As the cost (and hassle) of commercial lost wax casting climbs I’m using my sand casting setup at home more these days. It can take as little as 2 minutes to ready the mold and a further 5 to 10 minutes to melt a quantity of scrap silver ready for pouring. It’s a fun way to make jewellery but it takes time to perfect. I’m not there yet but I thought I’d pass along some things I’ve learned along the way so far…
First off though if you aren’t familiar with sand casting here’s a start to finish video from Melissa Muir who’s better at showing the process than I would be…
So now that you understand the basics I’ll move along…
Sand Casting Is Like Christmas
No matter how many times I do a casting it always feels a bit like christmas when I pry the flask halves apart to see what the molten metal has done. If the sand casting gods have smiled on me then I’ll find the mold has completely filled on the first go. If they aren’t smiling then I’ll have either a partially filled mold or the more annoying situation where all the molten silver will be caught in the funnel of the flask. Really annoying! The great thing about sand casting though is that you can always scrape out your burnt sand, reset your model into fresh sand and start again.
Mustard Seeds & Peppercorns
I’m in a perpetual search for texture in my jewellery and recently started adding mustard seeds and peppercorns in and around whatever object I’m casting. I doubt that I’m the first person to try these things but I wanted to show you that they do leave a texture behind. And being organic and available from my kitchen pantry they don’t give off harmful fumes when heated to 1400 degrees. Instead the studio is filled with a peppery aroma which is nicer than the smell of burnt sand alone.
It’s not a great idea to cast expensive gemstones with this process unless you’re ok with the possibility of having them crack and or discolour with the intense heat involved. An inexpensive option to use are cubic zircons, which I’m trying (and not having too much success with anyway)
Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to be economical with your materials. You can buy authentic delft sand for example which is uber fine and has just the right amount of binding oil in it to hold the finest details of your model. Or you can buy a cheaper version of delft sand and regret every single grain of it. The rings below are an example of pretty rough detail captured in cheap sand.
And that’s where I have to leave it for now. I’ll continue my exploration into sand casting and encourage you to give it a try. And if you do let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear from you 🙂