Today I returned to the basics skills in Lost Wax Casting. Hand carving the wax.
The very first project in the course Shelley (my daughter) and I took was carving a basic ring from wax. The goal was to cast what we designed in silver. We both finished the project and the course with excellent results.
That is where I have returned. I am hand carving a size 12 ring from a block of blue wax. A nice little project.
Nothing special. A simple band design I am just designing “on the fly”. No drawing or pre-conceived plan. Much as I did with my very first project.
Feels good just being creative with the design and working directly with tools on the wax. Truly hand-carved and hand-made. I may use a powered hand tool like a rotary bur or an electrically heated wax pen.
The first training class was to learn to work with all hand tools and no power tools. That’s fine for learning the basics. But for me there is nothing lost by using power hand tools I totally manually control. It is still “hand carving” in my perception.
Other folks are perfectly entitled to a different opinion of “made-by-hand”. Any difference is more emotional than tangible. It’s called being human.
I have no problem with designing with CAD and using CNC to do intricate wax carving. The results are usually far more detailed and accurate. The bulk of the carving is done by CNC but there is still a great deal of hand work to cast and finish a piece.
I never claim “hand carved” unless I do the actual carving through muscle control of my arms and hands.
“Hand made” and “hand carved” are two different terms. I don’t consider them synonymous.
All my work is “made” by my skills which can include power tools. If CNC is only a step in the process of a Lost Wax cast project. I consider the complete piece “personally made”. Portions hand-made and/or hand-carved.
The electrical powered kiln burn-out takes far longer than a CNC run and it too is fully automated with digital temperature control. I don’t watch the kiln for 12 hours adjusting the on/off cycles.
Like this project, I will brag on “hand carved” when true, as that requires special skill. But CAD/CAM from ones own mind and assembled tooling, is also a special skill set. Often producing far more details and accuracy than hand carving.
Hand carving is a special manual skill, involvement and enjoyment as an artist and is never replaced by watching the CNC machine run. Feeling the force of tool removing material is an emotion and special feeling not experienced with full automation. That’s the magic for the artist and can influence a resulting feeling of special ownership of the piece for another person.
There is no correct or best production method for enjoying something personally made. Lost Wax casting; It’s just a process with many steps. It can result is a simple functional cast part or it can be a ”work of art”.
In this post I have bounced between hand made and hand carved. I don’t specialize in either. I have a motto. “Do what you love for those who love what you do.” How I do that is personal.
I don’t love one single process. I do what I love. I learned long ago there is no one “right way” Variation is natural, like the weather. Results will vary and that is a good part of the human experience.
I am adopting a term for my work. Whatever process I enjoying using, the final result will be something “personally designed and crafted”. Read the fine print if I detail special hand-steps in the process.
The recent article I wrote in my “Dimension Print Studio” website titled, “A Thinly Veiled Secret” is a wake-up call for me about some of my cast silver jewelry designs. I tend to leave heavy sections in pieces where thinning is possible. This ignores some of the rules of fine design. Light weight is one signature of professional work. Massive weight has a place but is generally not desirable in wearable jewelry. Unless you are a “Mr. T” or designing a Super Bowl ring.
Thin, light, skinny design requires more creative care as models become fragile. Especially when hand carving. Thin, three-dimensional printing becomes fragile too. Therefore, I have a habit of producing heavier sections in my models. These thicker castings are a “safer” form of silver work. Functional but less refined, less “fine art”.
Casting silver or any metal is by its nature, a more solid process than working with sheet metal or wire. But it doesn’t need to be massively heavy. Lost wax casting is an excellent media for displaying very fine shapes and detail. Once cast in metal, the fragility is gone.
I took formal lessons in the “lost wax - fine art” design and process for casting silver (or any metal). I learned emphasis on design such as thinning and reducing weight; also, to produce perfect models. Lost wax re-produces very fine details from the model. I occasionally stray from that training. Call it creative license; rules to break at my own risk..
The casting procedure is a production process, separate from artistic design. Thin sections can be managed.
The difficulty with three-dimensional resin master casting models, is thick sections in the model. So why are they there? A very good question. I put them there by design.
So, thickness is an inherent problem with resin curing. It is also a wake-up signal for examining the silver work I design. I can improve my designs. I have no control of the resin. Thin is in, and always has been. Ah-ha! There IS a future for castable resin in my studio.
For almost six months, I have experimented with three-dimensional printing to produce masters for investment casting of jewelry items. It’s the same process as lost wax casting, except the master model is printed in layers using Ultra Violet (UV) sensitive resin.
The printing process creates outstanding models. It requires skills in making CAD designed models and mastering the combination of printer power and resin exposure. A somewhat technical process but one that produces very detailed models from designs first created in the computer.
The problem is the casting process. The resin does not burn out of the investment the same as wax. It usually leaves resin ash or debris, or damages the internal investment mold surface. Casting results are occasionally satisfactory but far from routinely repeatable and therefore dependable.
KautzCraft Studio continues the thousands of years old process of lost wax casting as our primary process. Wax remains the superior master model material in the “lost wax” casting process. I will continue making and using real wax master models.
Resin printed masters are experimental research at KautzCraft. Items made with resin masters will be labeled as such, not using the term “Lost Wax“ in the product description. They will proudly be labeled as “investment cast” clearly stating using a “Three Dimensional Printing” process.
Three dimensional printed models should not be considered inferior in any way. When the issues with clean casting is resolved, three dimensional printed models will be the dominate high quality process in investment casting. I look forward to when that becomes reality for me.
I thoroughly enjoy the craft and art of creating lost wax silver cast items. The creation is where I find the enjoyment. The finished product is… well, just the finished product. I like what I make but I like making of it better.
I realized that there is art in the steps of creation and I am usually the only one who ever sees it. At least in my shop. I work almost exclusively alone. I see it, enjoy the moment, and then it is gone forever. Unless I take a few photo’s along the way.
I have been taking photos and publishing the sequence of creation for years. They are the basis of the many blogs I publish of the things I love to create or make.
Here are a few shots of my most recent private art show.
This silver pendant project I call a CrossNote. Suitable wearable for church choir member, church musician, or someone who just enjoys Christian liturgical music.