Silver purchase prices have risen. It was in the ~$14/T oz. range and is now near the ~$18/T oz. area, for casting grains total cost delivered in my studio. Market price is always lower than purchase price. I just restocked with 10 ounces as this is the lowest cost break point weight for Sterling. But it also means I will have to adjust my finished goods pricing to follow the market. This is about a 20% increase in the price.
I have paid over $22.00 dollars per Troy ounce less than two years ago. The price varies constantly. For me it is what it is and the cost of my work will vary with my supply. I don’t fine tune it too closely with the market as that fluctuates every day. I use a fair estimate and definitely cover the cost of a new stock material purchase. 60¢ a gram is a good round actual cost estimate.
Small silver cost changes right now are not too critical when cost is lower. Silver is not presently the major expense against operating supplies and expenses and reasonable (but pitiful J ) labor earnings. A more expensive metal like gold is opposite. A few grams at $28/gram (14k) can radically change the cost of a project.
The total value of silver or any precious metal jewelry is not all in the cost of the metal, but it helps. Sometimes a lot.
I have ordered a sculpting product called Cx5 and Cx5s made by Adam Beane Industries (ABI). I have been aware of it for several years but had no motivation to try it. Now I am wondering if it will be a suitable media for doing the small carvings I have been doing in wax.
The material is heat sensitive in relation to it firmness or actually hardness. It can be worked much the same as wax but also has characteristics of clay. It seems to be a product that is a bit out of the mainstream for hard core sculpters. But that could be because it is more of a cross breed between clay sculpting material and hard wax carving. Any change in work habits are hard for hardcore artist, used to their standard processes.
In any case I have ordered some and will give it a workout. I submitted a question to the maker of this product asking if it could work directly in lost wax casting replacing the burnout wax. (NO REPLY) Cx5 will be of less interest to me if I have to do an intermediate step of creating a wax master for the burn out.
I have an adult son and daughter that like to work with clay so I asked them come over when it arrives and try a sample. It's claimed to be a great product for making masters for resin casting. Since I like to do that as well as my silver work, perhaps he and I can do some larger pieces than I normally do in lost wax silver casting. It is also suitable for any large scale metal casting too.
After 19 days I finally received my shipment of Cx5 and Cx5s. No comment from ABI for the delay and in fact the ABI website had listed my order as unpaid for 15 days. That concerned me so I used the PayPal customer support system and communicated my concern to ABI. They shipped the product nearly immediately.
Cx5 is much harder material than Castilene and I am excited to give it that workout I mentioned above.
I will review the product over in Ramblin' Dan's Workshop and certainly display any creations here in Dimensional Art Org.
These are two of the Celtic Three Dog pendants I recently cast in sterling silver. The background was darkened using Midas “Black Max” solution. A wax master for one of them is shown in the previous post. I made two pendants (using two wax master carvings) in a single pour in one flask.
I am confident now that I can make just about anything with lost wax casting. I have the process working very well and I have a good repeatable routine. I’m looking now for new designs and objects (subject matter) for casting.
I think I am going to get committed because of this lost wax mania. Mania is a mental illness marked by periods of great excitement, euphoria, delusions, and over activity. I have all the symptoms. Maybe it is a bad thing. To me it seems like a good thing and I really enjoy the “high”. Better than drugs I assume.
I often studied and thought of doing castings. Maybe because I was born and raised in a steel making town. Pour molten iron into a mold and out comes a new iron part. And it could be done over and over again.
I was first exposed to lost wax casting when I was a pre-teen and reading and studying all the model train magazines and information I could find. I was not so interested in running the trains but I sure loved reading and studying all the scratch building projects. Many of the small detailed metal parts were reported as being made by the lost wax casting process.
There must have been a lot of folks doing it as a cottage business to the model railroad market and maybe an offspring of the jewelry lost wax casting. The model parts were usually brass or white metal. I am sure it was done on spin casting centripetal machinery and perhaps something like plastic injection molding system.
I built some models from rather large white metal or zinc castings where I had to file off the flash, but I am not sure of the exact casting process.
On a small scale, how I am casting today could be used. But what I do is not anything near commercial production quantity. It’s quite an investment if all I wanted to do was a few model train parts.
I am in my comfort zone right now, just casting the pretty things I like to make. I really like working with the wax with both the CNC and manual carving. No subject or design is off limits, but it does have to fit within my tools and abilities.
Silver is my metal of choice right now, but I have experimented with brass casting. Just depends on what I am making. So much to try and do, it could drive me crazy…
I am selling some of my silver work now. I started lost wax silver casting in September 2013 It is apparent that after two years I cannot keep up with demand. My business teaching tells me I should then raise my prices! Ha! No, that is not a good move at this point for me.
My problem is I am presently working with producing only one off wax originals for every piece. What I need is a wax duplication ability. CNC helps duplicate some pieces but I make a lot of hand carved pieces too. As far as I can tell, my customers are not concerned that every piece is unique from scratch. They like the design and if it is already sold, they want me to make another one. So that signals a duplication system to me.
I am not (yet) a famous metalsmith so I feel I can’t expect custom designer prices for my simple but good looking one-off silver work. I am ready to take the next move of production into wax injection molding of my pieces so I can produce multiple copies without starting from scratch.
Rubber molds are a process unto themselves. I have studied the process for many years and have made a few rubber RTV molds for casting of pewter. I have some actual experience.
There are two major methods. One is vulcanization of rubber with heat and a pressure press. The second is RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanization) using a chemical liquid mix and pouring into a mold cavity. RTV is broken into several varieties of curing so there are many paths to consider.
The end result is a master piece encased in rubber that is cut out with a scalpel. The empty rubber is then put back together and used as a mold into which hot wax is injected. (I am keeping the explanation simple.) The injected wax hardens in a few minutes and is then used in the lost wax casting process, just like the hand carved wax. The cooled injected wax, if done properly, is nearly perfect since it was created from a fully finished master and needs very little preparation for casting a duplicate. A tremendous time saver, except for all the time required to produce the rubber mold.
Today’s rubber molds can last and be used for as high as twenty years. So that is the benefit of doing it once and forever making duplicate waxes for casting another piece. This escalation in the Lost Wax process is inevitable so I have decided it is time I prepare.
The molding system is essential, but The process also requires a method of injection of the hot wax. Usually a temperature controlled pressure pot and a special nozzle. There is a bunch of options with injection equipment. I saw one fellow using what looked like a large hot glue gun or in the jewelry trade, a Matt Wax gun. It worked for small pieces. Too small for my needs.
I have decided that 2016 will be the year to take the next step with wax injection molding. I am not intending a commercial production, but large enough that I can build some inventory or at least be able to reproduce some of my pieces on demand. As long as I enjoy the challenge and I think it’s fun, I’ll expand the production. All it has to do is make me think I am doing something of worth. Worth is not always defined in dollars but dollars do keep the process going. Ha!