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It occurred to me today as I was carving wax in an intricate Celtic… - Metals Geekery

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My artisan metalsmithing site
My original Celtic designs in various media, including jewelry
My Etsy store- Affordable individually-made items.

August 16th, 2006


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06:30 pm
It occurred to me today as I was carving wax in an intricate Celtic pattern for a casting, that it is very odd in some ways that waxwork is a metalsmithing skill! The process has pretty much nothing whatsoever to do with working with actual metal; it's just that since the goal is to make a metal thing out of the wax eventually, it's sort of an honorary metal skill.

I can see why there are those who specialize in it alone, though, some of whom don't work with metal at all!

I did a few rounds of depletion gilding on the cloisonne backings, after smoothing off the surface some more. Another pass or 2 should do it.

I also did some more work on the repair/reworking of my trillium pin/pendant. As I was fiddling with the central tube rivet to get the stone's "stem" to fit through it, the petals started to rotate again. So I acquiesced to the inevitable and drilled another, 1mm, hole very close to the central one- close enough that the stone will cover it when replaced- and riveted it a second time with a tiny piece of 18 ga. wire. Ha! Now just TRY to rotate! I was again grateful for my wonderful mini-stakes, because a couple of them made this process relatively painless, and it would not have been without them. I also see that I could if necessary glue the "stem" of the stone- it sticks out from the back of the cab setting- into the central tube rivet hole if necessary. This is a relief! I'm not sure that I have enough length to re-rivet it, plus of course hammering on the other end of something that has a large citrine cab on one end is a somewhat dangerous proposition!

Now that I know more or less what I'm doing, I can do the same work on the other pin, thereby fixing its problems and then being able to offer it for sale. I will be much happier sending it off when the petals and leaves aren't rotating like a pinwheel, and the pin is steel!

I have not yet begun the meanders around the features on my plique smiley; I'm planning on working on that, and on texturing the cloisonne metal, tomorrow while my student is here. Both are easily interruptable, which make them good candidates for that time.

Tonight J is planning on getting some new pictures of some of the work I want to put up on Etsy. Cool! I did add an enameled bat tie tack yesterday, but the photo I had was a bit low-res so it's grainy at full size. (The url is http://afmetalsmith.etsy.com, but so far there are only 2 things up. I'm looking to change that ASAP!)
Current Mood: pleasedpleased

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:fub
Date:August 17th, 2006 08:24 am (UTC)
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Do you enjoy working with wax? You always say that you enjoy working with metal and don't want to do anything that is not directly metal-related -- even though you don't do your own castings (do you?).

I recently came across this: a computer-controlled mill makes a ring from milling wax, which then can be cast as if it were hand-crafted.

Also, I'm really interested on how your Etsy shop will fare!
[User Picture]
From:afmetalsmith
Date:August 17th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
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I don't mind working with wax- it's jsut so different from doing things in metal! It's not nearly as "spontanteous" as clay or hot glass, though, so I'm OK with it.

We do do some of our own casting, though not production stuff. J mostly does the casting- he loves it, and it still scares me!

We got a hobbyist CNC milling machine lo, these many years ago, but haven't done much with it at all. Our version doesn't do a full 3D; it's more 2.5D, in that it will do relief carving but not in the round.

The problem with a full 3D thing is that it requires one to be a decent 3D modeler to take decent advantage, and I am NOT. I played with it a bit, and concluded that it's an art form in itself, I don't really have the time nor the desire to add that to my other stuff.

I'll keep you posted on teh Etsy thing! I think it'll help to have products up, of course. :)
[User Picture]
From:fub
Date:August 18th, 2006 06:11 pm (UTC)
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We do do some of our own casting, though not production stuff.
What exactly makes something 'production stuff'? If you make more than one cast from a design?

The problem with a full 3D thing is that it requires one to be a decent 3D modeler to take decent advantage, and I am NOT.
It just so happens that my friend greatbiggary has acquired a mini-mill that he is setting up for CNC. And he is a 3D animation technician by day, which means he writes lots of cool tools to convert a 3D model into milling movements...

I think it'll help to have products up, of course.
True, that.
[User Picture]
From:afmetalsmith
Date:August 18th, 2006 07:35 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I refer to "production" as meaning "multiples of a design intended to sell with little or no added work on my part." We'd originally gotten casting equipment becuse J loves casting and thought it would be good to do our own prodiction work. I vetoed that as soon as I did some casting and got a good idea of the hours of prep and clean-up that would entail!

And as it is, once the pro casters have the master, we can just cll them up and order however many of a design we want, and for $2 extra per piece (usually) they'll send it to us all clean and shiny and ready for sale. See, they have lots more and better equipment for the prep and clean-up than we do, because it makes sense for them and not for us, seeing as we're not pro casters. And so I think having them do it is a win-win for everyone!

I would like to get secure enough with our process and equpiment that I'd feel comfortable casting a wax-carved one-off ourselves rather than sending it out... but right now, I'd rather send it out, pay lots more, BUT be sure that my hours of carving work will not go to waste with a failed casting!

I'm very intrigued by the portentail of CNC milling for up to 2.5D. But if I'm working in a full 3D, right now I'd rather do it hands-on and not on a screen! I can see there's a lot of advantages to doing design virtually, of course- like, being able to trivially create a patterned ring in ANY SIZE! But I just don't think it's for me, at least not right now.

How are your kits coming along? It sounds like you've been doing some cool stuff!
[User Picture]
From:fub
Date:August 18th, 2006 08:30 pm (UTC)
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And so I think having them do it is a win-win for everyone!
It certainly looks that way, yes. I have the same thing with the printed circuit boards: I have the equipment to make my own, but I can't do more than two layers, I can't do silkscreening or soldermask, which means my PCBs won't be of sufficient professional quality.
Yes, PCB manufacturers are more expensive, but if I want to sell PCBs professionally, I need to outsource the PCBs to them. Some of them give a discount for repeat business (after all, they already have the film and all on file).
I still use my own etching equipment for test runs, so that I know the layout 'works' before I send it off to the manufacturer.

be sure that my hours of carving work will not go to waste with a failed casting!
I guess that is the one big 'problem' with wax casting: you can't 'undo' the melting of the wax!

I'd rather do it hands-on and not on a screen!
It takes a certain type of mind to be able to translate the 3D model you have in your mind into lines on a 2D screen. I certainly don't have that talent, and I think it is even harder for people who are used to shaping things with their hands.

being able to trivially create a patterned ring in ANY SIZE!
Just blow it up to two times the size, and away you go! I guess it would be perfect for serial work in custom sizes.

How are your kits coming along? It sounds like you've been doing some cool stuff!
I am (still!) working on the site. It's come a long way, but there are still some holes to be patched. Then I will need to select a PCB manufacturer for the kits I wish to start with and get those made. And then I need to get the parts for the kits and do some test runs. And I need to get going on the administrative side of things: getting an entry with the Chambre of Commerce, etc.
Also, I need to start cracking on those miniature LED lights!
[User Picture]
From:medvssa
Date:August 17th, 2006 10:03 am (UTC)
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I liked carving wax very much. I love the organic shapes you can get with it, like chiselled stuff. What kind of wax do you use? We used the dark green one. And pink for some textures, at school.
[User Picture]
From:afmetalsmith
Date:August 17th, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)
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I agree- wax carving has its charms! It's a nice blend of exacting and meditative for me.

I've been using the blue wax that comes in slabs, but am not all that thrilled. I think I'm going to get some green, both in slabs and in sheet- I know they're different consistencies, but if the green sheet carves well, I'll spend a lot less time thinning down slabs for relief pendants!
[User Picture]
From:medvssa
Date:August 17th, 2006 09:02 pm (UTC)
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If I remember well, at school they said that the difference was the hardness, pink being the softest, for making texture passing on rollers or so (it was crap to use for anything but that, waaay too soft), then purple, then blue (I haven't tried those) the hardest being the green. They recommended this for more detail and more finishing possibility, as you can sand it pretty fine.
I think that green will carve great. What tools do you use? I only used this kind of thing that I don't know the english name: http://www.ferreteriaortiz.es/store/fotos/250x250/03590172.jpg and files. I got a set for carving wax but I still didn't try it...
[User Picture]
From:afmetalsmith
Date:August 18th, 2006 08:39 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Blue is pretty soft for a carving wax. I'm using it now because it's what I have, but I think the green will be better for what I'm doing.

I'm not sure if the sheet wax and the slab wax have the same color codes; that why I just ordered a box of the green sheet (in, I think 2mm thickness) and a box of the green slabs (4.5mm thickness- my blue is, I think 6mm, and I do a LOT of filing to reduce it to 1.5mm or so!). I've not found much use fot he pink myself, though i do have a bit I got in a sample kit.

For tools I am mostly now using the Kate Wolfe set (http://www.wolftools.biz/) which J was nice enough to give me for Xmas last year. They do rock! I also use some altered dental picks that I begged from my dentist- who thought I was nuts!- and then formed to what I needed.

The picture you linked to looks like a ball bur to me- I think one meant for wax. I really prefer hand tools for wax. Wax carves so fast compared to metal that I think something on the flex-shaft would get me into deep trouble pretty fast! :)

I have been eyeing some needle file and riffler sets with longing, though....
[User Picture]
From:medvssa
Date:August 19th, 2006 09:33 am (UTC)
(Link)
That set looks great! *bookmarks* and all the explanations... what a great present.
I have something almost exactly like this: http://www.ehobbytools.com/media/83220s.jpg
I guess that is the typical thing.

Yeah I think they are mostly used with wax, those balls, cones, cylinders and so on. I used the motor on a low setting most of the time. With a big "ball bur" you can make an imitation hammered texture on the wax, I did that here: http://www.innershelter.net/index.php?s=cast&i=2
The picture is quite bad, I have to replace it.

I didn't know what a riffler was, but googling, yeah! I had two of those, one got stolen, the other I don't even know where it is now :( but they were great for wax!

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