Well I finally finished “Bean Casting”! I hope you enjoy it, and
I hope that it will start some beginners on their way to making
Photos can be found on the Colorado Institute of Silversmithing
and Art Metal at: http://www.frii.com/~dnorris . Just go to
"Class Photos" and then to “Bean Casting”.
Bean Casting or Start Your Own Jewelry Business for Less Than
$100.00 by Don Norris
You could start your own jewelry business by starting out with
very little equipment! Bean casting is a method that can be use
to create very unusual creations that can be used for jewelry.
Bean casting is not much more than just pouring a metal that has
been melted into a can of beans. The metal flows in and around
the beans and “freezes” into shapes created by the spaces between
the beans. However, even though it is a very simple method,
there are some steps that should be taken to improve the castings
and insure the safety of the caster.
You will need the following supplies to be successful at casting
and making a piece of jewelry with Bean Casting.
Casting Supplies and Tools (photo 1) $1.00 A bag of pinto beans,
small navy beans, or black-eyed peas. $0.00 Scrap piece of 2 x
4 block about six inches long. Most lumber yards will just give
you a scrap piece. (Photo 2) $0.00 Empty soup can for holding the
beans during casting. $2.50 Borax for cleaning the molten
silver. This will be a large box that will last you and 100
other bean caster a life time. (Photo 3) $10.00 Propane Torch
purchased from a hardware store. (Photo 4) $0.00 Glass of water.
It can be paper or plastic cup and is used for a fire
extinguisher. $7.00 One ounce of sterling silver shot or scrap.
(Photo 5) $1.00 Lighter.
Polishing and Finishing Supplies and Tools $35.00 Dremel tool
from Target, Sears, Walmart, or Kmart. $3.00 White Diamond
buffing compound, rough first polish. (Rio Grande Co.) $3.00 Zam
buffing compound for a finish polish. (Rio Grande Co.) $1.00
Drill bit (1/16). Hardware store $2.00 Sterling silver round
wire for jump rings (18 gauge). (Rio Grande Co.) $4.50 Large
round ball burr. (Rio Grande Co.) (Photo 6) $4.00 Wire cutters
from Walmart. $14.00 Ten 20" Chains (Rio Grande Co.). 632-250/20
Lets start your business!
Step One: Make your crucible. Use the ball burr to carve out a
small “bowl” in one end of the 2 x 4 block of wood. (Photo 6) The
idea of using a piece of wood for the crucible was given to me
by Brian Adams. (firstname.lastname@example.org and his web site is:
Step Two: Carve a pour spout. Use the ball burr to carve out a
"pour spout" from the bowl to the edge of the 2 x 4. (Photo 7)
Your crucible is finished!
Step Three: Divide silver in to smaller portions. Divide your
silver into two, three or even four equal groups. (Photo 8) This
will make it easier and quicker to melt and cast.
Step Four: Place one portion into the bowl of the “crucible”.
Step Five: Learn to Light the Torch. First let me show you how
to light a lighter correctly for lighting the torch. Hold the
lighter so that your thumb rolls the striking wheel to the side
of the thumb. (Photo 10) Do not use the tip of your thumb.
(Photo 11) This will hurt your thumb, and it may touch the hot
metal part of the lighter while you are lighting the torch.
Lighting the torch is easy if you do it right. Do it wrong and
it scares you, your neighbor, and your teacher! Follow these steps
and you will never be afraid of lighting a torch again. A. Light
the lighter. B. Place the lit lighter directly under the torch’s
tip. (Photo 12)
C. Slowly turn on the torch–very slowly. If you do not know
which way to turn the knob to turn on the torch, follow these
instructions: Without trying to light the torch, turn the knob
both directions, until you can hear the gas come out. Do this
several times until you know which way to turn it on. No, it will
not fill the room with gas and blow you up, and no, it will not
gas you and kill you. The whole tank could empty in to an
average room and not blow up or gas you. It will, however, stink.
Now, back to the steps. D. While you are turning the torch on
with the lighter under the nozzle, a small fluffy flame will
appear first. Leave the lighter on, and keep turning on the torch
slowly, until this small fluffy flames “jumps” down into the
torch and comes back up as a sharp, short flame. The torch is now
lit. The next step is to adjust it to flame about 1 1/2 inch
long. (Photo 13)
Step 6: Prepare the Beans for Casting. Fill an empty soup can
with beans, rice, pasta, or other natural objects of your choice.
Fill the can up to about 1/2 inch from the top. (Photo 14)
Note: I have tried casting with the beans dry and with the
beans covered in water. I found that I liked the results of the
dry beans better. The castings seem to have a more interesting
shape with the beans being dry. It does really smoke and stink
for a while, so plan for it if you decide to cast dry. I would
recommend that you try both ways.
If you decide to use water, fill the can with water until the
beans are just covered with a little water. I tried about 1/8 of
an inch. It worked fine, but I felt the water cooled the silver
too quickly to make as interesting of a casting as when I tried it
dry. (Photo 15)
Step Seven: Get Ready To Cast. Prepare to cast by choosing where
you going to cast. I do not recommend that you do this in your
living room or kitchen. Your bedroom is much more comfortable.
NO, no, just kidding. I would not recommend bean casting in your
house at all! You should always use a friend’s house. NO, no,
just kidding! Because of the fire and smoke caused by the burning
2x4 and the smell of the burning beans, I would cast either in a
shop area, garage, or outdoors. There is also the very likely
chance that you could spill the silver, and it will instantly
burn large holes in carpet or linoleum.
Safely Note: Be sure to make sure your fire extinguisher is
charged. To do this, take a plastic cup, fill it with water, and
keep it handy. Also, you should wear goggles or eye protection.
(Actually, I recommend that you prepare to cast by doing the
following: Put on an athletic cup, knee pads, elbow pads, back
brace, lifting belt and body armor. Then cover all this and
yourself with tin foil, especially the top of your head. Then
put on one of those fire fighting suits (you know the ones that
used to be made of asbestos until we found that it hunts us down
and attacks us.) Put in ear plugs, followed by those ear
protector muffs, and a helmet. Protect your hands with welding
gloves, and put on steel-toed shoes. Put on light filter glasses
followed by goggles. Be sure to put on the best air filtering
mask that you can find, and hook an oxygen mask to that. Be very
careful with the oxygen–we are going to use a torch you know. Oh,
the tin foil is so that you can be detected by aliens as you
cast. (They are always trying to steal this technology.) Final
warning: if you do something stupid, you can injure yourself,
burn down your neighbor’s house and your own, kill the dog, and/or
start a small world war. There! I think I have now covered my
tail as far as safety. I hope so! Proceed at your own risk!
I chose a place in a small personal shop that I built beside my
house. I set up everything on a metal chair, more to make it
easier to take photos than because of safety issues. From top
left clockwise: I set up the fire extinguisher (white cup filled
with water), small paper cup with a little borax in it for
fluxing, torch, 2x4 with silver in hollowed out part, and the can
of beans (the mold). (Photo 16)
Step Eight: Light the torch. (Photo 17)
Step Nine: Adjust the Flame Length You will need a flame about 1
1/2 inches long. (Photo 18)
Step Ten: Begin to Melt the Silver. Hold the torch so that the
small blue flame is placed just above the silver. The point of
the small blue flame is the hottest part of the flame. (Photo 19)
If it is too far away from the silver, it will take too long to
cast. If held too close, it will actually cool the silver. The
flame should be pointed at about a 45 degree angle. (Photo 20)
If it is pointed down at too sharp of an angle, it could blow
The 2x4 will begin to burn a little, but not as much as you
might think. (Photo 21) I was surprised at how little. I was
concerned about the possibility of moisture in the wood. I feared
that it might come out as steam and splatter the molten metal, so
as I heated the silver, I was a little afraid the first time. I
have used this method about five times with new wood each time to
be sure of the safety, and to take the photos for this class. I
had no problems, as the torch heated the wood, I saw no steam or
moisture. I would recommend that you make sure this wood is dry
before you start.
Step Eleven: Flux the Metal. If you are using scrap or dirty
silver, take a pinch of borax and sprinkle it over the silver.
(Photo 22) I used just the borax that you can purchase at the
grocery store for about $2.50 for a big box. The borax will
"clean" the dirt off the molten silver. Quickly take the torch
off the molten silver and then quickly put it on again. This
causes the flux to collect on the sides of the puddle of molten
silver, carrying the dirt with it.
Step Twelve: Cast. Grab the other end of the 2x4 with your right
hand if you are right handed. The torch should be in your left
hand. Carefully position the 2x4 over the can of beans. (Photo
23) Keep the torch on the silver until you pour it. (Photo 24) You
may want to experiment with how fast you pour. Different
strategies will produce different results. Try pouring all the
silver in one area, or pour it in a circular motion to spread it
out a little.
Step Thirteen: Put out beans with fire extinguisher! If you are
using dry beans they will begin to smoke quickly and profusely.
Warning: It STINKS! So, grab the fire extinguisher (cup of
water) and fill the can with water quickly! (Photo 25) Your
clothes could even smell like burnt beans if you do not. (This
smoke could effect your tin foil underwear, also, making it
possible for the aliens to detect you!) Also, put out any flames
on the 2x4. If you are not going to use it again, pour water on
it to put out any embers that could still be glowing. (Photo 26)
If you are not going to use it again right away, soak it in a
bucket of water or in the sink. Make sure it cannot start
burning again and place it somewhere that it will be safe if it
does. Inside your charcoal grill would be a great place. A day
or so later you can throw it away or use it again.
Step Fourteen: Pour the Beans Into a Bowl and Find Your Bean
Casting! Empty your can of beans into a container and search
through the beans to find your bean casting and all small pieces
of silver that may have split off. (Photo 27) (Photo 28)
Step Fifteen: Clean your casting. You may have to pry out some
of the beans from your casting. (Photo 29)
Step Sixteen: View your bean casting with the awe and wonder
that a one of a kind piece deserves. Look at it and see if you
want to keep it. (Photo 30) If you do not like it, go back to
Step four, and cast it again. If you like it, go to Step
Step Seventeen: Plan a piece of jewelry with your new bean
casting. Now comes the hard part. You have to decide what to do
with your new creation. They make great pendants that are easy to
sell. I have decided to make a bracelet out of about six of
them. I may include stones. If you have done silversmithing, go
head and make a piece of jewelry. If not, go to step Eighteen.
Step Eighteen: Wait for the next class on how to solder things
on to the bean casting to make jewelry. I will teach you how to
solder jump rings, earring posts, bolo backs and tie tack pins
onto these bean castings so that they can be sold as jewelry.
Step Nineteen: Send photos to me. I will make a page for all
bean casting photos and the jewelry made from them if you will
email them to me. Even put a price on them, and we will sell
them for you! Let’s keep it to four per person maximum.
Step Twenty: Remove all safety clothing and equipment. Continue
wearing the tin foil at all times! Aliens you know! – -- Don
Norris @Donald_Norris PO Box 2433 Estes Park, CO 80517