Tooling Aids for Die-Cast Cloud Car:These rather odd looking pieces are tooling aids for the Twin Pod Cloud Car from Kenner's ESB line of die-cast vehicles. They are similar to hardcopies in the sense that they were made by pouring a casting agent into a mold taken off an original pattern; but their role in the production process is quite a bit different. These two pieces (there is a piece corresponding to each half of the vehicle) probably served as patterns for creating electrodes, which would be used to in the creation of the steel production molds.

In order to achieve this process, a pantograph would be used to trace the tooling aids and copy their shapes into blocks of graphite. These blocks would then be used as electrodes for an EDM process. Electronic Discharge Machining is a process where a steel block (in this case, the mold) is submerged in an electrolyte solution on the machine. The electrode is slowly plunged down onto the steel, which "blasts" away at the material until what remains is a cavity in the shape of the electrode. The electrolyte solution helps carry the charge from the electrode to the steel and also helps carry the metal "dust" away from the work surface. Over a substantial period of time (probably 10 hours in this case) what remains is a block of steel that has this exact shape cut into it. All the dust-sized fragments of metal that used to be in this cavity are captured in the machine's filtration system and looks much like sludge. Multiple electrodes are used since they do wear out over time, but the result is a detailed shape in steel that did not require traditional cutting methods.

Here's another shot of the top half. The material this thing is made of is heavy and blackish, and it has an odor to it that is not unlike that of petroleum. It was made at a 1:1 scale, meaning it's about the same size as the production toy.

This is the bottom half. The process described here is by no means the only possible method for producing a steel mold. But it's one of the methods that Kenner's vendors employed during the vintage era. This is one of the few tooling aids of this kind that I've ever seen, and it's certainly great to find one in a private collection.

Description: Chris Georgoulias and Ron Salvatore
Photo: Mike Mensinger
From the collection of Mike Mensinger