So I’ve spent the last little while teaching myself lost wax casting at home. It’s taken me a bit of experimenting to get a process that I can do in my oven, since with an oven that maxxes out around 500°F you can’t do a burn out (let alone a “melt out”) on standard jeweler’s wax. The outer surface of the wax will soften, but it’s such a good insulator that it stays totally solid and unaffected. And since the oven isn’t hot enough to liquify or gasify that thin layer enough to get rid of it, you can leave the wax in the oven as long as you want and when you remove it, it still pretty much looks like the moment you finished carving it.
So my solution has been to use an extremely soft microcrystaline wax. It’s sort of like trying to sculpt with something the consistency of soft plasticine that is also extremely sticky. You certainly can’t carve it, and sculpting it is difficult, limiting you to grotesque outsider-art organic shapes. But it has the advantage of burning out at around five hundred degrees, which not only means that I can do it in a home oven, but also that I can do stone-in-mold projects where I sculpt the stone(s) I’m setting along with the wax, and then leave the stones in when I pour the plaster around it. The temperatures are low enough that I haven’t had any stones crack in the oven. Oh, and because the wax is so soft, it’s impossible to make a ring without a jig, so I have a series of ring-sized cylinders that I use as “scaffolding”. I cast these out of the same plaster (Satin Cast 20, which is the best material I’ve found for the main mold, is too soft and crumbly I think so I use a cheap gypsum cement called Hydroperm) so they just go in the mold when I create it and are broken apart afterwards along with the rest.
Anyway… My results aren’t anything earth shattering, but it’s been a good learning process and I feel confident that if I had something I wanted to make that I know how. It would be nice if I had a kiln that could do a high temperature burnout because that would greatly expand my sculpting options, but because I don’t intend on doing much with this method commercially, it’s not going to pay its own bills so I shouldn’t really spend any [more] money on it. I do however have a big bin of “real” rings for the shop, so when I’m done posting this entry I’ll get back to work.
Those are all cast in pewter, but when I’m done some of them will be silver and copper plated in addition to the patina’d pewter that I have been posting. Anyway, here are the rings I’ve made recently. From top to bottom they are: shark’s tooth, crystal shard, citrine (crystals around a tumbled centre piece), tumbled rose quartz tree, star crinoids, quartz exclamation mark, citrine geode, 2 pictures: bloodstone spike ring and quartz crystal (which broke as you can see), a silly paperweight that I made for my daughter, and a ring made of a mix of leftover bits.
If you’re wondering why there’s so much citrine, it’s because I had a big chunk of citrine crystal that I got for a couple dollars at the CNE and I hit it with a hammer. The cost on these rings is almost nothing. Including everything — even the supplies for the mold — the per ring cost is just a few dollars… Like I said, I don’t expect to put these up for sale because I don’t feel like they’re mature enough talent-wise for me to feel comfortable staking my reputation on them, but if someone is moved by one of them I’d be happy to accept any reasonable offer. The last one in the picture set is just horrible and embarrassing aesthetically. I should have melted it down instead of shaming myself. They’re in a mix of sizes between 7.5 and 12 if I remember right. Most are too small for me, so I had a temporary scare when one got stuck pretty solidly on my finger while I took the pictures!!!
Anyway, enough of this diversion. I’m also carving a couple of Futurama-inspired ring masters, and a pair of zombie rings that Caitlin suggested I donate a set of as prizes of this year’s zombie walk if Thea likes them.