Using the lost wax method to make rings.

I am lucky enough to have two brothers and even luckier to have one with all the kit needed to cast bronze. John has done this for many years using the 'lost wax method". Basically this involves making a model out of wax, putting a tough coating around the model, heating up the coating and melting the wax, then pouring molten metal into the now empty mould. Sounds pretty simple!

John has used this method for pouring bronze, mainly casting bronze bowls.

So what about casting silver rings? They are smaller so they should be simpler. It seemed like a great idea to me and I really was wondering why I had never heard of anyone doing silver casting this way. Thousands of years and many generations of jewellers that were just not as innovative as me.

So, John gave me this great wax that he uses for his bowls and I shaped some great looking rings. Then for a week I went to his dairy factory and learnt how to coat the waxes in what he called shell material. First a mixture of something runny was made and then it was dipped in stuff like fine kitty litter and dried under basically a huge hairdryer, a bit like dipping the fish in egg and breadcrumbs. They next day the same thing happened again with slightly courser kitty litter and then after drying out for a day the same thing happened again. Apparently it's a tricky business because the wax can get damaged or the kitty litter can crack and then all the work is for nothing.

Friday night was fish and chip night (actual fish and chips), and wax pouring night. I have to say that it was great fun. The wax burned out rather than melting and then the moulds were heating up to glowing and the little balls of silver that were in the big spouts at the top of the rings flowed through the rings when they melted. For silver that's pretty hot (961 degrees Celsius).

The moulds glowed, the silver flowed and unfortunately little bubbles of air generally stayed in the rings. One came out complete but the others had significant gaps in the ring bands. The shell material stuck way more successfully than the breadcrumbs stick to the fish and I am still not entirely sure how to get it off.