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Hand molds are sculptures made from a part of the body, usually a hand or a foot, and are cast as a way to create a keepsake. Though the term "hand mold" expresses a specific body part, hand molds are also used to create sculptures of feet, pregnant bellies, faces, babies, and can be used to cast a mold of pet paws. They can even be used to make death masks.
Hands molds are usually made by preparing a mixture in which the hand or other body part is placed. The mixture solidifies into a firm yet flexible cast so that the appendage can be easily removed. Next, another mixture of plaster or wax is used to fill the mold. Once this hardens, the cast is cracked open and the new hand mold is exposed. The result is a three-dimensional mold of whatever body part was cast. Because the mixtures are frequently used on children, material used to make hand molds is often times made of alginate, a material which is made from seaweed.
There are both hand mold kits and professionals available who can produce these figures. Molds can be made out of anything from adult to children's appendages. At funerals, molds can be made of the deceased. Parents have been known to have molds made of themselves holding their deceased child. It is even possible to cast a hand mold of a terminally ill loved one so that after they are gone, their memory can live on.
Hand molds can be especially appreciated in the neonatal intensive care unit where it can be used as a memento of the child’s stay or a learning tool. Alginate is able to be used on small babies because it is non-toxic and flexible when it dries. If a child has a disease that distorts the shape of the hands, a hand mold can be used as a visual aid in teaching those going into the medical profession. Hand molds have even been used in fund raisers where they are cast in bronze and sold.