Cool Stuff Being Made: How Silly Putty Is Made

By November 18, 2006Cool Stuff Being Made

sillyputty.jpgIs there any substance in the world as timeless and versatile as Silly Putty? We think not. This “classic toy” that can be stretched, rolled, bounced and used to lift images from newspapers has been around for over five decades. It has even earned a spot at the Smithsonian’s American History Museum in Washington, DC as a classic piece of Americana.

Invented accidentally by a GE scientist, the substance was popularized and marketed by Peter Hodgson in 1950. Purchased by Binney and Smith in the 70’s, it is made in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

This video — courtesy of the good folks at the Pennsylvania Cable Network — shows Silly Putty being made in real time. From the mix of clay and silicone oil and olaic acid, you’ll see it move from a 270-lb mass, then cut into 7-10 lb. pieces and ultimately made into the one ounce eggs that you buy in the store. (Silly Putty addicts can even buy a 5 lb. chunk directly from the manufacturer.) Some 6 million Silly Putty eggs roll out of this plant every year, and are exported all over the world.

And, lest you think innovation is only for high tech products, Silly Putty now comes in a variety of colors and includes a color-changing variety and several glow-in-the-dark colors as well. Its uses today include taking lint off of computer keyboards. It was used by the crew of Apollo 8 not only to stem boredom but also to hold down their tools under weightless conditions.

On the official Silly Putty website, you’ll see all sorts of information, including the winners of their “50 Silliest Uses for Silly Putty” contest held in conjunction with their 50th anniversary in 2000. The winner? “Form Silly Putty into a ball, throw it at the stock market listings and invest in the stock it lifts off the page.” Hey — it’s as good a system as any other.

Click here to watch this week’s video of cool stuff being made, grab an egg of Silly Putty, give it a squeeze, a stretch, a bounce and feel the manufacturing vibe.