DIY Breakaway Sugar Glass
We don't use sugar, but that doesn't mean that you can't...
One of the most often asked questions that we receive in the breakaway business is "Are they made from sugar?"
While it's true some breakaways used to be made from sugar, and some indy projects still utilize sugar for their props, all professional breakaway suppliers use plastic resins to create quality professional breakaway glass. Many people still refer to breakaways as sugar glass. The material that we use is a proprietary blend of organic and synthetic plastic resin monomer and polymers that are blended and colored in precise proportions to produce a breakaway that has a controlled look and performance characteristics. We have, in very special occasions, created breakaways from a sugar glass recipe when a custom project required that the result be completely edible, but that's pretty rare.
You CAN make an object from a sugar based mixture, and depending on your needs, it may even work adequately for your purposes. I'll show you how to make a sugar glass beer bottle, as well as give you the information that you'll wish you had BEFORE you decided to try to make a glass breakaway from sugar glass. Keep in mind, all NewRuleFX.com breakaways are NOT MADE FROM SUGAR, there is no practical way to produce a consistent, safe, quality result from sugar based materials, and there are many problems dealing with sugar glass as a casting medium.
Let's just say you really want to make a sugar glass beer bottle. Maybe it's for a science project, or a fun decoration of the holidays... No problem, let's do it! I'll show you how and even give you some insider industry secrets that you can apply to your process to get the best possible results. It's a pretty straightforward process and relatively simple. It takes a good deal of time, and patience, but let's go for it!
So for this tutorial, let's assume a few things.
• 1. You want to make a simple breakaway bottle or small piece of flat glass.
• 2. It's not too humid where you live, (Humidity will cause your breakaway bottles to ALWAYS be sticky) I'm not sure what the magic number is but if you live in a high humidity place, be prepared for stickiness!
• 3. You've got access to a kitchen and basic cooking supplies.
• 4. You have access to and know how to mix and pour silicone mold rubber to make a proper bottle mold. (Check out our production partners page for suppliers if you need help with this)
• 5. You plan to use the breakaway bottle almost immediately after making them.
• 6. Your not trying to build these for your show that opens tomorrow...Really.
After reviewing this, take a good look at Number 6. If you are reading this thinking that this will be the solution for your play that goes up in a day, or even a few days. Stop. Call our shop, and just order the bottles you need from our site. Trust me. It's a lot easier, you'll have much better results and you will actually save an enormous amount of time and even money. Making breakaways is an art form and that is further complicated adding the element of cooking to your art! It can be done, but don't let the internet fool you into thinking this is the best solution to saving money on your props budget when a breakaway bottle is needed for that key scene. I cannot tell you how many people have tried the sugar glass method until the very last minute only to repeatedly fail, then call us in a PANIC. Please, have a backup plan if it's a key element.
You create sugar glass by melting ingredients in a pot over a stove until it reaches a certain temperature and all the moisture has been cooked out. You then carefully pour this molten mix into a negative mold of the object you wish to cast. In this case a rubber bottle mold that you have made and properly prepared. The mold is filled all the way up, allowed to cool enough to create a shell of material on the inside surface of the mold, then the remaining molten material is drained out. The mold is allowed to cool, then the bottle is very carefully removed and then immediately used.
Let's Stop and Think About Safety
One of the biggest reasons while I hesitated including this on our site is safety. When YOU make a breakaway bottle, I have no control how you made it, how thick the sugar glass became, whether it was made correctly and many other factors. Forget, for a moment about the really, really hot melted sugar mixture you'll be working with, to fabricate them but consider the person whose head might be the target of such a prop. You can seriously and permanently injure a person with a breakaway bottle. When we manufacture a breakaway, we have several controls in place to regulate the makeup and end result of our products, plus years of experience working with breakaway glass. We won't ship a bottle that's a lethal weapon. If you plan to use this bottle in contact with an actor, please stop and consider purchasing a professional breakaway product. If not from us, then from any other professional supplier. The cost of a prop is much less than a trip to the ER for stitches —or worse. If you're just going throw this bottle against the wall and use eye protection while doing it, then carry on! You have been warned and NRP and NewRuleFX.com cannot be held liable for the use of any of the information provided herein.
Prepare Your Mold
If you are going to make a small sheet of flat glass, then you can use any large, flat metal baking sheet. Be sure that it is actually flat, as many baking sheets do have slight curvature which can cause uneven thickness.
If you plan to make a bottle or other shape, then you will need a carefully built silicone or urethane rubber mold with a large opening into which the liquid sugar can be poured into, and then drained back out. Keep in mind that the mold needs to be able to opened completely in a manner that will allow the cured prop to be removed without breakage. The rubber needs to be able to withstand the temperatures that it will be subjected to with no damage.
Whichever mold you have, be sure that it’s level and in an area that is suitable for pouring very hot material. In addition, use a non-water-based mold release on the surface of the mold to allow the sugar glass to release cleanly from the mold.
Have a pair of heavy leather gloves or oven mitts, and of course eye-protection is a must.
Make your Sugar Glass
Assemble ingredients below as well as a candy thermometer and a large, sturdy saucepan.
- 3-1/2 cups white, granulated sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
- Food coloring - as desired
Combine sugar, water, syrup and Cream of Tartar into heavy saucepan. Set stove to medium to high heat. Set candy thermometer on pan, but don't allow it to touch the base of the pan. Stir slowly but constantly. Allow the temperature to rise slowly. The mixture will boil. You want to allow the water to slowly boil off. Too fast and the sugar will caramelize and turn brown. Allow the mixture to slowly rise in temperature, and keep in mind that the temperature may not rise evenly. The water needs time to completely evaporate before the final rise and it get's to temperature. When candy thermometer reaches 300 degrees (hard crack), add in the food coloring (only a few drops). Stir in slowly to prevent bubbles then immediately pour into mold or pan.
Much of the quality of your props will result from tiny adjustments to the cooking speed, and careful pouring of the hot sugar into the molds. Bubbles introduced at this step will distort the quality of the product. This is one of the most difficult parts of the process, even for us professionals. We have many, many different techniques, carefully built temperature controlled molds and other trade secrets that allow us to produce clear, sparkling breakaways. —We’re not going to tell you everything of course!
Be sure your molds have a liberal coating of mold-release or cooking spray. When pouring the sugar class into an open mold, pour slowly and along the edge to reduce bubbles, once the mold is full, slowly tilt the mold to drain the material back out, the sugar that sticks to the inside edges of the mold will harden and provide a delicate coating which becomes your prop.
Allow to cool fully before removing from the mold. This can take as much as one hour. Once removed, be sure that there are no parts where the thickness exceeds 1/8” (for safety) and then your prop is ready to use.
Be sure to clean up every small broken piece after use as the sugar glass will rapidly melt down, even under normal temperatures, and become a sticky, insect-attracting mess.
If you are looking for a breakaway without the mess and fuss of sugar glass, and want precision, professional quality results, simply purchase any of our SMASHProps Breakaways from our site at NewRuleFX.com
Have fun and be safe!