work in progress…

a silver seashell pendant

Here’s a little peak at something I’ve been working on.

This gives you an idea of the processes involved when turning a beach find into a precious metal wearable object via the lost wax casting method, which is a method of casting that has been used for millennia. It’s like a delicious thread connecting us back to the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, and beyond.

I found this wonderful little shell on my last trip to Nova Scotia, which inevitably involves a wander on a beach at some point every day, or I haven’t done it right.

Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of it before making the silicon mold *slap on the hand* , but you get the idea…

Once you make a silicon mold, you have to cut through the whole thing with a sharp blade, which, if it is delicate, usually means the object gets destroyed in the process. More often than not, so do parts of your fingers.

Once you have multiples in wax, you make a WAX TREE! You set this wax tree in a steel flask, mix up a special plaster, pour that carefully over your wax tree, and VOILA, you have a plaster mold.

That plaster mold is left to cure overnight, and once it’s cured the wax positives are melted out in what’s called a BURNOUT (that’s the professional term). Then the plaster mold is placed in a kiln and brought up to about 900 degrees F, so the molten metal doesn’t get “shocked”, or contract because of the temperature difference, and ruin your cast in one foul swoop.

Once the mold is hot enough, the flask/mold is fitted into place on the casting arm in the centrifugal casting machine, while the metal grain is being heated in the crucible. Once the metal is molten (for silver we’re talking about 1700 degrees F), the lock is released and the metal is shot into the mold as the casting arm spins away, and you send a prayer to the Divine Ones for a successful cast (but really it’s the culmination of all that damn fine effort and care you put into it, step by step, to get to this point).

When the flask/mold has cooled enough so the silver is no longer a hot red, it gets quenched in a bucket of water, and the plaster just FALLS AWAY – like magic! After a quick clean, this is what you have.

After a quick dip in a sweet sweet acid bath, baby girl gets to sparkling and shining.

A snip here, a *kiss* of a file there, maybe a brush with a hot flame, and what you have is something close to a pendant, and a few more decisions, like what stones am I going to set in those barnacles, and should they SPARKLE or just wink?

This post has been brought to you by Karyn Houston, with heavy doses of Cherry Bomb Coffee, and the Free Nationals.

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