With the announcement of Worbla’s Mesh Art, there were a lot of questions about how it compared to Wonderflex. I spent the last week doing some tests to see for myself, and show anyone curious where the value in using Mesh Art over Wonderflex might be, depending on your project.
(Personally, this was a fun experiment, as many years ago I was one of the first cosplayers to use Wonderflex, long before there was a smooth option. So part of this writeup will also be talking about differences I have found between the ‘old’ Wonderflex, if you use it before the smooth version, and the current ‘smooth’ line.)
Mesh Art takes better complex curves than Wonderflex. Wonderflex will take a complex curve, but it just does not stretch enough, and so more extreme curves need to be darted.
(Interestingly I found that smooth Wonderflex takes curves less well than the older product.)
(Above: you can see how Mesh Art takes a smoother, fuller complex curve. This is without any additional smoothing or ‘smushing’ of the overlap or darts.)
Wonderflex and Worbla’s Mesh Art are very very close in strength. I find that, with extreme effort I could tear Worbla’s Mesh Art, but it does not warp. Wonderflex is more difficult to tear, but warps in extreme. This is with a D ring, single layered plastic heated and cooled, and twisted back and forth.
In comparison, Finest Art and Black Art both tore, though Finest Art did take more effort to tear.
Mesh Art and Wonderflex both will take a great deal of ‘pull’ weight. I could not year either with a direct pull, though Wonderflex did warp slightly, it was very minor.
Strength on Curves:
Difficult to photograph, as I don’t have easily quantifiable weights or tools, but have a short video and some books. Basically? Mesh Art is noticeably stronger, even after stretched over a curve.
Wonderflex also stayed indented and had to be pushed back into shape from the books, and was slightly warped from doing so. Mesh Art did not, even after the larger stack.
Wonderflex and Mesh Art are similar to duct tape – when cold and unused (before heating/shaping) they can be torn easily along one of the grids, but not along the other. Once heated and cooled, the activated plastic is much stronger!
When I used the oldest Wonderflex, I found the adhesive to be very strong and leave residue all over my hands. Wonderflex Smooth does not leave that residue, which is great! But I found it also doesn’t have quite the same adhesive tackiness. Mesh Art is stickier/tackier.
That said, I didn’t find either was better than the other. Mesh art holds slightly stronger – I was able to pry Wonderflex up from Finest Art and from Black Art, but only at the edge and not all the way. It also took all my strength to do so.
The mesh in Wonderflex really does make it difficult to engrave detail, recycle scraps, or make ‘noodle’ details. It’s possible, but I would personally never use it for details except in a real pinch. The ‘smooth’ side tears when sculpting into, and the mesh does not want to indent.
Mesh Art can be sculpted and detailed the same as Finest Art, and scraps can be smoothly recycled.
‘Noodles’ for Mesh Art and Wonderflex:
Above: Mesh Art will take organic curves much easier than Wonderflex, though not as well as Finest Art or Black Art.
Originally, I tested Mesh Art’s ability to flex against the other Worbla plastics.
Above: showing how far I could bend Black Art, Finest Art, and Mesh Art.
Above: While Wonderflex does not snap on curves, it does ‘crease’ and hold the crease. Mesh Art I found would return to its original shape.
Both products have a smooth side. Wonderflex has a slightly more pronounced texture when stretched.
Above: Wonderflex painted without primer.
Above: Mesh Art painted without primer.
If you overwork your plastic, you probably know it can end up very rough. These pieces were pushed as far as I could take them. Wonderflex gains a much more pronounced texture when overworked and warps easier.
Above: Left, Wonderflex. Right, Mesh Art.
Just to see how well each handles heat, I overheated Mesh Art and Wonderflex. One of the most interesting things I found was that Mesh Art can be slightly smoothed down again after overheating with a wet finger.
Above: Top, Wonderflex. Bottom, Mesh Art. Far right side of Mesh Art is slightly smoother – was smoothed with a wet finger while warm.
One thing I really like about Mesh Art is how easy it is to smooth edges. As shown in the sculpting scraps, you can really make edges disappear by heating and smoothing – working with a wet finger for edges, and over a smooth work surface for ‘noodles’ or rolls, helps.
Above: Mesh Art noodle, left edge allowed to keep seam, seam smoothed to the right.
Above: Worbla Mesh on the right, Wonderflex on the left. Wonderflex still has a small noticeable ‘edge’ where the overlap has been added, Mesh Art the overlap can be smoothed completely.
Mesh Art retains heat longer than Wonderflex, giving you more working time. It also is just hotter on the fingers – more like Worbla’s Black Art! So keep that in mind when working to either let it cool a bit, use gloves, or keep a bowl of water handy for work.
Because Mesh Art IS so sticky, you really really want to work over a surface that is either a silicone sheet, or a piece of parchment or freezer paper. Wax paper and aluminum foil can still stick (and I nearly ruined a $100 cutting board as the sculpted mesh ‘leaf’ stuck so well it had to be cut away in chunks.
If you need a thermoplastic only for flat reinforcement (straps for armor) or minor curves, Wonderflex still does the same work it has always done – it’s an excellent, strong non-toxic thermoplastic.
If you need a strong non-toxic thermoplastic that will take complex curves very well, and has the added benefits of allowing scrap recycling, surface detail sculpting, more strength or resistance to warping, a longer working time and a far smoother surface when overworked, overheated or just fully stretched, consider Mesh Art as a replacement to Wonderflex or a complement to your usual Worbla Armor and Props.