Take Your Silver Jewelry Business To The Next Level With Lost Wax Casting
If you have a silver jewelry business, you may have wondered how to both improve your profits and take your artistry to the next level. While beading, stamping, and embossing can produce beautiful pieces, you can create more original and sculptural pieces with the ancient technique of lost wax casting. Read on to learn about how lost wax casting works and the tools you need to try it for yourself.
Lost Wax Casting: An Introduction
Lost wax casting uses a piece of hard wax as the start of a jewelry creation. Using micro tools that are smaller than normal sized tools, the artist slowly and meticulous carves away the wax, much like the way sculptors work with wood or marble but on a miniature level.
While some jewelry makers work with soft beeswax or paraffin in an additive method, lost wax casting is different because the process is mostly subtractive. You can add wax to your piece, but the hardness of the wax used encourages primarily carving and shaping techniques.
Once the final form has been produced in wax, the wax is covered in plaster to create a permanent mold. The wax is then melted away, hence the name "lost wax," aka cire perdue in French. The plaster cast is then used as a mold for molten silver to create the final jewelry product.
History of Lost Wax Casting
The lost wax casting technique is nearly as old as civilization itself and dates back to the third millennium B.C. Until the 18th Century, lost wax casting was the primary method used to produce jewelry and statuary. There are still some notable jewelry makers who use this method with great success.
Lost wax casting can also be used with other metals, such as platinum, gold, brass, and bronze, and it can produce other accessories and decorative items like candlesticks. Some industrial processes use lost wax casting with rubber molds to manufacture things like engine parts.
How You Can Start Using Lost Wax Casting
To get started using lost wax casting, you can experiment on your own or take a class. Both private jewelry designers and technical colleges offer workshops and courses in this technique. There are some good instructional videos available online too.
You don't need to make a big investment to begin using this method, because you can outsource both the plaster mold making and the silver casting until you're ready to try it yourself. What you do need are the basic micro tools to learn and improve your carving technique.
Jeweler's wax is available in a variety of dimensions and configurations, like tubes for rings, from jewelry and art suppliers. You can start with simple blocks just to experiment.
You need a hand-held pendant motor to hold your carving tools. This is similar to the small device used by a manicurist or dentist. The pendant motor functions much like a drill, however you will be using end mills and specialized carving bits rather than drill bits to do much of your carving. An end mill carves in multiple directions simultaneously, both forward or downward and sideways, allowing you to hollow out areas that would be more difficult with other tools.
Fish-tail end mills are ideal for using with jeweler's wax as are burr bits. Engraving or scoring bits can then add final small touches or carve very fine lines.
You can purchase end mills from the same companies that manufacture them for medical devices or dental practices. Once you get a sense of what kinds of pieces you wish to create and build some experience, you can acquire more tools for your special designs.
Lost wax casting has been around for over 5,000 years because of its enduring ability to help artists produce high quality work. The next time you get the urge to take your jewelry making to the next level, set yourself up with some basic micro tools, and give it a whirl. You may find you never go back to your old ways of making jewelry again.