You may be surprised to learn that metal casting has been around for several thousand years.
But when you hear how simple the process is, you may not be so shocked.
If you’re interested in making your own jewelry, you don’t need to set up an expensive factory with computerized machinery to manage every step of the process. Instead, you can learn the ancient art of lost wax casting and create your own handmade jewelry. With a few pieces of equipment and a list of steps to complete, you can soon be involved in making the very pieces of fine jewelry that you see in stores.
Here are the basics of how it’s done.
- Make a model. Start by making a wax model of the piece of jewelry you want to create. You can make basic ring bands, patterned brooches, or “baskets” to hold stones. The designs can be as simple or as intricate as you want, but if you’re creating delicate items, make sure the wax you’re using is stiff enough to hold the shape and malleable enough not to break off.
- Prepare for molding. Once the model is complete, attach it to a wax rod called a sprue (which then attaches to a base of some sort). This will keep your model suspended while you are making the mold around it (so that no part of the design is lost).
- Make a mold. Place the entire construction inside a container (leaving plenty of room on all sides) and then fill it with the molding material. Plaster is the most common material for the mold, although some people prefer fiberglass or other materials
- Remove the wax. Once your mold has set, you need to create a tunnel leading to the wax, being careful not to damage any part of the interior of the mold (as soon as you discover wax, stop tunneling). From there, you will place the entire mold into an oven or kiln on a rack (over a drip pan) so that you can melt the wax within, causing it to drip out and leave the interior of the mold empty and ready to be filled with your casting materials.
- Pour the metal. Once the mold has an empty chamber inside, you are ready to pour your metal in. You’ll need to heat it until molten (usually in a forge or with a blow torch) and then pour it into the tunnel you created earlier in the mold.
- Cool and crack. As soon as you’re finished pouring the molten metal, you’ll want to cool it as quickly as possible to achieve a firm molding. You’ve probably seen representations of blacksmiths doing this with tongs and a bucket of water, and your process is going to be very similar. Once it has cooled completely, you can carefully crack the plaster mold and retrieve your jewelry from within.
- Polish and perfect. You’ll want to remove the jewelry from the sprue, then grind and polish it until all imperfections are erased and it is shiny and clean. And now you have designed and created your own piece of jewelry using the lost wax casting process.
About the Author: Leon Harris writes for Pennsylvania Precision Cast Parts, a leading medal casting manufacturer specializing in lost wax casting. At PPCP you are sure to find the highest quality products at a rapid turnaround.
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