Sunday, 5 June 2016

30 somethings #3 - Casting (metal)

I'm so behind with everything - blogging, reading blogs, housework...okay I don't really care about the housework  so just the other stuff. The reason behind my tardiness is number three on my '30 somethings to make' list. I've always wanted to make a miniature and have it cast in metal.

This, I thought, would be the perfect opportunity to make something that isn't readily available to buy and would benefit from being made from a heavy material.

My idea? - industrial lamps shades

I thought making the master to be cast would be pretty simple since I know how to use a lathe but different materials require different techniques. I bought a block of wax after reading what seemed like a million articles about lost wax casting and began shaping it on my lathe. 

It's messy and nerve-racking shaving away the wax. You have to keep in mind that the shape needs to be strong enough to hold its form but thin enough to look realistic in 12th scale. After about three hours without blinking and fingers cramped from holding a chisel, I found marks in the wax that I just couldn't clean up. And I tried everything...a lighter, soldering iron, sandpaper, even the back of a spoon?!? (I don't know why either). With one master already ruined, I decided to contact dear Catherine for her expert advice. Catherine is a super-duper, bone fide metalsmith after all and I really wish I had asked her advice at the start because the answer, in case you're wondering, was tights/stockings/pantyhose. Yeah, nylons held against the wax as it's turned removed the fine chisel lines.
A week later I had three okay-ish masters. I found Jewellery Casting Scotland, who are a small casting foundry in Argyll and promptly bombarded them with questions. You never know, their advice could save me months of work and be something as simple as stockings. The reality was simpler still. 'You don't need to make a master out of wax' I was told 'you can make it out of practically any material' Apparently I could have made it out of acrylic, (which I prefer), and the foundry make a vulcanised rubber mold of it. From the mold, they can make an almost endless number of wax replicas to be cast in metal. 
...'kay then, I'll know for next time.
Another week passed waiting for the casting process and this is the first that I've polished up. (cast in nickel silver)

Despite spending a lot of time cleaning the wax master, the cast still needed sanding to rectify cock-ups on my part. I love the fact that it's actually metal, that the weight of it pulls dolls house wiring taut so it looks realistic and the fact that I can spray it with countless, colourful combinations of enamel paint. But the best thing of all? I can get exact copies made without having to look at another stick of wax

Have a fab weekend
Pepper =0)