Author Topic: Plastic 101  (Read 52237 times)

Offline Jason

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Plastic 101
« on: 11/25/12 14:49 UTC »
Plastic 101 (Plastisol)
This is not an exhaustive resource for Plastisol, but a practical guide to the plastic used to make soft plastic baits.  It may not apply to all brands, but the principals should apply to most PVC based plastics.  Where possible I address "non CCM plastic" based on my experiences.

What is it?
At a high level Plastisol is made up of 3 main components: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Plasticizer, and Heat Stabilizer.  In the case of CC plastic we use a blend of Plasticizers and Heat Stabilizers.  Below is the function of each:

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): Is the plastic.  It's what gives the worm mass.

Plasticizer: This can be many different things, but ultimately is what softens the plastic so it's not hard like a PVC pipe.  Plasticizer is also what's used in some scents, added to pigment to make colorant, and is also called worm oil, softener, etc.  As I mentioned, there are many different kinds, each with it's own unique properties.  An example is our Softener and Worm Oil, both are Plasticizers, but one produce a dry feel, while the other is oily (worm oil).

Heat Stabilizer: Heat Stabilizer can be many things (barium, zinc, etc.).  Virgin plastic contains heat stabilizer, but more may be needed based on how long and/or vigorously you heat your plastic.  I'll explain more below.

New Plastisol
Plastic still in the container (new plastisol): PVC, Plasticizer, and Heat Stabilizer do not weigh the same.  With our formula we have tried to keep the components as close as possible to prevent hard pack, but it will still separate (just like ketchup in a bottle gets water on top when it sits for a while).  With CC simply turning the box over several times will cause it to all re-suspend again.  If it's been sitting all year it may take a few more turns than normal.

What happens if I don't mix my plastic well? 

With most brands it will settle and you will pour primarily plasticizer from the top of the container.  The result is baits that are like jelly and will never setup.  The reason should be obvious given the above information, because it is not mixed well, you are getting a disproportionate amount of plasticizer (softener) vs. PVC (your formula is out of whack because you didn't mix it well).

With CCM Plastisol we've tried to minimize this two ways: 1) We formulated a Plastisol that doesn't hard pack, and 2) we made it pour from the bottom.  Does this mean it is problem free?  Unfortunately no.  It is still susceptible to separation, however, it is the opposite since you are pulling from the bottom of the container.  Forgetting to roll it over before use can cause one of two problems.  Depending on how long it sat you may not notice until you get to the end and there is more plasticizer (softener) and not as much PVC.  This will produce jelly worms (it's still useable but will need to be blended with new plastic that you don't forget to rotate).  The other potential problem arises if you forget to rotate it and the stabilizer is pulled out disproportionately.  Both scenarios are less than desirable, but can be managed by recognizing the problem and adjusting accordingly.  The ideal thing is to always rotate your box and avoid the problem all together.

The cooking process...

It is critical that all PVC be heated to 350 degrees for it to correctly cook.  Failure to heat an entire batch to 350 degrees may cause your baits to "phase" (discolor, become oily, basically deteriorate). 

During the cooking process the PVC splits, producing vinyl and chloride.  In the absence of a Heat Stabilizer the chloride will reattach itself to the vinyl, causing the vinyl to discolor (yellow - or worse...).  A key thing to note here is that a Stabilizer can only be attached to one time.  Once the Heat Stabilizer has been attached to it becomes a byproduct in your plastic.

So there are some obvious questions at this point: 

Why not just add a bunch of stabilizer so it's not an issue?  To much stabilizer will produce an undesirable plastic.  It could manifest itself as being difficult to work with, oily, smelly, discoloring, unstable, etc.

How much Heat Stabilizer should be added?  I wish there was an easy answer to this.  It depends on the amount of heat that is applied, and how long it is going to be applied (as both of these determine the amount of chlorides that are produced).  This is where experience, experimenting and skill come into play.  The key thing to note is that an excessive amount will keep baits from yellowing, but cause other undesirable effects, and not enough will allow the plastic to yellow (chlorides attaching to vinyl).

For a "typical heating process" we add enough stabilizer for it to be cooked in the microwave 3 times prior to adding additional stabilizer.  With that said, there is no typical heating process because everybody's microwave, cook top, pot, etc. is different. 

The only way "how much?" could be accurately answered would be if we all used the same equipment, at the same altitude, with the same amount of humidity.  Even the color of colorant you use can make a difference.

Keep really good notes of what you are doing so you can refer back to them for future runs.

Things to watch out for:

Microwave: a turntable is a must, watch for hot spots, heat can get away from you in a hurry, make sure it is thoroughly cooked - not just the top or middle, stir and recheck.  Towards the end of cooking make small time adjustments - 15 seconds can be a long time if you're sitting at 340...

Presto Pots and the like (inexpensive heating sources):  They are either on, or off.  They come on full blast and don't shut off until the thermostat tells it to.   This can be problematic if the plastic isn't moving, or you are working with a small amount of plastic.  Make sure and stir - a lot, or get one with a stirring mechanism.

Direct Heat (Burner type devices):  Same as presto pot, but if you invest in a device with a variable element it prevents the "blast of heat".  Another alternative I have yet to explore is using a Cast Iron pot (sounds promising but I don't have first hand experience yet).

Must haves:

A good thermometer.  I know some don't use them, but how many chemist would produce a product and not control as many variables as possible - none that are currently employed?

Proper Ventilation.  It's not a luxury, it is a must have.

A respirator and proper personal protection (clothing), again it's not a luxury, it is a must have.

Keep really good notes of what you are doing so you can refer back to them for future runs.

Additional Common Questions:

Once plastic starts to yellow can it be stopped by adding stabilizer?  Maybe technically, but not really.  Once you run it to the point it starts to yellow it's time to make it a darker color and call it quits.

When should I add glitter?  Glitter is the most heat sensitive component in the process, add it last and try to minimize the heat it is subjected to.

When should I add colorant?  You can add it at any point, but you will get the most vibrant true colors by adding it before you cook your plastic.  It is also much easier to stir in when the plastic is cold (liquid) vs molten.

How do I make my baits softer?  You can add softener (Plasticizer).

How do I make my baits harder? Most companies sell a hardener (PVC concentrated Plastisol).

Can I mix products from other companies?  I have never heard of an adverse effect of doing so, but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen.  Normally you will just end up with properties from both (mix an oily plastic with a dry plastic and you would end up with a slightly oily plastic).

Will my plastic freeze?  CC plastic is good to -50 degrees.  If you are somewhere it gets colder than that you need to move. - sorry

Max plastic temperature:  Don't be afraid to get your plastic up around 360 / 370 as long as you are good on stabilizer.  Make sure and never get it up around 500 degrees.  500 degrees is when it puts off toxic fumes.

Feel free to ask any additional questions you have.  I will add to this as other questions are asked, but this addresses the majority of them and explains what's happening when you are cooking plastic.

Tight lines!

« Last Edit: 11/25/12 17:49 UTC by Jason »

Offline Brent

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #1 on: 11/25/12 17:01 UTC »
Great INFO...not looking forward to the move ;D

Offline BareKnuckleJigs

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #2 on: 11/25/12 18:10 UTC »
Thank You Sir!
.El Gnaw.

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"Wash Your Hands"  BKJ

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Offline Denny Welch

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #3 on: 11/25/12 19:35 UTC »
Great post, Jason.  I'd suggest you add to it whenever nessasary and repost it at least annually.  You might also consider providing a copy to any first time purchasers of CC plastisol.  Lest I forget, hug your wife and call your mother.
Until next time.


Offline CrabbyBass

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #4 on: 11/25/12 22:38 UTC »
Great info Jason!  Thank you!

Offline Igor

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #5 on: 11/26/12 08:37 UTC »
Thank You!

Offline t-billy

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #6 on: 11/26/12 11:38 UTC »
 Thanks Jason. Good info. Sound advice Denny. I leave my plastisol in my unheated garage year round. The only negative effect I've experienced from this is condensation inside the jugs that causes micro bubbles. I have less than 1 gallon left to use, then I'm switching to CCM. Problem solved. Your method of packaging is definitely the way to go jason. Well done.
A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Offline andrewlamberson

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #7 on: 11/26/12 12:09 UTC »

350+ degree plastic is very HOT....and will cause severe burns.

ALWAYS wear your gloves. Closed toe shoes with socks (those injectors can drip!). Long pants are a must. Long sleeves (or welders sleeves) is a darn good idea.

ALWAYS keep a container of water case you do get plastic on you so you can quickly submerge your hand/fingers! Keep the water away from hot plastic because water and plastic do NOT mix (hot enough to cause the water to instantly go to steam). Never try to wipe off hot just smear it and make a bigger burn. Submerge in water immediately!

NEVER leave the area when you are heating your plastic because... In the very unlikely event you get a plastic fire (or smoke)...treat it like a very toxic event! Evaluate the room, get extra ventilation.

Always wear a respirator...even in a well ventilated shop.

Remember that Pressure and Speed are the enemy in any type of injection molding. Use only hand pressure. If you need to push "hard"...something is very wrong...STOP and figure it out!!! Pushing the injector hard and fast makes bad baits...and can lead to hot plastic squirting around!

Treat that injector like a gun...never point it at yourself...especially your face!!!!!

They don't call them "accidents" because you did it on purpose!!!
" You can't buy happiness...But you can buy fishing gear...and that's kind of the same thing"

Offline Denny Welch

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #8 on: 11/26/12 12:24 UTC »
All good advice, Andy.  As always.
Until next time.


Offline floridagrimp

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #9 on: 11/26/12 13:13 UTC »
So Andy, if sometimes I wear a pair of shorts and a pair of Vans or New Balance, I'm guessing I need to re-read your post!!!

seriously, everything you said is valid.. Hebrews 5:8 "we learn obedience through the things we suffer"
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Offline ctom

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #10 on: 11/26/12 16:46 UTC »
During one of our meetings Andy and I did a "plastic burn scar" comparison. I think I have a couple more than he has. What Andy says about keeping a jug of water handy is Gospel. Just keep the water where hot plastic is not going to accidently get into it. Or vice-versa.
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Offline 412BaitCo

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #11 on: 01/03/13 12:06 UTC »
This is an amazing thread! I have personally knocked a cup of plastic off my table and went strait down my leg. I felt it through jeans but was not burnt. Prior to that I had shot plastics a few times in shorts. Never again and thank goodness for jeans that day! Understanding plastisol and how it does what it does makes adjusting to issues so much easier!

Offline Denny Welch

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #12 on: 09/15/13 07:47 UTC »
BUMP..especially for you guys new to pouring baits.  It's also a good refresher for us older flatulates.
Until next time.


Offline sim

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #13 on: 09/22/13 10:53 UTC »
So - lets talk about the 'bottom of the box' - I recently finished off my first 2.5 gallon box of plastisol - as I hate to waste - I tipped the box until I got every last drop - then I pulled to bag out to get a little more.

Some of what came out at the end was not 'white' in comparsion to the rest.

THis plastic was noticably harder then all the previous batches - to the point that it wouldn't stir right or inject 'quite' right (you could tell a difference).

So - have I not been shaking the box enough? this had only been in my posession for about a month and I did give it a good tussle now and then.

When do you decide the 'box' is empty?

How often do you shake the box?

Offline Nordy

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Re: Plastic 101
« Reply #14 on: 03/27/14 07:55 UTC »
Wow a great read and great info and I learned a lot.  I am ready to try it.  Thanks.
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