This section is from the "Henley's Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes" encyclopedia, by Norman W. Henley and others.
Plaster of Paris at times sets too rapidly; therefore the following recipe for toughening and delaying drying will be useful. To calcined plaster of Paris add 4 per cent of its weight of powdered marshmallow root, which will keep it from setting for about an hour, and augment its hardness when set, or double the quantity of marshmallow root powder, and the plaster will become very firm, and may be worked 2 or 3 hours after mixing, and may be carved and polished when hard. It is essential that these powders, which are of different densities and specific gravities, should be thoroughly mixed, and the plaster of Paris be quite fresh, and it must be passed through fine hair sieves to ensure its being an impalpable powder. To ensure thorough mixing, pass the combined powders through the hair sieve three times. Make up with water sufficient for the required model or models. Should any of the powder be left over it may be kept by being put in an air-tight box and placed in a warm room.
The marshmallow root powder may be replaced by dextrin, gum arabic, or glue. The material treated is suitable while yet in a soft state, for rolling, glass-tube developing, making plates, etc.
Plaster of Paris may be caused to set more quickly if some alum be dissolved in the water used for rendering it plastic. If the gypsum is first moistened with a solution of alum and then again burned, the resulting compound sets very quickly and becomes as hard as marble. Borax may be similarly employed. The objects may also be be treated with a solution of caustic baryta. But it has been found that no matter how deep this penetrates, the baryta is again drawn toward the surface when the water evaporates, a portion efflorescing on the outside, and only a thin layer remaining in the outer shell, where it is converted into carbonate. This at the same time stops up the pores, rendering it impossible to repeat the operation. It was later found that the whole mass of the cast might be hardened by applying to it with a brush made of glass bristles, a hot solution of baryta. To prevent separation of the crystallized baryta at the surface, the object must be raised to a temperature of 140° to 175° F. To produce good results, however, it is necessary to add to the plaster before casting certain substances with which the baryta can combine. These are silicic acid in some form, or the sulphates of zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, aluminum, etc. With some of these the resulting object may be colored. As it is, however, difficult to insure the production of uniform tint, it is better when employing salts producing color, to mix the plaster with about 5 per cent of quicklime, or, better, to render it plastic with milk of lime, and then to soak the object in a solution of metallic sulphate.