Clay came in, all done now. Took a couple hours, but in the end I’m pretty happy with the results.
Turns out I didn’t need to worry about the air hardening kind cracking and ruining the aesthetic. My fully novice effort with the non-hardening clay left gigantic gaps where I tried to fuse multiple pieces together. Just an awful, awful effort. Fortunately I don’t really care about the form, only the function, and it doesn’t look all that bad.
The clay smells like caramel, which is great compared to a noxious chemical smell. But after finishing this project hours ago and washing my hands thoroughly every half hour since I finished, they still kind of reek like caramel. It’s a little much.
The pros of clay are pretty sweet. If I knock one of these things off the table, not only will nothing whatsoever spill out, I think the clay itself will absorb much of the impact so that there’s essentially no shatter risk. Crack maybe, but no way will it shatter. That’s a big plus. Also, like all the options, clay is nice and heavy to hold the jars stable and prevent tipping over.
The downside to clay is the slightly greasy residue clay leaves on the grippy textured part of the metal flashlight where you hold it. Also, the flashlight casing ends in a little hole for a keychain or more likely to hang on a hook, and that keyhole inevitably fills with clay. And just in general, the flashlight edges stick to the edges of the clay hole both when sliding it in and out, and you can feel the end squishing into the clay in the bottom. None of that was good.
To solve those problems, I cut two little circles of medium weight chipboard, glued them together so it was essentially a double thickness circle, then pushed the glued circles into the bottom of the clay hole to act as a resting pad for the flashlight. Then I cut a few inches of plastic from a ziplock freezer bag to line the sides. I wound the plastic tightly around a pencil, slid it to the bottom of the hole, then removed the pencil and unspun the plastic with my finger, pressing it into the sides of the clay to try and make it stick. While not really fully sticking, it naturally wants to continue unspooling so it kind of sticks to the sides of the wall all by itself anyway.
These two measure fully solved the problems. The flashlights now smoothly and easily slide in and out with no clay residue on the sides or the end. And they kind of smell like caramel aromatherapy candles. All in all, pretty much exactly what I was hoping for. Who knows how long the clay will last, but I think the mason jars are airtight so I should get the maximum possible life out of it.
Here’s some pictures, click to expand: