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December 11, 2018, 05:39:23 pm
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Lost Wax Casting

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Rockoteer
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« on: August 05, 2010, 08:26:14 pm »

Not sure if this is the correct forum...

Who knows what and how much about Lost Wax Casting and is it difficult to learn?  My wife has showed an interest.
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-Gary

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« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2010, 08:30:38 pm »

I know the basic principles..

Build a model in wax.
Mold clay around it and let the clay harden.
Pour molten metal into the top and the melted wax pours out the bottom as the molten metal fills the top. 
Allow to cool.  Break away clay carefully.
Expose your creation and polish it.


A few years back one of the local art galleries offered classes in this method.

I would check with your local universities and gem clubs to see if someone actually does this and offers classes.
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thewrightthings
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« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2010, 08:46:22 pm »

Also, it usually requires either a vacuum or centrifugal apparatus for the casting.
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bobby1
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« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2010, 08:56:11 pm »

I have done a considerable amount of lost wax casting and I taught  classes for 14 years. The basic process is to make a model from wax either by the build up process or by carving the model from a block of hard carving wax. It is then mounted with a sprue (a connecting rod of wax) to the mold base. Next the flask is placed over the model and inserted into the mold base. A mixture of Plaster of Paris like material (actually a special material made of cristobolite called investment)  is mixed with water and debubbilized. It is then poured into the side of the flask (not directly on the model) until the flask is full. It is then debubbilized again and set aside for the investment to solidify. After an hour or more (up to 24 hours) it is then placed into a burnout oven. The temperature is slowly raised up to 1350 degrees in about 6 to 8 hours. It is then allowed to cool slowly to about 800 degrees, placed into the centrifuge, which is wound up and locked in place. The metal is melted in the crucible, it is released and the centrifugal force pushes the metal into the void  left in the flask. The flask is allowed to cool slightly and then plunged into a bucket of water. The investment crumbles away and the cast object is now visible. It is then scrubbed of the remaining investment, the sprue rod is cut off and the final finishing is done.
The process requires a torch, a centrifuge , and a burnout oven and miscellaneous other smaller items such as wax, carving tools, a flask and various metalworking hand tools.
An alternative method is to place the heated flask on a vacuum table, draw a vacuum and pour the melted metal into the flask. Usually if you are only casting up tp about 3 to 4 ounces of metal you would use a centrifuge. For larger quantities you would use the vacuum table method.
Definitely take classes before diving in and purchasing some rather costly equipment.
It is a totally different medium to use your creativity to make jewelry. Its a lot of fun, too. You get to play with fire AND molten metal!!
Bob
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MrsWTownsend
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« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2010, 01:24:56 pm »

Investment casting it WAY cool!  It's not that hard to learn but the acquisition of all of the equipment necessary can be costly.  My advice is to buddy up with the person who is teaching local classes because they usually have a line on people who are wanting to sell equipment (as well as lots of good tips and advice) and watch craig's list for deals on used equipment.  Once you start looking, you will be surprised at how many people are out there who have done it or are still doing it.

You can also cast leaves, twigs and other organic stuff that will burn out completely in a kiln at the above listed temp.  I have even cast scorpions and tarantulas; I keep bugs in the freezer purely for my casting pleasure.  Anything with bone thin enough to burn out is castable.  There are places where you can buy pre-molded wax patterns as well.  Once you browse through those catalogs, you will recognize many of the items you see in stores.

Check this out:

http://s257.photobucket.com/albums/hh240/MrsWTownsend/Casting%20a%20Tarantula/?albumview=slideshow

And this one:

http://s257.photobucket.com/albums/hh240/MrsWTownsend/Casting%20a%20Scorpion/?albumview=slideshow

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thewrightthings
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« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2010, 02:58:25 pm »

Gina, opening your freezer must scare the bejeebers out of the uninformed!
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Rockoteer
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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2010, 06:27:24 pm »


Gina, those were great slides.  Looks like money will be the deciding factor wheather my wife continues with her idea of trying this.  I doublt that she will once she learns what it will cost.
          but........who knows?.................The shadow Knows

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-Gary

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Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're probably right.
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« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2010, 08:30:35 pm »

That is pretty darn cool how the spider can be cast !
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« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2010, 09:53:49 pm »

Here are some photos of things that I have made with lost wax casting using both the buildup and the carving methods or both on the same piece.
I hope this will inspire her to take a class!
These two rings were made with a wax pen and doing the buildup method.

This one is also the buildup method. I made this one for my mom and she wore it for 25 years up till the day she died. It has opals which were her birthstone.

I carved this one and then applied a design with a wax pen.

This one was carved only. I couldn't get the diamonds to show up in this photo.

Three photos of items carved and the design applied with a wax pen.



Two photos of waxes that were carved but not yet cast.


And finally a model that was built up with a wax pen.
Bob

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« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2010, 11:40:15 am »

Those certianly are inspirational Bob !   yes

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woodyrock
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« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2010, 12:28:22 am »

There are two other methods of driving the molten metal into the mould.  First, is steam casting where you pour the molten metal into a cavity in the mould, then quickly place a cap with wetted material (used to be asbestos) over the top, which flashes the water to steam thus driving the molten metal into the mold.

Second, is sling casting where you pour your molten metal into the cavity formed in the mould, then sling the flask around in a circle. You must make sure you will not hit anything overhead doing this.

Neither of these methods will be as sure of success as centrifical, or vacuum casting, but  do work. I used the sling method for many years with pretty good success.

Woody
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« Reply #11 on: August 11, 2010, 12:32:10 am »

I used the steam casting method for a few years until I could afford a centrifuge. Steam casting is about 80% successful in filling the cavity.......Too often disappointing results.
Bob
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MrsWTownsend
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« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2010, 03:11:07 am »

Holy crap Bob, thanks for showing us how it's done!  You definitely are an inspiration!!!!
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guest787
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« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2010, 04:08:56 pm »


You can also cast leaves, twigs and other organic stuff that will burn out completely in a kiln at the above listed temp.  I have even cast scorpions and tarantulas; I keep bugs in the freezer purely for my casting pleasure.  Anything with bone thin enough to burn out is castable.  There are places where you can buy pre-molded wax patterns as well.  Once you browse through those catalogs, you will recognize many of the items you see in stores.

Thank you for letting me know this!  I've been wanting twigs to be cast for ages! Could you picture twigs in copper Gina?  yes
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« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2010, 09:54:06 pm »

So I got this steam casting kit at a silent auction. Can you all give me some tips on the best way to use it?
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« Reply #15 on: August 11, 2010, 11:17:04 pm »

Could you post a photo of the steam casting unit?
The one that I used was home made.
Bob
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MrsWTownsend
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« Reply #16 on: August 12, 2010, 01:17:14 pm »

Paula, yes, it does have a certain shock factor [immeasurable value when you are wanting to mess with unsuspecting friends~ makes me giggie just thinking about it], as I keep frozen rodent feeders in there as well.  We have 2 fridges, the food fridge and the beer fridge.  The beer fridge has the surprises in the freezer.  Next time I find a praying mantis body I am saving it for the cast!

Amanda, YES I CAN!!!  When I went to take care of my Mom I collected a bunch of leaves from one of her trees that (I think) have a nice shape and lots of little points at the leaf ends for character.  I have little bits of Cholla cactus skeleton from reptile set ups that I think would be pretty cool to cast too.
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guest787
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« Reply #17 on: August 12, 2010, 07:13:56 pm »


Amanda, YES I CAN!!!  When I went to take care of my Mom I collected a bunch of leaves from one of her trees that (I think) have a nice shape and lots of little points at the leaf ends for character.  I have little bits of Cholla cactus skeleton from reptile set ups that I think would be pretty cool to cast too.

So if I sent you Japanese Maple leaves or cool gnarled twigs you'd be all over those like flies to meat eh?  minemine2
You know I just had project ideas pop into my head using those too!
Now I just need some jewelry sales so I have cash to actually order castings from you!
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« Reply #18 on: August 12, 2010, 10:41:15 pm »

Bob,

Here is the photo of the "steam" casting kit. I am not sure how to use it yet, any help would be appreciated.

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« Reply #19 on: August 12, 2010, 11:05:43 pm »

I found quite a bit Googling "steam casting", but here is a Ganoksin article..   Give you someplace to start..
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« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2010, 12:26:17 am »

Thank you George, I learned a lot from that article
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« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2010, 01:38:28 pm »

Bob,

Here is the photo of the "steam" casting kit. I am not sure how to use it yet, any help would be appreciated.



I do believe I have two identical kits one unopened.  I am going out now    walker   to confirm that, but I am 99.3435 percent sure.  I am going to check out Georges 'Ganoksin article'.

tks




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-Gary

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Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're probably right.
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« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2010, 02:25:59 pm »

The Ganoksin article was very thorough and I couldn't add much beyond it. In the lower right side of your photo there are the red special sprues for steam casting. I never used the "flower pot" kiln because I had a burn out oven. Probably the most common cause of casting failure using this method is not having enough sprues attached to the model. You do have to be careful that you don't have too big of a sprue leading from the hollowed out area in the mold because the melting metal will want to flow into it before you get it at the right casting temperature and before you clamp the steam generating device on top.
Bob
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DavidS
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« Reply #23 on: September 20, 2013, 12:22:47 pm »

I have done a considerable amount of lost wax casting ...Bob

Bob, you really did a great overview to the OP and of course, now i have many questions.

As I am scrambling to continue learning from my mentor, a family member that recently passed away, I have wax, powders, an oven, and a device to spin the media (centrifuge?).  So my questions are...
1.)   Could "investment" or "plaster"  be labeled as anything else?  (I have boxes of misc "stuff")  Or what is a good supplier?
2.)   What tools can debubblize the investment?  Youtube had shown a vibratory base, but I didn't find one....or at least yet.

-David
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« Reply #24 on: September 20, 2013, 07:07:59 pm »

Usually your investment will or should be in a sealed plastic bag or other container to keep atmospheric moisture and dampness out. It may or may not be in an outer box, usually looks like a bag of plaster of paris. Box if present may have rio logo on it, Ransom & Randolph, Kerr or other logos on it.

Vacuum is best for de airing investment, pad type vibrators are ok but I found I usually had more air bubble defects with them. Vacuum machine will usually have a pump and a plastic dome or bell jar with a table with a rubber pad with holes on it.

Hope that helps. I've been a caster for 40 years or so.
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Bryan
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« Reply #25 on: September 20, 2013, 09:43:01 pm »


I have two "Lost Wax Casting" kits.  If anyone is interested I will do a pic and post in the 'For Sale' section of this mighty forum.
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« Reply #26 on: September 21, 2013, 04:59:45 pm »

I have done bronze casting for years and centrifugal casting for jewelry just as long. One of the things with using a vacuum for debubbling is that it also sets the investment, like right now. I had a very large vacuum pump for my larger bronze casting but when the motor burned out I just went to no debubbleing. I'd just pour the investment right on the wax and then take a very sharp 1/4" chisel to cut the bubbles off of the sculpture and then do a little chasing with a bur in my air tool. That is pretty much what I started doing with my centrifugal castings with one exception, I'd paint on a layer of investment with a brush, let it set up and then fill the flask with more investment. I had very little trouble with bubbles.
The steam casting works very well for the occasional project but if you are going to a lot of casting get a centrifugal set up. cheaper than a vacuum set up, well usually.
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« Reply #27 on: September 28, 2013, 10:16:16 am »

I do casting for local schools 3D art classes. Every 6 weeks or so I cast 30 to 40 rings for the students. The students create the wax rings ( they are graded on the wax ring in case the casting doesn't work) and for a fee, I cast them in silver. I bought most of my equipment used or at auction. Centrifugal arm for $100, 12" x 12" x 12" ceramic top load kiln (I turned it on it's side so it is now a front load) $50. and a vacuum pump for $75. The rest are small tools and supplies. Look at Rio Grande catalog to get an idea of what you will need. It should be doable for a couple hundred $. You just have to know what you need and keep your eyes open.

Fred
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« Reply #28 on: September 28, 2013, 09:44:37 pm »

David:

It looks like Plaster of Paris, it may be from different manufacturers. Often sold in  boxes (25 lbs or more). I use Kerr Satin Cast, but there are many others out there. Is there a maker mark on the centrifiugal caster?

You can use a palm sander to vibrate, I did it a few times out of desperation with an exceptionally large flask. Just make sure you have someway to turn it off without using your hands. I ended up having to kick the cord out of the wall because the flask was too large and heavy to lift with one hand. Just place the flask on the face of the palm sander and turn it on holding the flask with one hand and the sander with the other. Be smarter than me and put it on a plug that has a toggle switch that you can turn off with your foot or better still, get a helper.

Vacuuming is superior to other methods for getting rid of the bubbles, but they're expensive.

Debbie K
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« Reply #29 on: September 29, 2013, 02:41:48 pm »

I have done bronze casting for years and centrifugal casting for jewelry just as long. One of the things with using a vacuum for debubbling is that it also sets the investment, like right now.

I've done gold and silver investment jewelry casting, both vacuum and centrifugal, for many years and have never had that problem.  I suspect your experience is related to the water/investment ratio.  Or maybe the kind of investment you're using.  I think the idea of "painting" intricate waxes with investment is a good one though, and that's probably the way to go for steam casting.

I'd advise Rockoteer that it's really best to use fresh investment, not powder that's been stored for any length of time even in sealed containers.  Investment is "thirsty" (hygroscopic is the ten-dollar word) and it can form lumps that ruin castings when old.

One of the most interesting de-bubbleizing tricks I've seen for low-cost steam casting was using the knurled handle of a screwdriver with the metal part chucked into an electric hand drill.  The guy doing the demo let the turning handle rap against the side of the flask for a few minutes and it did a pretty good job.  He said the trick is to add a little more water to the investment mix.

I've used an electric hand-sander for de-bubbleizing Debbie K.  But I fastened it gently into a bench vise upside-down first, leaving both hands free.   ura  I'm LOL at the mental image of you trying to switch the sander off!  Of course I've never painted myself into a corner before.  Well, hardly ever...  bricks

Rick   
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« Reply #30 on: September 29, 2013, 04:47:08 pm »

Rick:

It was pretty funny and pretty tragic. Classical example of not thinking things through. The flask in question was  7" x 5", and with the base it was just a little too tall to fit under the dome, so I had to improvise fast. After this fiasco, and when the investment set up, I proceeded to steam out the wax. I tried to pick it up with the flask tongs - absolutely impossible, it weighed so much it bent the tongs. I resorted to fireplace tongs and it was so heavy and I was pressing so hard they broke. As it was only at about 300 degrees I picked it up with gloves and put it in the kiln. And that was the only way to get it out of the kiln at 1000 degrees, as it would just fit in the kiln. After I got it out I was able to pick it up with a modified filter wrench as the water had all burned out and it was a lot lighter.

I think I've learned my lesson - some things need to go to the foundry. I've used that flask once since then and the second time had someone with me to protect me from myself.

One thing I'll say about the rapping or the vibratory technique (and vacuuming, but to a lesser degree) - make sure that your wax is very well sprued or expect sprue failure. I've had one float out, had to stop everything and wash it off and start over.

Debbie K
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« Reply #31 on: September 29, 2013, 05:52:42 pm »

Debbie,

That's a huge flask.  I'm glad you weren't injured in any way.

Yes, I've vibrated waxes loose too.  Forgot to mention that possibility.  I guess we all learn (and learn and learn) from our mistakes.  And when we've finally learned from the old ones we make new ones!

Rick
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« Reply #32 on: September 30, 2013, 05:55:57 pm »

I've done a 6" round x 10" long in a modified centrifugal casting machine, that was OK but it sure was a lot of metal to be spinning around. When I did a lot of bronze casting 65# was the biggest I could do by myself and I used asbestos gloves(now they use kevlar) but it still gets plenty hot handling hot flasks. Three hundred is good temperature to pull them from the kiln just before the pour. I used to make my own investment out of 1/3 plaster of Paris, 1/3 hydrocal and 1/3 silica sand, yes, I know that hydrocal and plaster of Paris are very close to the same thing but when the you use the two together you get a much better investment than when you just one or the other as they  have slightly differing properties from each other in set times and strength. I would still paint the surfaces of the wax with Satin Cast to pick up the finest of detail.
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« Reply #33 on: October 05, 2013, 05:47:21 am »

"Cuttlebone casting" is a simple fun process and it gives a very nice initial texture.   http://ganoksin.com/blog/primitive is a good article on the process. Very little specialized equipment is needed.
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Mlou
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« Reply #34 on: February 12, 2014, 06:18:26 pm »

I highly recommend Tim McCreight's book on Casting. Also The
Complete Metalsmith.
 - M'lou
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« Reply #35 on: May 15, 2015, 12:26:08 pm »

Another option to 'gently dip your toe into casting' without too much danger is Delft Sand Casting.

Like Cuddlebone Casting, Delft Sand Casting is not as versatile as Lost Wax, but it's a good way to get a start, and it's much quicker for smaller 'one-offs' than most other methods.  And WAY less expensive to start.

Check it out here - there are 7 Chapters video clips with each phase. yes


Note - when Chapter 1 starts, it takes about 40 seconds before any audio starts and that's just an overview, and then it takes about a total of 1:40 for the actual tutorial to begin, but then when one Chapter ends there's a button to click to go straight to the next Chapter [7 in total].
These are one of the best tutorial videos I've seen on Delft Sand Casting, as it's put on by the Delft Sand people in the Netherlands.

Worth a watch if you want to learn how to do it properly. ura
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Carol M
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« Reply #36 on: May 15, 2015, 04:41:42 pm »

Usually the cheapest way to get started in casting and to see if you want to go further in the craft would be to contact the local gem and mineral club to see if they have any classes/ equipment.  Another possibality would be a class at the local community college if offered.
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« Reply #37 on: May 15, 2015, 10:20:06 pm »

Usually the cheapest way to get started in casting and to see if you want to go further in the craft would be to contact the local gem and mineral club to see if they have any classes/ equipment.  Another possibality would be a class at the local community college if offered.

I don't know about all cities, but here in Toronto, I took a Learn4Life class on Lost Wax Casting. 

It was not complete, but was centered around learning to carve/create a wax mold.  Then the molds were weighed by the teacher, and we paid by weight for the silver needed for the model.  Then the model was delivered by the teacher to a local casting company to be actually sprued and cast [by a master caster at a casting company]. 
Then we got it back the next week, with the sprue just roughly cut off the tree, and we finished sawing and finishing the cast in our class.

This was done, I'm sure, because of the space requirement and cost for all the vacuum machine, and burn out kiln and centrifical machine etc. to do the actual casting.  It wasn't as neat as doing the whole thing 'in class' but we did learn a lot about model making, which was very useful. [another option if this sort of class exists locally]
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« Reply #38 on: May 16, 2015, 08:17:41 am »

Carol:

Your class was probably limited to only carving a wax because of liability. The casting equipment (kiln, vacuum caster and/or centrifugal caster) are expensive, but the insurance to teach newbies probably makes it prohibitive, especially for an individual. That said, I've only had one incident casting, and since I use a Neycraft caster the molten metal was contained to the tub instead of being flung around the room.

The mold making aspect is even more dangerous. I was in a mold making class with a bunch of people who seemingly had absolutely no idea the damage that a scapel could do; it was so scary I actually left because I knew what was going to happen. I spent years carving wood with sharp pointy objects and have seen enough of my blood and other's to last me a lifetime. I was justified in my fear; three people cut themselves that day, one of them the instructor. I never cut a mold unless I am fresh. If I start getting tired or frustrated I get up and walk around for 15 minutes or so until I feel focused and refreshed enough to proceed.

I learned to cast at a local gem and mineral society. It isn't offered at any Community College in my area and I live in a MAJOR city. College classes require a ridiculous amount of prerequisite courses before you are "allowed" to take casting. If I were in a sparsely populated area, I would look around for an individual who makes things that are cast (looking for them in local galleries or markets) and see if they would teach me. I would never teach anyone myself, as I couldn't afford to take the financial hit if they did something stupid and hurt themselves. But I have had people come over and observe the process as guests. I thought about teaching some things at my house, but would have to get business type insurance to make sure that folks were adequately covered for medical care if they did something stupid, and it just didn't seem worth it.

It isn't all that dangerous if you follow the steps correctly and take precautions. I never cast without a "buddy" who has a fire extinguisher in their hands and wear adequate protective clothing. But the potential is there for something to happen.

I actually think the mold making process is much scarier and dangerous. It's my least favorite thing to do.

Debbie K
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« Reply #39 on: May 16, 2015, 08:34:38 am »

Good grief, Debbie....I had no clue it was so dangerous.

I do know what you mean by students doing stupid things though....like standing with an annealing torch [which is turned on] and they stop to talk to someone, meanwhile the flame is pointed at the hose to the tank.

Happily a number of us have taken this series of classes several times [in the early days because we didn't have our own equipment]....more recently [because we've become friends and like to see what each other are working on].....but happily, we 'older students' are helping the teacher when we can, by noticing stupid moves and 'gently cautioning newbies' about dangerous practices, before they blow us all up. hide

One lovely thing about these night classes is, they're put on by the TDSB [Toronto District School Board] and they're very reasonably priced, so anyone can afford them.

Happily, re health care.....no worries in Canada.  Healthcare is free [which I totally LOVE].
Many 'things' are more expensive up here, but 'ya gotta pay for OHIP somehow' [smile].
I also love that people who don't make much money still have access to terrific healthcare for free. [commercial ended now] (giggle)
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Ciao,
Carol M
"Pursue Your Passions....."
"Imagine the Possibilities!"
"Mistakes are simply a form of practice!"
"People who never make mistakes.....probably never do anything!"

Debbie K
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« Reply #40 on: May 16, 2015, 09:01:17 am »

Carol:

Know what you mean about people with torches; scary. My first jewelry class in college I observed a guy talking while holder a torch and turning around holding it, totally oblivious to where it was pointed. I decided then and there I would buy a torch (Bernzomatic) and asbestos pad and solder at home, as I had hair down to my waist and no amount of tying it back or braiding it would render it non-flammable. The next week, a girl got her hair set on fire and she was burned pretty badly.

Once you've hurt yourself once or twice you usually learn to work a little safer. I think that most folks have no idea of the potential damage tools can do and don't respect them. Case in point: I am scared of skill-saws, routers and table saws, but think of Dremels as being "harmless", yet I took out a hunk of flesh on my finger that took two years to grow back. I knew a man who took off half his thumb getting it caught in a grinder.

As far as all this goes, I actually hurt myself cooking more than I do making jewelry. Many, many more burns, cuts, etc. in the kitchen than in the shop. Maybe I'm just a klutz.

Debbie K
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