As you’ve looked at my jewelry you’ve seen the term lost wax casting used often. This is an ancient technique that has become an integral part of modern day metalsmithing. It’s a wonderful technique for jewelers because it allows us to create very intricate details that would not be possible through fabrication. It’s because of the lost wax casting technique that I’m able to create such detail with pieces like the Six or Nine bracelets in the Numeral collection. The technique is also convenient when creating pieces with irregular shapes and sizes that wouldn’t have the same look if they were fabricated.
Over the next few months I’ll be doing a series that shows the anatomy of a lost wax casting. Hopefully this will help demonstrate the time and craftsmanship that goes into each of my pieces of work. For the series I’ll focus on a customized piece I did of the Two ring and you can visually follow along the process.
As with most of my work there was strong symbolism behind this ring. It was an anniversary gift and I incorporated their wedding date’s numerology into the ring. Their wedding date’s number was a 22/4 so I made a Two ring and designed it with a channel setting for two stones. There are separate representations of the number two, just as they are separate individuals coming together in their relationship. All of this is represented in the ring but in a subtle way so the owner knows its secret, its power and its deeply personal meaning to her.
To create a ring, I normally start with a tube of wax that has been hollowed in the center. I measure the width I’ll be making the ring and then carve off a slice to suit my needs. Once I get the edges smooth and even, I begin the very detailed scribing of the outline of my ring. Because much of my work has a geometric feel, the eye catches each line. So it’s extremely important that each detail is exact. If a line is off by the slightest degree I have to start over with a new slice of wax. Since I have the original top line in place I work off of it with a lovely assortment of tools in order to make my markings.
Once I have the lines in place I begin the process of filing. Again, it’s incredibly important that this work is done exactly to spec or it’s time to start over. If the lines get lost, it’s next to impossible to recreate with the precision I had at the beginning since my beginning lines have now been filed away. If I start making new lines at this point it’s by eye and I’d prefer to stay as close to perfect as possible. After exacting detail to get the ring into shape, I do the finishing work on the sides. Every single detail that is found in the wax will be translated into metal so it’s important that I get the piece smooth and even.
Once I’ve smoothed and shaped the shank of the ring I move on to creating the spacing on the top. Yet again, this calls for painstaking detail. Because I will be channel setting stones into this ring I determine the dimensions of the stones and then create the spacing for it on the top of the ring. This is when I start breaking out the math skills to make sure the space is large enough but not too large to house the stones. I also want to make sure the spacing is perfectly even from the sides. Once I have my mark in place I begin the hollowing. The hollowing is a bit tricky as well because if I make the tunnel the slightest bit too wide, you guessed it – time to start over with a new slice of wax.
I then move on to hollowing the inside of the ring. If you’ve held my work, you know that it is substantial in weight but it’s a delicate balance so I take out the extra wax. I have to be careful not to puncture the details I’ve already created so I work with a light and a measuring tool to stay in check.
I now go back over the ring to iron out any final imperfections because as I mentioned, every single detail in the wax will show up in the metal. Once I’m happy with all the details I’ll move on to my next phase which is spruing the model and preparing to cast. It starts to get a lot more exciting after this so be sure to check out next month’s post too.
If you have any questions about wax carving or anything I’ve shown here, please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you!