Monday, May 2, 2016

Carving Material Review: LifeMaster Crystal Block

LifeMaster Crystal Block
So, bumbling my way through the internets looking for carving materials (to further update my comparison table), I came across a cool-looking set of carving materials called LifeMaster Crystal Blocks. I tried to find anywhere where someone has tried using this stuff and couldn't find reference to it anywhere.

Cost-wise, even though this had free shipping from where I bought it, it was pretty pricey and probably in the top five in terms of cost. Hopefully I like it!

My first thoughts when they came in the mail were pretty positive.  The set of 10 blocks were all various colours and came in individual packets and felt great...


These really do look cool. They are transparent and let just enough light through them to give a cool effect without making them specifically clear (like the Jack Richeson stuff).   I put together a quick little gif image near my window so you can see how transparent it is in the light (my craft table doesn't really cut it).

Size and Weight:

Each block comes in a 5 cm by 5 cm block (although, when measured, some where slightly smaller - so be aware of that if you're looking for a precise size) and is 1 cm thick. Weight-wise, they feel pretty average for carving material - they weren't noticeably heaver or lighter than you'd expect.


Initially I was concerned that the material wouldn't take a heat transfer (ack! I hate that!), but it was fine.

Heat transfer worked well... my alignment skills suck though.

Crumble Factor:

Zero.  There was no crumble with this material whatsoever.  The elastic nature of it prevents it...


If you hadn't noticed, I always start with the "hard" part, which is text - and for which I almost exclusively knife carve.  Ugh.  It was hard.  The material isn't hard but the material realllllly doesn't like to be sliced, so way more force than I was expecting to use.  An interesting feature of the translucent nature of the material  is that you can sort of see where you have pierced the material by way of white-ish cuts showing through.  Look here:

But pulling the pieces out of the material was a pain.  Really hard with a tight elastic hold - I had to bust out a pair of tweezers to pull the parts out.  I was feeling saucy so I put together a video of the process for the state name, sped up to 2x speed:

I tried to gouge carve the building and failed miserably.  Like the knife carving, this material really doesn't like to be sliced... And with to knives in the shape of a v? No way!  It was really hard and I gave up and returned to knife carve most of the building.  The only part of the final image that was gouge carved is the waterfall, which is haphazard and if you look at the final carve closely, you can see ragged edges :(


This one of the parts of this material that shines.  I don't know what it was about the surface, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the stamp registered with the inks.


Meh. It was really difficult to knife carve and almost impossible to gouge carve.  I can't really recommend this stuff to fellow *carvers*, however, once past the carving phase, the material gives pretty good impressions and are fun to use.  Visually, they are cool for being translucent... Basically,
if you want to try something new for fun and to give you a good reference point for your go-to medium, try this one.

 Check out my comparison chart if you'd like to see how this one ranks to the others.  Happy trails!