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I wanted to create a lab jar for my Mad Lab in which to display my alien lifeforms in (among other things like heart and brain) but didn't want to use any actual water in the jar. I wanted the jar to exhibit qualities of having water though, like image distortion and magnification. Couldn't find anything on the web so came up with this idea while shopping in a Beverly's Fabric store and stumbled upon a Mighty Bright FlexiThin Page Magnifier. After examining it, I got the idea for this effect. I think it works pretty well, and better in person than in the photos since you can't move from side to side in front of the jar and see how the contents of the jar looks. It's a pretty nice and realistic effect...and very simple to achieve.


Here's what you will need if you want to create the jar below:

-A plastic Pretzel jar like the one I used with the labels removed (30 oz. size of Shultz pretzels from Big Lots shown*).
-Mighty Bright's FlexiThin Magnifier, Page Size.
-5-inch alien figure (from the 99 Cent Only Store).
-91% Rubbing Alcohol and some paper toweling to remove the laser printing from the jar.

To suspend the item inside the jar you will need:
-Thick stock cardboard to help better support a hanging item.
-Scissors.
-Pencil for tracing inside line of jar cap lid.
-Nylon thread or fine fishing line, thinner the better and less noticable.
-Tape or anchoring means to secure the suspension line to the lid area.





*I originally used Anderson's pretzel jars for this but they have since changed their jars to a square container. Found the Shultz pretzel container was the same as the old Anderson one. I've seen this at Big Lots as well as CostPlus World Market. This jar shape works perfectly with the magnifier I specified as it fits snuggly into the bottom of the jar and the top of the magnifier hits the jar where the mold of the plastic has an edge to it.


Here's the Magnifier I used:



Not all magnifiers are created as thin as this Mighty Bright FlexiThin one. It is extremely bendable for inserting and wrapping around the inside of the jar. I love it for this project.


Insert the FlexiThin Magnifier in a landscape (rather than vertical) position inside the jar, smooth side of the magnifier against the jar. Push it down into the bottom, notice that the top edge now lines up perfectly with the molded top line of the jar. IMO it makes this area look even more like the top of the water's edge.



Here's a top down view of the magnifier in the jar. As you will see it won't completely surround the inside. This was not a problem for me because of the way I wanted to display it but you could always add part of another magnifier to the back inside of the jar if you really needed to I suppose.



Here's a look at the jar with one of the alien's placed inside. The "water" has magnified it making it look much larger than the original size and if you could see it in person as you walked around the jar from side to side you would notice that the fresnel lens effect of the magnifier really does create that distortion that looking through a glass of water has.




I'll come back later and post instruction on suspending the item from the top of the lid, don't have the thread available to finish this as it turns out, but I think you guys can figure it out. BTW don't put your thread line directly in the middle of the jar lid. You want to suspend your item further towards the back of the jar lid since this will enlarge the item even more and overall give you a better "Fake Water In the Jar" effect.

Hope you like this effect. If you have trouble finding the Mighty Bright FlexiThin Page Size Magnifier, you can order it directly from the manufacturer. If you are making several of these large specimen jars, I think they give a slight price break. As I mentioned I originally saw this item at Beverly's Fabric but shortly after buying it there they switched to a cheaper and thicker product. I didn't find the FlexiThin carried at Michael or Joann's either unless that has changed.
 

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Typical Ghoul Next Door
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That is a really great idea!! I'll bet if you added a small colored light in the lid, it would really look nifty!
:)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Didn't mention this above, but being plastic this is an very lightweight and more or less unbreakable jar. The Shultz jar I used measures about 10-1/4 inches high to top of lid. The diameter is just under 6 inches. The inside opening of the jar is 4-1/2 inches.

The Page Size magnifier can be found on Mighty Bright's website at: http://www.mightybright.com/Magnifiers/FlexiThin-Page-Magnifier

I found that the 91% rubbing alcohol mentioned above in the supplies worked very well with a little rubbing for removing the lasered "buy by" date on the pretzel container. The Flexithin Magnifier also has some printing on the top and bottom edge but I have yet tried to remove it with the alcohol.

If you want to add color to your "water" effect to create more of a formaldyhde-look, perhaps using yellow cellophane adhered to the front of the magnifier would work well (not placed on the fresnel "ridged" portion--that side goes towards the inside of the jar).

Of course having a clear bottom and sides to the jar permits bottom and back lighting and I'm sure you could rig some kind of lighting in the top jar lid as well. I would recommend continuing to use the shiny lid liner that comes with the pretzels to help reflect any lighting inside the jar. You could always glue it to your sturdier cardboard newly cutout reenforced lid liner.

I plan to use these jars on a lab shelf that will put it slightly higher than most kids. From that angle they won't be looking down on it. I was thinking that if you needed to have something more table-top level an additional magnifier cut out in a circle to fit inside and on top of the edge of the sideway one might work. I would try to position the circle cut centered on the fresnel's center point.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
BTW if you guys use this technique to create your own Mad Lab specimen jars, I would love it if you guys would post your prop jar pics here in this thread for everyone to see.

I could see this technique being applied to a small aquarium tank holding some floating lab experiment as well. The Mighty Bright FlexiThin as I said works really well for use in round containers because of it's flexibility. I think the Page Size is the largest they make however. There are other magnifiers out there that are larger in size and thicker and these might work well for applying to smooth surfaces like a rectangular aquarium tank where you don't really need the bendability of the Page FlexiThin.
 

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Far Away Eyes
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Thanks so much. I used real water last year and everything kept fogging up! By the way, how did you get the glue from the labels off the jar? I am having trouble with that.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks guys for the nice words.

As for the label, the Shultz pretzel jar has a label that can be pulled off slowly and in one piece. At least that has been my experience with all the jars I've bought. I think I had the same experience with the Anderson pretzels but like I mentioned they seemed to have changed to square jars. I clean off any sticky label residue with the 91% alcohol (not the 70% version, it makes a difference). Gotta love labels that come off cleanly. For stubborn more paper like labels like TJMaxx for example, I find success with either the alcohol or sometimes some of that orange oil liquid that is meant for label removal. Sometimes it really does take a lot of work and time though without ruining the product.

One of the other reasons I like this container is that it has a raised dimpled bottom surface. I would estimate a little over 1/2-inch of open space under the very center middle. A low profile LED light might fit or battery operated mini string lights would definitely fit in the space with the cord and battery pack running off to the back some where. Somewhere I have a few of those low submersible individual LED lights (weddings and such) that might fit in the space. Not sure if i can find one handy around the house right now. If I do, I'll let you guys know if it works there.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
If I make it to Big Lots this weekend I'll pick up a couple of jars of pretzels and work on display jars for some body parts and post a few photos.
 

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Celtic Spirit
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I've never seen those page magnifiers before. What a great idea! :)

Thanks so much. I used real water last year and everything kept fogging up! By the way, how did you get the glue from the labels off the jar? I am having trouble with that.
PIB, when I was making my witch's jars, I had a lot of labels to remove. Some of those little suckers are so tough to get off. Easiest way I found was to just soak the jars overnight in hot soapy water. Then remove any glue residue the next day with GooGone.
 

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Far Away Eyes
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Thanks Tannasgach, In the meantime, someone suggested using WD-40 and then wipe off with a cloth. It worked like magic!

Now I just need to get the page magnifier. This is a great project!
 

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They call me HeebieJeebie
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I've gone the WD40 route on labels and it does work well. And GooGone? Works great for removing large quantities of paint off skin (we just recently helped my sister paint the fence around her horse pasture and that's what we used to clean up!)

This is a great idea, Spookie! Not having liquid in the jar makes it easy to store in the off season, too!
 

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Wow, Ghost of Spookie, what a great idea! Your alien jar looks great. I don't have a need for a prop like that this year, but I'm definitely going to keep my eyes out for those magnifiers for future use. Ha, my eyes are getting bad enough that I should just probably use one of those magnifiers for everything I read!
 

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Far Away Eyes
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I ended up ordering two of the magnifying pages as suggested by GOS, after searching every store and finding none. Got the brain and the alien at DollarTree. I think my two jars came out great and I am really happy to have seen this idea and how to make them, so Thank you GOS!!

031.jpg
 

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An excellent effect. Those lenses really make the jar look like it is filled with some sort of liquid. Light and easy to store, with no risk of spilling anything. Brilliant!
 

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I think I might have to try this one! I made jars with the blacklight "glow" water in them this year but I wanted to try and get some of the gel-silicone stuff. That stuff is kinda pricey. :eek:
 
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