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Beginner casting studio


I took one class of casting sterling silver and loved it, now I would
love to set up in my workshop for casting, could anyone tell me what
I need to start, I just want to melt my silver scraps into wire or
small sheet, not sure what tools should I get, any help would be
wonderful. Thank you I love getting up in the morning and read all
the posting, learn a lot from them.


Hi Anna,

Get Tim McCreight’s book, “Practical Casting, A Studio Reference”.
Everything you want to learn about will be there plus a whole lot of
other stuff you didn’t even know you wanted to know. Historical and
practical, it covers everything from gravity sand-casting, steam
casting, sling casting or hand-throwing with a chain to modern
production casting. A fun book with a lot of handwritten
instruction, tips and drawings, written in the style of his book “The
Complete Metalsmith, An Illustrated Handbook”, which I also highly
recommend to anyone even casually interested in metalsmithing.

No affiliation (darn it).
Dave Phelps

1 Like

If you want to melt down your scrap silver, then you need a crucible
( I recommend “The Whip”), borax, and a cast iron ingot mold, and
last but not least, a rolling mill with grooved rollers plus a
drawplate. Sort out all the clean silver scrap, anything that has
solder on it has to be put aside as “dirty scrap”. Once you get all
your silver scrap all sort ed out, no solder, put it in the
crucible, sprinkle a little borax on top and melt the silver till it
is liquid. Keep the torch on the molten silver in the crucible as you
pour into the ingot mold. Give it a minute and then open up ingot
mold, extract the silver ingot rods, and if they have glassy borax of
them, pickle it well, then rinse off rods in water with baking soda.
Once clean, start rolling the bars thru the grooved rollers till it
it around 12-14g. and then start pulling the square wire thru the
drawplate to make round wire. Great way to reuse your scrap and have
custom-made wire.


Anna- if all you want is sheet and wire, just buy a simple ingot mold
a rolling mill and some wire draw plates.

if you want to do lost wax work, I’d recommend vacuum investing and
casting. We like it much better than centrifugal casting. Much safer
and more even casting results.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer

If you want to do a lot of sheet and wire manufacture, do invest in
a rolling mill and drawplates. For casting generally, you can go a
long way with cuttlebone from the local pet shop, and maybe move
onto casting in sand when you can afford to buy some of the proper
sand for it.

I used to cast my wire and sheet ingots into sand, but more
recently, I’ve been introduced to a Japanese technique for
water-casting little oval ingots. These take a bit more work to turn
into wire, but the quality of the metal surface is really good. It’s
literally a matter of filling a small pan with water, suspending a
hammock of fabric a few centimetres below the surface, and pouring
the molten metal into it. It sounds crazy, but it really works.

Of course, you do need to melt your metal in the first place - you
need a flux like borax, and a crucible to melt the metal in. Be
careful - if you buy a graphite crucible, they can explode if they
are wet when heated, so I recommend the white ceramic type, as they
are safer. For heat, your life is easier with a very hot, fast
source like an oxy-propane torch, but there are so many different
options, that it’s hard to know what you really need.

Everything I’ve said is assuming you want to set up a primitive
workshop on a tight budget. If you want to get into professional
casting, ignore everything I have said, and listen to one of the
proper casters who are bound to answer your query.

Jamie Hall

Thanks for the info and yes I am doing it with tight budget and I am
interest in the Japanese way with water could please tell me more in

Thanks for the info and yes I am doing it with tight budget and I
am interest in the Japanese way with water could please tell me
more in detail? 

Just thinking about this, what equipment do you have at the moment?

What sized pieces do you want to make?

Regards Charles A.

Anna, there are others better qualified than me to talk about
water-casting, but in case they don’t post, here’s an outline.

Take one small cooking pan. Cut out a circle of fabric a bit larger
than the pan, drape it over the pan, and then secure it with an
elastic band or some string or wire around the outside of the pan.
You should now have a sort of hammock, the bottom of which should be
about 5cm below the rim of the pan. I presume that any fabric will
do - as I’m using an old nylon t-shirt, the heat shouldn’t have an
impact on anything you use, although I suppose that a soft canvas or
leather will be even more resistant.

Now, fill the pan to the top with water, making sure that there are
no air bubbles trapped underneath the fabric. I initially did it
with cold water, but Ford Hallam advised me to try it with 75C
water, and that did seem to improve the process. Place the pan on a
secure place near where you will be heating your crucible - it is
important that you pour the molten metal immediately after you take
the heat away, or it won’t pour well.

You will need a crucible that is gripped in a long handle - do not
cut corners by trying to grip crucibles with forceps or similar -
molten metal is really, really dangerous. If possible, wear natural
fabrics and good leatherboots, plus goggles. An apron and gloves are
good too. If you are new to this kind thing, you might want a friend
with you, just in case the worst should happen. We all make silly
mistakes sometimes, so this is no insult against your abilities.

When the metal is hot enough to pour, you want a nice, steady tip of
the crucible into the water (they usually have a lip, so pour in
that direction).

What happens next is just strange - the molten metal will pool at
the bottom of the fabric hammock, and create a jacket of steam, in
which it will sit for up to 30 seconds, depending on how much metal
you are pouring. If you pour badly, the metal sometimes stays molten
long enough that it all collects together anyway, but if it does go
wrong, wait until the steam jacket goes and re-melt the metal and
pour again. You might want to practice a few times in this way.

Once the steam jacket is gone, the metal will be below 100C, but it
and the water may be hot enough to hurt you, so use tweezers to pick
it up and submerge it in cold water before handling, just to be on
the safe side. What you should have is a regular oval blob of metal,
with a very smooth surface and little or no flux or oxidation. You
might want to pickle it anyway, just to be sure.

A word of advice - if you pour fine silver, instead of sterling,
there seems to be a dimple. I don’t know why, but those of you in
the UK will immediately recognise the ingot as a Werther’s Original.
If you pour platinum, it will spit, and shed a few tiny spheres
inside the water. Using pre-heated water reduces this, but it is
still a problem, so be super-careful (and I’d suggest being taught
about platinum before making that jump, as it is expensive and the
melting temp. is really high). This method makes the best platinum
melt-ups you will ever see. Low carat golds will pour less well than
high carat. All of the specific details assume that you are pouring
no more than a couple of ounces of metal. If you do more, you’ll
need a bigger pan,more water…etc.

If you need any more info, feel free to contact me on my personal
email. How can such a simple process need so much explanation! I
hadn’t planned to write an essay!

Thanks to Brian Adam for introducing me to the basic idea. The
further details are from my own experiments. Here’s Brians’ website:

Jamie Hall

Jamie gave a great description of the water pouring process. I would
only add one thing. It is imperative that you keep the crucible 3
inches or so above the surface of the water. I have participated in a
pour using this process where the crucible was a little too close to
the water and a drop of water splashed up from the surface of the pan
and landed in the crucible. There was an explosion that dispersed the
metal in a fine powder form across the room and made my ears ring. It
scared the hell out of me. No one was hurt but you definitely don’t
want to do this.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts