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 have just been doing a little wax work at my new, comfortable (air conditioned) wax work bench. I don’t think I will be calling it just wax “carving” as I am beginning to see what can be done with a little controlled wax melting. I am so pleased to see my knowledge and skills expanding. There is …so much to do and try.
I have promised myself that this blog will not be the “how to” but will concentrate on the art and the creativity. I will show the tools and the beauty I see in the stages of the work. I see the stages in wax carving as being as much art as the finished piece. Even the tools are a form of art in perhaps their shape and how they are used.
The preliminary sketches are a form of art in my eye. That’s why I show them here. The creative process flows from the mind’s eye, to the sketch or drawing and through the hands to the tools and machines that shape the material to the dimensions of the finished piece.
Like dance and music where the process of performing is the art, the process of creating dimensional art is a form of art that perhaps only the artist privately enjoys. I intend through good photography and electronic media (this blog) to occasionally display things I see while I am working, that look interesting in whatever stage it grabs me and speaks to me. The beauty is in the journey of creation.
The step by step “how to” I will leave to Ramblin Dan’s Workshop or other places where I publish that sort of industrial process detail. In here it will be all about the art. …maybe. Only you can decide if it works for you.
My main supplier of art products, Rio Grande posts a tag line under my name in my product reviews that says, “Life is a journey”. Somehow they seem to know me.
I am proud of myself today. I made the decision to move my creative wax design work out of the hostile summer environment of my garage workshop and into the air conditioned comfort inside my home. The reason is that I am now working wax with 90 to 100 degree ambient work conditions which are not quite suitable to the medium.
In my new location I will not have to be working in the swirling air currents of the powerful shop fans that do nothing to reduce temperature. The fans disturb the gentle flame of the alcohol lamp when I am trying to work with hot wax.
All of the grunt work will still be done in the garage workshop. That includes all the metalwork itself. It’s only the master model (in wax) that will be babied while being designed and developed. I will feel and actually be, a lot cleaner with the wax design and creation being separate from the main shop. I can work on it quietly at midnight if I choose to do so and not feel that I am isolated on another planet.
I also do not want to stop what I am designing in wax and have to reset my low bench in the shop for filing and finishing silver and other metal work. At the Craft Guild the two kinds of work were kept totally separate to avoid contamination. I have to do the same.
I ordered a small jewelers bench (shown) like I used for wax work at the Craft Guild of Dallas. It will only be used for wax work so it doesn't need to be massive, but it will keep me and the wax filings organized.
I have to arrange my office for the new purpose. I have a LOT of obsolete items and books cluttering up that space that will be a pleasure to either dispose or put into permanent storage. Hmm… I think that is one and the same. The space will be better apportioned for what I am doing today and not what I did decades ago.
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!
If you have been here before and things look a bit different, I have spent a couple of days tweaking the looks of this blog website. I thought the old one was actually quite attractive. But one thing I didn't like was all the space the Leaf Picture was taking up on the main page. So I decided I should make some changes. I poked that leaf up into the header and made it significantly smaller.
The pages themselves are fairly similar to what they were. There are some color changes and maybe I lost a bit of the "class" of the old pages. I'll probably do a little more tweaking until I get it exactly right. It is kind of like painting a picture. I never know when to stop and say, "It's done!"
The menu is stretched out a bit longer with separation between the blocks that wasn't that way on the original. It's functional but that is what I may play with a little more. Of course change is good so I should probably just look at it for awhile longer...