Tag Archives: lost wax casting

Wax carved jewellery inspiration

We are LOVING wax carved jewellery at the moment but what can you make when you’ve mastered the technique? Here is some inspiration from our talented tutors and students to get you thinking.

(And here is a blog post from our own Lil Adams on what wax carving is and how casting works in case you’re not sure)

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Rough ruby silver ring by Sophie Arnott

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Gold pearl ring by Rebecca Steiner

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Silver pendant by Sophie Arnott

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Gold rings by Rebecca Steiner

 

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Knuckle duster ring by Natasha Lisa

 

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Rose gold ring by Jayne Murphy

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Silver cufflinks by Natasha Lisa

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Silver ring by Sophie Arnott

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Silver ring by Jayne Murphy

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George the lion ring in progress! By Lil Adams

Note: for inspiration only. The jewellery designs shown here are copyrighted by the designers


Fancy giving wax carving a try? We have some classes at the London Jewellery School and online at Jewellery School Online. We also have a kit of tools available to make it easy to get started.

In London

We have lots of wax carving classes at the London Jewellery School for beginners and advanced learners including an evening taster classa five-week evening class and day classes so do check out our courses and available dates on our website.

Online courses

We have a FREE wax carved ring making online course with tutor Sophie Arnott. You will learn to apply your designs to your wax piece, remove excess wax and create a full 3D design of your choosing. Following that, Sophie will show you how to file your wax piece into shape, remove any file marks and sand and refine the piece ready for casting. You will also learn how to create a ring to size and some recommendations on casters to use.

beginners-wax-carving-rebecca-steiner-jewellery-school-onlineIf you enjoy that course then consider our more comprehensive beginners wax carving online course which covers ring making, pendant making. The course launches on 26th March 2018 and is currently available at a pre-sale price of 50% off. CLICK HERE FOR 50% OFF – VALID UNTIL 26TH MARCH 2018 ONLY. THAT’S TOMORROW!

 

 

 

wax-carving-kit-london-jewellery-schoolKits

At the London Jewellery School we are also selling wax carving toolkits which have everything you need to get started! The cost is £100 and includes UK postage (for postage outside the UK please email us at info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk for a postage quote)

Click here to see what you get in the kit and to purchase

We also have a set of three wax ring blanks for sale for £12.99 plus postage, perfect if you want to get started with rings straight away!

 

All prices are correct at time of blog publication but please note that they are subject to change

Not Just Castings – how lost wax casting works and more

At the beginning of 2016 I undertook a placement with Just Castings in Hatton Garden. This was part of the two week intensive Advanced Diploma in Creative Jewellery Making (see previous blog entry about how great this was) which I had completed the previous summer.

Their premises have since moved to a spangly new home next door at 19 Cross Street, where their knowledgeable and patient team can answer all of your silly questions (as they still answer mine on a regular basis) about their services. These services go far beyond just casting to CAD design, 3D printing, plating and finishing. However, the moulding and casting process will remain forever the most fascinating to me.

I was privileged to spend two days learning the mould making and casting processes. I gained an overview of the CAD, 3D printing, finishing and plating, which can be done there behind the scenes, whilst two of my own wax pieces took their own journey into silver and brass.

I returned for two afternoons of finishing these pieces. This involved de-sprueing – the sprue is the entry point for the metal into the piece (before my placement I called this a spout) and polishing a silver ring, also finishing and rose-gold plating a brick bead for a necklace with Chris and Adrian at the studios just down the street. There was a  professional setter working away in the same studio, so I got to take a peek at this fiddly precise work too.

My illustration of the casting process, complete with spelling mistake and bunnies which were cast from pasta shapes.

I took a lovely little refresher tour with Theo recently, for a helpful reminder of the time I spent learning the ways of JC.  The process used is called lost wax casting. Lost wax casting is an ancient technique, but this centrifugal, mechanical process is the most accurate way of achieving intricate results. This modern way of casting has its roots in dentistry. To my delight I discovered gold tooth caps on the casting trees whilst on my placement – it’s nice when traditions are upheld. Items can be brought in three different ways to be transformed into a range of metals, but at some stage they need to be a wax. You could bring in a hand-carved wax piece, a model or master to have a mould made to then make waxes or a 3D design, which can be printed or milled from sheet wax.

It’s a positive to negative to positive process. The mould making stage is to create waxes from existing objects or multiples from the same original wax and allows for more types of items to be cast. These moulds are custom made to the size of the piece from a latex mixture.

Bespoke cold moulds setting in their frames

Once these are set and the piece from within is expertly cut out by hand, the moulds are ready to make waxes using the vacuum wax injector. The hot wax cools into shape in the rubber mould and the wax is removed and another can then be made in the same way shortly after.

Wax made using a cold mould

These waxes are then skillfully arranged on specific trees in accordance to their requirements, which metal, how delicate the piece is etc. Cast in place pieces (a technique where stones can be cast within a wax piece) go separately, as they need to be in a different oven set to a different temperature. The trees go into flasks, the holes of the metal flasks are taped up and the investment (a type of plaster, made up in the vacuum mixing machine) is mixed and poured into the canisters with the wax trees inside, then left to set. The next step is for the canisters to go into the de-waxing chamber for the majority of the wax to be steamed away. This leaves just a film of wax on the impression that will eventually be filled with metal, before going into the oven overnight to melt away the remaining wax and strengthen the investment plaster. There are three ovens running on 24 hour cycles, to allow for processes like casting in place and also so that all of the casting eggs are not in one hot basket.

Vasco creating wax trees

Once out of the oven, the canister full of negative impressions left by the wax goes into one of three casting machines. The largest being the vacuum centrifugal machine. This will spin the canister while a crucible will dispense the required molten metal into the voids to reach the hollows of the end of each branch of the tree.

 


Centrifugal casting machine

Back in the day I am told this was done by sling shot, so a traditional caster would be super strong from swinging their castings around their head, pretty cool stuff!

These are then cleaned with a high-pressure washer (this part reminds me of the opening credits of The Simpsons when Homer is at work) to clean off the investment plaster.

The metal tree, free from its canister and most of the plaster then goes into acid to get cleaner and get rid of any oxidisation.

Metal tree fresh from the canister

Pieces are then cut down from the trees and prepared for collection.

Wax giraffe and metal giraffe made from a pasta piece using a cold mould and lost wax casting process

This is where the process usually stops on the casting side of Just Castings, but as you will recall, they don’t do just casting! For me I take whatever silly thing I have decided to turn into metal this time and pop off to try and make it wearable (sometimes returning to get something plated), but there is still a whole separate underground grotto of finishing down the street. If decide you would like your pieces finishing, polishing, plating or stones setting these guys have got you covered there too.

Adrian finishing a ring in the workshop

So give casting a try, it’s magical, but don’t take it lightly that even if your brother ain’t that heavy you may want an estimate before you get him cast in platinum. For a really enlightening look at their processes, Just Casting have this lovely video ,and there is a handy FAQ’s section on the website too. But if in doubt just ask, they are a delight, see:

Lil Adams is the London Jewellery School Sundays Studio Manager. Lil studied Fine Art in Leeds and lived in Melbourne before travelling about and settling in London. She now works at the British Architectural Library and enjoys making jewellery with found and natural objects and is shamelessly addicted to casting (as you can see!)


Fancy giving wax carving a try? We have some classes at the London Jewellery School and online at Jewellery School Online as well as a starter kit available.

In London

We have lots of wax carving classes at the London Jewellery School for beginners and advanced learners including an evening taster class, a five-week evening class and day classes so do check out our courses and available dates on our website.

 

 

 

Online courses

We have a FREE wax carved ring making online course with tutor Sophie Arnott. You will learn to apply your designs to your wax piece, remove excess wax and create a full 3D design of your choosing. Following that, Sophie will show you how to file your wax piece into shape, remove any file marks and sand and refine the piece ready for casting. You will also learn how to create a ring to size and some recommendations on casters to use.

beginners-wax-carving-rebecca-steiner-jewellery-school-onlineIf you enjoy that course then consider our more comprehensive beginners wax carving online course which covers ring making, pendant making. The course launches on 26th March 2018 and is currently available at a pre-sale price of 50% off. CLICK HERE FOR 50% OFF – VALID UNTIL 26TH MARCH 2018 ONLY

 

 

 

Kits

At the London Jewellery School we are also selling wax carving toolkits which have everything you need to get started! The cost is £100 and includes UK postage (for postage outside the UK please email us at info@londonjewelleryschool.co.uk for a postage quote)

Click here to see what you get in the kit and to purchase

We also have a set of three wax ring blanks for sale for £12.99 plus postage, perfect if you want to get started with rings straight away!

 

All prices are correct at time of blog publication but please note that they are subject to change

 

 

 

 

Adventures in wax carving – Week 3!

So if you have been following my weekly diary of my 5 week Wax Carving Evening Class at the London Jewellery School you will know that after week 1 and week 2 we are getting close to finishing our first projects and spent most of week 3 refining and finishing our designs so our waxes were as perfect as possible before being cast!  Apparently it takes 3 times as long to fix any imperfections in silver as it does in wax so tutor, Sophie Arnott, spent a lot of time this week checking our waxes and helping us make those minor improvements that would save us precious time later!

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There were lots of busy hands this week! 

In the case of my design – I had to burr out some of the wax underneath to reduce the weight of the final piece.  That was pretty hairy as I was using a burr in a pendant motor.  Now whilst I have used a pendant motor many times before over the years, I have only ever scooped out the underside of waxes by hand (and I typically use burrs in a pin vice and do by hand too) so using burrs in a motor was a new experience for me and it was very easy to slip!  I was worried about burring out too much wax but Sophie assured me you can usually take away lots more than you think.

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My 1st Finished Wax

Once I had finished burring out the wax it was time to refine the finish of the wax so it was nice and smooth.  To do this we used many grades of sandpaper (haven’t met anyone who enjoys sanding yet and this class is no exception but it is necessary!) to smooth the surface and remove any scratches or imperfections.  I then finished off the surface with steel wool for a really nice smooth finish.  Finally, as I had a few curls of wax left on my piece that I couldn’t quite reach with the sandpaper or steel wool I wafted my piece over a flame which melted the excess and left a lovely smooth finish!  It is easy to overdo it and you do need to watch that you don’t melt your piece (or burn your fingers) but boy does it make a difference!

And as promised, here are some shots of my fellow students amazing waxes!

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Aren’t their designs stunning!?  Quite extraordinary that 7 people taking the same course are using the techniques learned in such different ways!  I just can’t wait to see what everybody does for their second project!

Until next time!

Author: Karen Young

London Jewellery School Blog_Karen Young Bio

Adventures in wax carving – Week 2!

So last week I posted about week 1 of my 5 week Wax Carving Evening Class at the London Jewellery School.  We have now had our second week of our class and it is fair to say that we were all getting into the swing of things and powering forward with our designs!  Some of us made some changes to our designs this week as we had had the chance to think about our pieces and how we would realise them in wax!

So it was pretty much straight to business this week!  We all worked hard shaping the wax and scraping away and refining the waxes.  It was a very quiet class as we were all concentrating so hard!

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Everybody hard at work on their designs! 

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Our lovely tutor, Sophie Arnott, putting us through our paces 🙂

My own design is coming on.  I pretty much have the organic shape carved out and am just refining the surface with sandpaper and steel wool to make sure it is nice and smooth as any flaws in the wax will be picked up in silver (and are much harder to sort out once cast!).  I will waft my piece under some heat to remove any little curls of wax remaining so it is completely nice and smooth for casting.

Next week I will start burring out the underside of the ring to make the ring lighter (as it would be very heavy in solid silver, not to mention expensive to cast!) to make it nice and comfortable to wear using a ball burr in a pendant motor.  And I will hopefully make a start on my second design.

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My wax carved ring – almost finished 🙂 

I am really enjoying the course so far and although I still love fabricating pieces completely by hand from sheet metal, wire and tubing, I can see how this technique could be incorporated into my designs and collections.  Plus it is incredibly therapeutic peeling away layers of wax!

I can’t wait for week 3 and seeing some of the finished waxes of my fellow students!  Have a great week and will post pictures of how everyone is getting on next week!

 

Author: Karen Young

London Jewellery School Blog_Karen Young Bio

 

3D printed jewellery

With the invention of the 3D printer is was inevitable that designers would start making 3D printed jewellery. LJS tutor Anna Campbell investigates the current state of 3D printing and jewellery.

 

3d printed jewellery

3D printed jewellery from 1. Fathom and Form, 2. Navette pendant from Silberneum, and 3. Shapeways 

3D printing is the process of making a 3D object from a digital file. The objects are typically ‘printed’ in layers from a plastic filament or resin. To see how 3D printing works have a look at this youtube video.

Although 3D printers are still relatively expensive it is suggested that at some time in the not too distant future we’ll all have one in our homes.

I was able to understand more about this when I visited an exhibition on 3D printing at the Science Museum (which is now on show at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester). The exhibition showed examples of objects that can be printed now and possibilities for the future. I was struck by the possibility that, if our washing machine broke down, we could print a new part.

So, how could this relate to jewellery?

Printing in plastic or resin

Jewellers may use this medium to make finished pieces of jewellery. However it can also be used for making prototypes and models for casting and moulding.

Printing in wax

A design printed in wax can be cast in metal using the lost wax casting process (see a blog post I wrote about the process of lost wax casting here).

Printing in metal clay

Printed metal clay jewellery


Given the way 3D printers work it was inevitable that metal clay (syringe clay) would become a medium used.

A company called Mini Metal Maker have created a metal clay printer that currently prints in bronze clay (but would be able to print in any metal clay). They have been using a crowd funding company called Indiegogo to raise more money to commercially manufacture the printers and make them more widely available. They recently had success printing some bronze scissors. As with any metal clay the piece still needs to be sanded and kiln fired so the use of these printers is likely to be of a smaller scale than plastics.

How do I design for 3D printing?

As with ordinary printing, a 3D printer needs to be connected to a computer so you would need to learn how to create your designs using a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program.

Where can I see 3D printing in action?

iMakr, the largest independent 3D printers in the world, just happens to be right next to Hatton Garden in London. You can pop in to see a 3D printer in action, get a design of your own printed or enquire about buying a 3D printed for use at home. You can even get a mini you made.

The value of handmade

Does the ability to print jewellery devalue handcrafted jewellery? I don’t think so. We already have mass manufacturing of jewellery available and people still value the handmade and handcrafted approach to jewellery. I hope that 3D printing becomes an addition to our armoury rather than something that takes away from our industry. Imagine being able to print your own chain and clasps.


Anna Campbell is a tutor at the London Jewellery School and runs her own jewellery business Campbell Hall Designs. She sells online from her website and at the Things British shop in Greenwich, London.