
Then I asked my best friend from high school, who is an engineer, to help me with an idea. She was a little busy and said she’s get back to me, but I was too impatient. I took the TinkerCAD tutorial, planned out a silicone mold and a resin mold for the project.
I ordered a 10-piece Dream Catcher ring set and a 5 inch metal cake pan. I put the 65mm, 80mm, and 120mm rings in the cake pan and poured silicone over them. I hadn’t realized while I was making the suns that it is much easier to put the mica powder in the resin before you pour and I made a mess of my first silicone mold. Also, tiny rings are hard to fill, so I ordered some syringes.
Then I placed the three complete rings in a 6″ silicone mold with a 50mm cylinder in the middle. It took me three tries to get that right too. And I couldn’t figure out how to make it work with a 45mm sphere, so I ordered one last sphere for Saturn.
Eventually, I also decided to add in the dwarf planets and moons that were the size of Pluto or larger. At these sizes, it’s difficult to find the perfect colors, so I went with beads that were relatively inexpensive (for the most part) and within 1-2mm.
The finished product isn’t perfect, but it’s the most complicated project I’ve worked on in quite some time and I learned a lot about craft-making.
|Callisto||Scorzalite Spinel with Muscovite||0.378||9.828mm||10mm|
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Last Updated on 8 November 2022 by Angel Doran