Learning lost wax casting

So I’ve spent the last little while teaching myself lost wax casting at home. It’s taken me a bit of experimenting to get a process that I can do in my oven, since with an oven that maxxes out around 500°F you can’t do a burn out (let alone a “melt out”) on standard jeweler’s wax. The outer surface of the wax will soften, but it’s such a good insulator that it stays totally solid and unaffected. And since the oven isn’t hot enough to liquify or gasify that thin layer enough to get rid of it, you can leave the wax in the oven as long as you want and when you remove it, it still pretty much looks like the moment you finished carving it.

So my solution has been to use an extremely soft microcrystaline wax. It’s sort of like trying to sculpt with something the consistency of soft plasticine that is also extremely sticky. You certainly can’t carve it, and sculpting it is difficult, limiting you to grotesque outsider-art organic shapes. But it has the advantage of burning out at around five hundred degrees, which not only means that I can do it in a home oven, but also that I can do stone-in-mold projects where I sculpt the stone(s) I’m setting along with the wax, and then leave the stones in when I pour the plaster around it. The temperatures are low enough that I haven’t had any stones crack in the oven. Oh, and because the wax is so soft, it’s impossible to make a ring without a jig, so I have a series of ring-sized cylinders that I use as “scaffolding”. I cast these out of the same plaster (Satin Cast 20, which is the best material I’ve found for the main mold, is too soft and crumbly I think so I use a cheap gypsum cement called Hydroperm) so they just go in the mold when I create it and are broken apart afterwards along with the rest.

Anyway… My results aren’t anything earth shattering, but it’s been a good learning process and I feel confident that if I had something I wanted to make that I know how. It would be nice if I had a kiln that could do a high temperature burnout because that would greatly expand my sculpting options, but because I don’t intend on doing much with this method commercially, it’s not going to pay its own bills so I shouldn’t really spend any [more] money on it. I do however have a big bin of “real” rings for the shop, so when I’m done posting this entry I’ll get back to work.

Those are all cast in pewter, but when I’m done some of them will be silver and copper plated in addition to the patina’d pewter that I have been posting. Anyway, here are the rings I’ve made recently. From top to bottom they are: shark’s tooth, crystal shard, citrine (crystals around a tumbled centre piece), tumbled rose quartz tree, star crinoids, quartz exclamation mark, citrine geode, 2 pictures: bloodstone spike ring and quartz crystal (which broke as you can see), a silly paperweight that I made for my daughter, and a ring made of a mix of leftover bits.

If you’re wondering why there’s so much citrine, it’s because I had a big chunk of citrine crystal that I got for a couple dollars at the CNE and I hit it with a hammer. The cost on these rings is almost nothing. Including everything — even the supplies for the mold — the per ring cost is just a few dollars… Like I said, I don’t expect to put these up for sale because I don’t feel like they’re mature enough talent-wise for me to feel comfortable staking my reputation on them, but if someone is moved by one of them I’d be happy to accept any reasonable offer. The last one in the picture set is just horrible and embarrassing aesthetically. I should have melted it down instead of shaming myself. They’re in a mix of sizes between 7.5 and 12 if I remember right. Most are too small for me, so I had a temporary scare when one got stuck pretty solidly on my finger while I took the pictures!!!

Anyway, enough of this diversion. I’m also carving a couple of Futurama-inspired ring masters, and a pair of zombie rings that Caitlin suggested I donate a set of as prizes of this year’s zombie walk if Thea likes them.


  1. AVDisco wrote:

    I love the rings, but my fingers are an unfortunately child-like size 5! But, I will keep an eye out for any smaller sizes, if you end up making and selling them.

    Friday, September 16, 2011 at 12:07 am | Permalink
  2. Shannon wrote:

    Thanks so much for all the insight into copyright. I’ve been sculpting and mold making professionally for four years now and I’m just so personally paranoid about copyright; I guess it all comes down to “How much interest and power those who care have.” I had to look up ‘trolling’ (funny sounding) and I meant no offense to you but I couldn’t ask Andy Warhol the same kind of question, so when you evoked the same curiosity I half assumed I knew what the deal was. I believe that art (and literature too) takes on a life of it’s own and to a certain extent you aren’t truly a success in art until your creations manage to pop up elsewhere, slightly modified or not (think of the peace sign). Oh by the way you are WAY more articulate than Andy Warhol was.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink
  3. shaheen wrote:

    I love these. Very beautiful. I am so interested in doing this process myself. I really love the second one. Is it still available? I would love to purchase it… if it’s the right size.

    Please email me at the above email.


    Monday, March 4, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink
  4. tara wrote:

    Do you just use a crucible and melt your own metal to pour into your mold? I am interested in adding casting to my in home jewelry studio and your technique seems user friendly. i like the idea that you have cast with the stones already set as well… any advice or more info welcomed! beautiful work.

    Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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