Thursday, September 18, 2014

On the Mold-A-Rama Map! (Well, Almost)

Korinthian Violins is now the proud owner of our very own Mold-A-Rama machine!
Although, technically, that's not quite true because Mold-A-Rama is a trademarked term used by the Mold-A-Rama company which operates machines in the Midwest.  Machines not leased and maintained by that particular company tend to go under the name "Mold-A-Matic" (which is how most of the machines we saw on our Florida trip were labeled), but they are all vintage machines from the early 1960s.  They are hard-working antiques that still delight many.  They certainly delight us!

Our machine was salvaged from the group of neglected and damaged Mold-A-Matics that we encountered at the Knoxville Zoo.  I essentially said in my blog post about our Knoxville visit that this seemed to be where Mold-A-Ramas went to die.  If you'd asked me when I started blogging what I might achieve through this medium, getting the Mold-A-Rama machines replaced at the Knoxville Zoo would not have ever come to mind.  And yet, when people who care about these machines saw my post, wheels were set in motion to remedy the situation, and as a result I was offered the opportunity to buy one of the neglected machines "as is" at a steep discount.

How could I say no?

Well, any reasonable person could say no.  My husband could have easily said no.  But the poor man is married to me and OH MY GOD WE COULD HAVE OUR VERY OWN MOLD-A-RAMA MACHINE AND I WANT IT SO SO SO MUCH!!!! and he loves me and here we are and we have zero advertising budget now for the store from here until forever but I don't care.  We only have to sell about, I don't know, 2000 plastic figures to break even on the thing, but that could happen, right?  Sure.

In the meantime this is so cool.  We get to be on the Mold-A-Rama map!  Or the Mold-A-Matic map.  Or whatever. 

The grand plan is to eventually get a custom mold made of a violin so people can actually make their own little plastic violin at the violin store.  Won't that be amazing?  I still have to finish sculpting the little figure so I can cast it in plaster and send it to someone to make the new mold, and that could take some time (seeing as I have real life-sized violins here that need attention).

But for now our machine will offer a mold of a Corythosaurus.  It was the closest sounding thing to a Korinthian Violin I could find, plus dinosaurs are fun, and Aden assures me that the Corythosaurus counts as a musical dinosaur because the crest on its head was a sort of resonating chamber.
First attempt, kind of goofy
Mona proudly holding our first in-store Mold-A-Rama!
It would be fun to have the machine set up in an easily accessible place, but our store is just not big enough.  As much as Mold-A-Ramas are fun, the violin store needs to be a violin store, and it just doesn't fit.  If we had a lobby, or a front hall waiting area....  But we don't.

So we rented garage space behind the store where the machine can live (and even be plugged in when we want to warm it up before use), and we will wheel it out to the front sidewalk on nice days and have special "Mold-A-Matic Saturdays!" every once in a while.  I can't wait.

Unfortunately we will have to wait just a little longer because "as is" meant kind of a wreck.  The machine when it arrived off the truck was dirty.  Like, not oh let's dust it off dirty, but caked in mud dirty.  And the sides were off and there are cracks, and there was a hole cut in the front panel for taking dollar bills but that mechanism was removed so we can only take coins, so I ended up filling the space with Bondo.  There has been much scrubbing and scraping and painting.
Machine arrives on a big truck in mid-August
In the garage, still wrapped up

Our custom sign waiting to be installed
Quinn scraping paint
View from the back.
Mona sanding Bondo on the front panel
Ian has had the complicated job of tracking all the wiring and figuring out how it all works.  The crazy thing is pneumatic, hydraulic, it refrigerates, and it heats.  We've learned that the plastic that goes into it is clear!  The color is added in a pot right underneath where the figure is formed, so now we know that the light blue panther we got at the Milwaukee Zoo when we first started our collection was just a diluted version of the dark blue panther we got a year later when they must have refilled the color pot.  It's interesting to learn how things work!

Anyway, it's cleaner now, it's painted, and we can make it go for a little while before it pops the breaker in the garage.  (We should have better luck when it's plugged in out front.)  Currently the dinosaurs it makes are all weird and have holes in them, so we need to solve that issue before we wheel it out for people to use.  (That, or declare it a special feature.)  Also the coin return currently drops the coins inside the machine, so we need to install some kind of slide or funnel that directs the coins out the coin return toward, you know, people who want their money back.

We're aiming for sometime before Halloween to have it all ready to place out front on a nice fall day just to add a little fun to the street.  The violin store has been really busy lately with actual violin work, so there hasn't been much time to spend out in the garage poking at our new machine.  But as the rental season rush dies down we're hoping to get back out there and make it ready for the public!

Want to start your own Mold-A-Rama collection?  It's fun.  Ours has taken us to interesting places and introduced us to some lovely people.  Someday soon you can even start at our violin store!  Then move on to the Milwaukee Zoo, the Brookfield Zoo, the Willis Tower, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Henry Ford Museum....  The machines even work in Knoxville now.  So many wonderful places to visit as part of a Mold-A-Rama adventure!

And just because we were insane enough to go from simply starting a little collection of plastic figures to owning a machine to make our own in the span of a year, doesn't mean anyone else is likely to develop such an obsession.  But who knows?

I just don't want to die having been practical all the time.  Buying this machine was absurd.  But my kids will always be able to say that they had the kind of parents who fixed up a Mold-A-Rama machine simply because it sounded fun.  Why not?  (Our own machine!!!!  Ha!)


  1. OMG!!! OMG!!!! OMG!!!! This is the best thing I have read in FOREVER!! I seriously cannot believe you got your own machine. That is beyond totally beyond cool (I sould like a valley girl but am so excited I cannot form complete sentences) You guys are such an amazing family and I can't wait to see the violin mold. This will put a permanent smile on my face all day :) Yay!!!!!

    1. I know, isn't it too fun?! You should have seen how giddy the kids were when it made that first dinosaur. They just kept saying, "Wow!" It's going to be so cool to have out front. (Just wish we had a permanent place it could just be, though. But maybe limited appearances on the street will keep it exciting for people!)

  2. you guys are awesome parents! This is so cool.

    1. I think it's a better testament to our parenting that it isn't working yet. Hard to find time to work and parent and still do weird projects. But it's been fun to tackle as a group! Mona and Quinn have put in a lot of time sanding and cleaning and spray painting. I like that it's something for all of us.

  3. This made me smile. Sooo awesome!! You guys will have so much fun with that!!!

    1. Just another stop you'll have to make if you ever vacation in the Midwest!

  4. Gosh, your kids have the coolest parents! If the don't already know that already, show them this comment! And whatever you do, don't show my daughter this post ;)

    1. I was just thinking I have the coolest readers! Nobody's saying we're nuts so far. (Now I'm thinking when I'm old and retired I want to restore a carousel... I should not be trusted with "free time.")

    2. We actually have a place here in Austin called Kiddie Acres where this guy has put up 10 or so restored rides that kids can enjoy for 2-3 bucks a pop. He even has a couple of little ponies he gives kids rides on. How are you with ponies? If you're really going to restore a carousel, you may as well go all out and start a mini theme park ;)

  5. I kept meaning to get here to comment (when I was on my computer and not my phone--posting from my phone is insanely difficult and tedious), and FINALLY I have a spare moment. Whew.

    I'm absolutely BEYOND chuffed with this and am hoping we can do an exchange of some variety or another because I would love a corythosaurus to get my M-A-R collection started, and I would *definitely* need a violin.

    Squee! This is SO exciting!!