Today I cleaned up the edges of the mycelium test objects and photographed them. I hope to try sanding some of the pieces to see if it is an option for smoothing. Originally, I thought it would be a bad idea to sand the pieces because I would lose the white coating on top, but it leaves a residue on anything that touches it, so leaving the pieces without the coating is not that big of a deal. I also want to try breaking the pieces to see how strong they are. The texture seems styrofoam-like, so I don’t know that it will be strong enough.
I am thinking of switching the order in which I try out shapes for the mycelium. Originally, I planned to try the most complicated seat design and then simplify it if it did not work out, but it makes more sense to build up to a complicated design so that I have something even if the next trial does not work. I think I will start by making a side table/stool, and then try a coffee table or a two piece chair design with the mycelium as the seat and back ‘padding.’ If everything works out and I still have time, I might move on to trying out a single piece chair.
It has been over a week since I last attempted to dry the mycelium. I have been checking on the air dry process, and two days ago I realized that all of the pieces are around 50 percent of their original mass and not getting lighter, so they are probably fully dry. The instruction from the grow.bio are probably for a different mycelium mixture that they used to sell, so the the final mass could be different. To check, I ordered a moisture meter that I need for the full chair anyway. It arrived today, and each mycelium piece registers as 5 percent or less moisture, which is the low end of what grow.bio says. They say that a full dry piece should be between 5 and 12 percent moisture, so everything is dry.
I can now continue the design for the chair which I began last Wednesday, and then possibly order more mycelium. I checked the sizing of the kilns at school, so I know what size I can make the chair, and I have a space to work, so I just need to set everything up.
Today I tried to bake the mycelium test pieces that have been air drying for 2 days. The pieces are supposed to be baked at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, and they are supposed to end up about a third of their original mass.
When I checked on the pieces before baking them, I noticed that some had started to yellow or turn brown around the edges. I’m not sure what caused that, but it isn’t too noticeable (the planter is not white because it was in a mold, so the color on it is from the crop waste itself. I could have let it grow in a bag for a few days to turn fully white, but I didn’t).
It didn’t go ask I planned. I ended up baking some of the pieces for an hour, and the rest for the 30 minutes, but none of them are fully dry. One piece was even damp to the touch after baking. I’m going to air dry them for another day or two, then I will bake them again. Hopefully it will work.
Today I removed the mycelium test pieces from their molds and set them out to dry. Removing the planter proved extremely difficult until I realized that hitting the mold with a mallet in the same spot over and over would release the opposite side, and I had previously been rotating the piece around.
I weighed each piece to determine their wet mass, that way I will be able to weigh them again once they have dried to make sure they are about a third of their original weight, meaning that they are fully dry.
The piece need to dry in open air for 1 or 2 days before I can put them in the oven. And once I do, I will be able to see how the final piece turned out.
Today I completed step two of the mycelium growth process for testing. I removed the mycelium out of its filter bag where it had been starting to grow for 5 days. I crumbled all of it up, added flour, and then split it in half to add the sculpting mix to half of it. I hope it was grown enough, because I left it for 5 days and the instructions said 4-5, but the outside was not all white, and it was really easy to crumble.
I filled the planter mold that I purchased from grow.bio with the regular mycelium mixture and compressed it. I was surprised that it took half of the mycelium to fill the mold when the walls are actually pretty thin. I guess it just compresses a lot. Once that was complete, I covered the mold in plastic wrap and poked holes for condensation to get out.
After that, I started working with the sculpting portion of the mycelium. I had to mix all of it in, and then I started to make a miniature model of a chair. It was good that I did this testing now, because I learned that the mycelium doesn’t stick to itself that well even with the sculpting mix. If you compress it, it does stick, but trying to get any complex shape is difficult. I has to use large curves and thick sides to make the chair, and then I just made a mound to use as a base since I could not make anything resembling legs.
I had extra sculpting mix mycelium, so I tried out making a thin sheet, which would be what a tabletop or flat chair seat would be. This was easier than a complex shape, but getting a nice circle wasn’t too easy. I also tried to make a cylindrical base as if this was a miniature table, but instead of compressing it I left the mycelium fairly loose. This was much easier, and it will be good to know if it is actually a method I can use and have it be strong.
I also made some mini items, like some bricks that may or may not release from the mold, and a sphere because I thought it would look cool. Getting the spherical shape was surprisingly difficult because every time I tried to smooth it out, the compression would release and it would fall apart.
Now that everything is covered and growing, I need to wait 4-6 days before I can weigh the objects and start drying them on October 24-26. Hopefully they are all stable.
Today I rehydrated the small batch of mycelium for testing. I now know why the instructions said to wear goggles to stop alcohol from getting in your eyes. The mist from spraying it stays for a while, and I ended up inhaling some. It was not fun. The mycelium will now sit for 4-5 days (until october 19th or 20th) before I can move on to the next step where I will crumble it up and then split half to add the sculpting mix. It is great that I can leave in the fridge for 2 weeks after 4-5 days so I don’t have to worry about exact timing.
I ordered a single order of mycelium last week, and it arrived last Friday. I still need to re hydrate it before I can test anything, but I have everything I need to begin testing. I also purchased a small mold to see how that process works, as well as a batch of the sculpting add in that should allow me to test how sculpting the chair seat could work.