Wife Gloria has most of the silver items I make (so far) but she needed something with her name on it. She liked the Tessa heart but I decided to do a ring. This ring is all hand carved, no machines. A ring was the first silver I ever cast and now this is only the second ring. I should do more.
I had a run of bad casts trying to master the vacuum assist lost wax process. I have solved the problem. (I hope) The picture on the left is two separate Sterling silver castings I made last Sunday. As you can see they came out perfect. Happy, Happy.
The center is two tags I made using CAD, CAM and CNC. This is two separate versions as I was experimenting with the code. The owl is the family crest animal. The tags are about 1″ x 2″ x 1/8″ and each weigh a few tenths of A gram over a troy ounce. About $17.00 of Sterling silver at today’s rate.
The last picture is just a couple of geegaws I and my daughter made. The acorn cap is my daughter’s. I think she is planning to make a glass bead for the nut part.
I have created several Celtic theme silver Lost Wax Castings because they may look a bit complex, they are still rather easy to carve. I have also kept the pieces fairly large as that keeps it easy for me to hold in my hands.
This is the second carving of this design. The first one I did in green wax but it was lost in an incomplete cast. I made this duplicate in a couple of day and used Wolf’s gold colored wax. It’s a bit harder wax but that was not important in this second try.
You can see the wax and how it was sprued for investment. The next picture shows it after the cast and disinvestment. The last is with the jump ring installed and all polished up. The second picture where it looks all white is after it comes out of the acid pickle. It is totally clean and the white is how silver looks before it is polished.
I am referring to lost wax casting in Silver.
It hasn’t been a year yet but it is getting close. That’s when my adult daughter and I decided to take a course on wax carving and lost wax casting. We picked the training because it is something I have dreamed of doing for many years. What a joy to take the class together.
After that exposure I knew this was something I could really enjoy with my present health, keeping my hands and mind busy and being able to work while sitting down, for the most part. I decided and vowed to acquire all the tools to do the job at home.
I love hand tools and the detail work, and we bought what we needed to start the class. But now I also needed a few big items to do it all myself.
The first was the kiln that had to go to at least 1400 degrees. Of course I studied everything available. That’s part of the enjoyment, the education process. The Paragon (brand) kiln I bought will easily go to well over 2000 degrees. That gives me enough heat to try other high temperature crafts. This was the biggest expense. I think I invested well.
Next was the casting machine. Initially I was going to go centrifugal casting. I may still go there. But I definitely need a vacuum pump and chamber to degas the investment. There are some alternatives to vacuum degassing, but vacuum is the de facto standard. Plus it works with the vacuum assist casting process.
Centrifugal casting has been put on hold for now and my first good cast proves vacuum works. Of course I need a lot more good casts under my belt. I see clearly that centrifugal is the best choice for small lightweight and intricate casting. It is on my eventual want list. With centrifugal, the force is with me or at least works for me.
The last big hurtle was the comfortable place to do the many hours of wax carving. Since I brought it inside out of the Texas outdoor climate I am like a pig in a mud puddle, totally immersed in what I am doing and loving every minute of it.
Right now I am still refining my skills at wax carving. I will be exploring deeper in to CNC carving as my fingers start to misbehave. But I will take what I can get from my hands for as long as I can.
All the other investment in tools and material has come in small increments over the last 10 or so months. This first successful casting has a lot of time, effort and cost behind it. But all that will be amortized over a whole lot more production. It really isn’t the cost per item that I think about. It is all about the doing.
It demonstrates why handmade art does not and will not compete with mass production as far as cost per piece. The price of silver is only one factor in a long list of total value. Just knowing the person who has made an item adds tremendously to the intrinsic value. Owning something made by a factory assembly line is not the same fuzzy personal feeling as something produced by an artist, craftsperson or personal friend. For me as I have written elsewhere, I think what I make for family and friends provides an heirloom that includes a bit of spirit of the creator, me.
I haven’t posted here for awhile. That’s because I haven’t been making very many, uh… let’s say NO, artsy items for awhile. I have been busy but in other ways.
Here is the latest addition to my art studio. It’s a mobile cart where I will do (but haven’t yet) high temperature heating and melting of metals and where I can do lost wax castings using the vacuum assist method. Centrifugal casting could be an alternative but not if this process works good.
Details of the cart build can be found HERE.
I have several wax carvings ready for investing and casting. I also have a whole lot of wax projects ideas I want to start carving. I feel that I have to have the system ready for “loosing” the wax I have been carving. This is a big step to that end. I have the kiln ready and some flasks and investment material on order. Also a lots of other “bits and pieces”.
I find there is a lot of preparation and tooling required when getting fully involved in lost wax casting process from start to finished item. But I love every bit of it!