Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Dearest readers, If you have seen the last few posts you know that I have been struggling to get my casting operation up and running. I have so many new ideas in my head that are dying for a chance to make it into metal form and I have several pieces in my current collection that are much easier to make by casting rather than by hand fabrication. Well.... I did it! Or, I guess I should say "we did it!", because my faithful Shop Monkey was there assisting, and he managed to snap this very unflattering photo just after the event:
Man, am I happy. I can't even explain how happy I am. I've done casting before, but always under someone more experienced who was "in charge". This was the first successful casting that I did under my power. There is a difference.
(On an unrelated note, for all of you jewelry junkies out there who might think making jewelry is glamorous....check me out above. That is pretty much how I look at work. Grubby, hot, hair pulled back, with dirty fingers. Not terribly glam.)

And it worked!

First I took a lot more care with my wax carving:

(in process)

Which is carved down from a slice of this:

Using these:

I don't know why it is, but somehow I automatically assume that when the ring comes out in metal it will magically be better than the wax. But that is not the case. You have to make the wax as perfect as you possibly can, because any flaws will be exaggerated even more in the metal and you will spend so much time finishing the final product that it makes it not even worth it to cast it in the first place. Checking the proportions:

I thought I had done a really good job on these waxes, but it turned out that every little file mark on the wax was a hundred thousand times more pronounced in the metal. So I spend a lot of time filing and sanding the next day. Live and learn.
I then invested the molds and burned out the wax. I think what was key for the success here was that I bought a new casting machine:

This is a centrifugal casting machine. You wind it up and then heat your metal in an attached crucible. When the metal is almost ready, you have your Shop Monkey remove the flask from the super hot kiln and place it on the swing arm inside the drum. After you have pushed the exit hole of the crucible up against the mouth of the flask you let the arm swing around, forcing the molten metal in the mold. It works like a charm, and I trust it so much more than the vacuum casting method.
The unfinished results:

They look pretty rough here, and I think I need to get higher heat investment. I talked to Jeff Hoover (at Hoover and Strong, my metal guys), and he suggested the centrifugal machine and different type of investment for the palladium white gold that I use a lot of. He said what I have for now is fine, but it would be better to get the other stuff when I run out. I have a 100lbs of it, so I don't know how soon that will be....
But here is the finished product!
Sapphires, diamonds, moissanite! I love stones!


Lou Lou Belle said...

hooray! they look wonderful!!
that's so exciting.
happy christmukkah!!


bdeclee said...

Congratulations!!! That Shop Monkey (related to the Trunk Monkey, I gather?) must be a big help to you. Seriously, I'm so glad to hear it's working out. Your rings are stunning. Brava, ragazza! - Barbara

Catherine Chandler said...

Yay! I'm glad you're finding success with your casting! You definitely will want to finish as far as you can with the polishing while in wax form. Files > Sand Paper > Scotch Brite (Red = coarse, Green = medium, white (at auto shops) = fine) > panty hose for a polished finish (stop at scotch brite for a matte finish). You may still have to do some polishing after the casting but this will help you a lot and save some metal!

Good luck, and your work looks beautiful!

guurrrl said...

HURRAY!!!! They are so gorgeous!!! :D

Bean Collins said...

Thanks everyone! I have yet to repeat my success. I did accidentally try to cast before the metal was totally liquid the last time I was casting. You can imagine how that turned out. :-( But I haven't given up hope. This metal that I normally use doesn't melt until a super high temperature, so I am hoping other metals will be easier. Of course I will be blogging about it all. Casting is so exciting to me still. :-)