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!