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Can a cast piece match handmade?


#1

Was: Jewelry design software

'Can a cast piece match handmade, in refinement and elegance?" The
answer is resounding no!'

Oh for heaven’s sake, whyever not?’ It depends on who handmade the
piece and who wax carved and cast the other one. In my experience
many customers are very curious about how the piece was made and most
of them prefer handmade work over cast work, not for the (good)
reasons that Peter Rowe mentioned, but because they feel that
handmade work is more authentic, whatever that may mean. I never cast
(except the occasional cuttlefish), but I do not share this
sensibility as I have seen absolutely fantastic cast pieces. It’s not
because a lot of crap is cast that no great cast work is being done.
It may be rare, but then not all handmade pieces are exactly examples
of supreme refinement either.


#2
Oh for heaven's sake, whyever not?' It depends on who handmade the
piece and who wax carved and cast the other one. 

The original "hand made piece is the wax model, once cast it is a
duplicate, an industrially produced item that at best can be hand
finished but is not hand made jewelry.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#3
Not only that, but if customers are informed about the differences
in the durability and life expectancy of a handmade piece of
jewelry, which will be made from rolled/forged/drawn stock, versus
a casting with it's softer and sometimes weaker metal and
occasional porosity problems, then most customers are also swayed
by these considerations as well. In fairness, die struck commercial
pieces can compete in durability with handmade. But since most
commercial goods are cast, this is a minor bit of competition. 

I was discussing this today.

The durability can be different, however we have examples if Viking
cast fine silver jewellery, that is still as good as the day it was
cast.

Work hardening and refining the grain of any metal makes it more
durable.

How durable does a piece of jewellery have to be. A pendant would
not need to be as durable as a ring (that is worn on a daily basis).
If a ring is an accent, then in theory it would only be worn on
special occasions and not subject to wear.

One of the points that came up was that a cast ring will have a
different surface finish to a hand made ring.

I’ll have to do some experiments to confirm this, or with luck
someone on the list can provide a definitive answer.

Regards Charles


#4
I completely support your view!! I previously cast custom jewelry
for many many years. Have not done much the past three years due to
space constraints but still love the medium. What is handmade? Some
would say its 'fabrication' using sheet, wire or tubing. Others say
its not handmade unless you melt the alloy, cast a billet, roll it
out to sheet or draw the wire, or pull the tubing. 

You may not agree with it but there is a legal definition in the US
for Handmade items of jewelry and casting and the use of pre formed
parts (findings) do not qualify as hand made. See below.

A7 23.3 Misuse of the terms "hand-made," "hand-polished," etc. 

(a) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by
implication, that any industry product is hand-made or
hand-wrought unless the entire shaping and forming of such
product from raw materials and its finishing and decoration were
accomplished by hand labor and manually-controlled methods which
permit the maker to control and vary the construction, shape,
design, and finish of each part of each individual product. 

Note to paragraph (a): As used herein, "raw materials" include
bulk sheet, strip, wire, and similar items that have not been
cut, shaped, or formed into jewelry parts, semi-finished parts,
or blanks. 

(b) It is unfair or deceptive to represent, directly or by
implication, that any industry product is hand-forged,
hand-engraved, hand-finished, or hand-polished, or has been
otherwise hand-processed, unless the operation described was
accomplished by hand labor and manually-controlled methods which
permit the maker to control and vary the type, amount, and effect
of such operation on each part of each individual product. 

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#5
In fact your hand made piece can be easily replicated by standard
casting methods, and once you have a mould, the pieces can be made
faster. 

All right, I am game. Here is the chance for any caster, to prove
once and for all, that casting is as good as handmade.

I am providing a link to the short preview preview of how I make
eternity ring.

http://www.studioarete.com/eternityring.html

one can also see it on Ganoksin benchtube.

So instead of starting long exchanges of various aspects of handmade
versus cast, any caster should try to duplicate my ring.

How we are going to judge the result ? In this preview, towards the
end of it, I have a freeze frame, showing 10x view if the ring before
polishing. That is the level of details, that I am looking for.

Size 8 ring, in 18k weighs 6.8 grams, outside diameter of the ring is
26 mm, inside is 18 mm, and thickness is 4 mm.

The volume of the ring calculated by taking volume of cylinder 26mm
in diameter with height 4mm, and subtracting and subtracting
cylinder 18mm in diameter with height 4 mm - is 1.1 cubic centimeter.
With weight of the ring is 6.8 grams - that gives us density of 6.8 /
1.1 = 6.18 Not bad for the material, whose density is 16.5.

I give 25 years warranty on these rings. That should give an idea of
relative strength. So my friends, it is time to match words with
deeds. Start you casting machines, your CAD/CAM, your lasers, and
any other technology in your disposal. I would be very much
interested, as well as many others, to see the results of your
efforts.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#6
That's debatable, anything you can make by hand can be made by
casting. 

This is just not true. even the best mold is a degraded copy of the
original. Properly done it can be adequate for the purpose of the
designer i.e. to make reproductions for production. But it will never
have all the detail of the original piece and will be dimensionally
different due to shrinkage in molding material, wax and metal.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#7

Hi gang,

Speaking as somebody who’s done production casting, and once had
most of his production line as cast pieces, it’s possible to make
outstanding pieces either way. What matters most is that the piece
is produced in the manner best suited to its design.

There are some designs where the nature of the piece, either its
function or its form requires hardened metal, rather than the dead
softness of cast pieces. There’s no way to do that with a cast piece
without extensive manual work after casting. At that stage, why
bother? Just do it directly from the beginning. Equally, there are
some pieces that could be cast (like moebius strip rings), but
frankly, it’s faster to forge them directly.

I guess my take on it is that the best process for any given piece
is the one that gets the piece done best. I’ve used everything from
cuttlefish cast silver, and hand smelted iron, to laser cutters to
CNC milling centers. Just depends on the needs of the piece which
tool I reach for. (The definition of “best” is open to question,
depending on my mood and workload, but it hinges on the axes of
durability, cost, time, and beauty.)

FWIW,
Brian.


#8

I’ve seen some pretty shoddy hand-made jewelry out there. I think
it’s unfair and somewhat closed-minded to say that one is always
better than the other. Either way. Beauty is in the eye of the
beholder.

Amery Carriere Designs
Romantic Jewelry with an Edge.


#9

Again, a craftsman point of view.

This all leads back to John Donivan’s thread about craftsmanship.
Once you have embarqued on the journey of making things, you have a
need to embellish, design, modify or whatever and it applies to many
things that you do. If you are a jeweler because you love to sit at
the bench and create beautiful things, then the advantages of
fabrication are apparent. As stated before, the working of the metal
imparts strength and density that is far more durable than a casting
will have. Is it possible that a molded piece will be nearly
identical to it’s fabricated parent? Of course, but as Noel said, it
will be slightly small and thinner. Not quite the same thing.

What David says is true that it is the customer who will decide which
is better, but that is a factor of the pocketbook and the mentality
of mass-marketing. There is a place for having ready-made parts to
assemble, and I don’t want to make every finding that I am called
upon to use, but then again I don’t consider “assembled” jewelry to
be hand-made either. In all fairness, there is a dance between cost
efficiency and creativity, but to say that one thing equals the other
is ludicrous. There is a piece of the maker that is imparted into the
metal as it is worked, not just the creative elements, but also the
hand techniques that actually form and transform the metal into
shape. These techniques cannot be duplicated, and individuality of
creation, the personality of the piece as it were, cannot be
duplicated either. That is why these pieces are more upscale, for the
jewelry aficionado, those who appreciate the art of jewelry. It’s not
only that the techniques are harder to master, and take more time to
execute, it’s the art that those customers appreciate and are willing
to pay for. This is not jewelry for the masses, or the faint of
pocketbook, but as the hand skills are lost, the art of the jewel is
diminished as well, and the rarity of fabrication will be more
collectable.

Melissa Veres, engrave and goldsmith


#10
The durability can be different, however we have examples if
Viking cast fine silver jewellery, that is still as good as the day
it was cast. 

Just because something is cast does not mean it won’t last. It
might. And you don’t know that those viking pieces were used a lot
either. However, if you compare two identical pieces, one cast, the
other fabricated, under identical conditions of use ans wear, the
cast piece will not do as well. How large the difference is can be
variable of course. And as has been noted, some hand made work is
still garbage, while some cast work is high quality. But as I said,
two otherwise equal in quality pieces, one cast, the other made from
rolled, drawn, forged, metal, if compared, will show a clear
difference.

Work hardening and refining the grain of any metal makes it more
durable. 

Yes, but the degree of work hardening you give a casting is minimal.
Grain refining and heat treating for hardness can only go so far.
There are some exceptions, of course. Heat treatable platinum, if
cast and properly treated, may end up harder and more durable than
fabricated iridium platinum. But here, of course, you’re comparing
two different alloys.

How durable does a piece of jewellery have to be. A pendant would
not need to be as durable as a ring (that is worn on a daily
basis). If a ring is an accent, then in theory it would only be
worn on special occasions and not subject to wear. 

How durable a piece needs to be is not relavent to the comparison.
It is, of course, a critical part of any design process, and many
cast pieces may be made so as to meet their design paramaters for
durability. The difference, again, is in comparing otherwise
identical pieces.

One of the points that came up was that a cast ring will have a
different surface finish to a hand made ring. 

Any casting will have some porosity. Good quality castings will have
that porosity be on such a small size scale as to be not
objectionable or visible without a microscope, and with some cast
metal, high magnification or sophisticated equipement may be needed
to see or measure it. But it’s there. Casters can refer to their
castings in terms of their density. It’s common for castings to have
a density a few percent under the theoretical density of that metal,
simply because the porosity lowers it. Once forged, rolled, drawn,
etc, metal density generally will be nearly or actually the true
density of that alloy.

As to surface finish, that density of the rolled, drawn, forged, etc
metal will make it possible with proper polishing, to get the highest
possible degree of finish for that metal. Lower density porous metal
will simply not allow exactly the same. Whether the difference is
enough to see, depends on the situation. And some forms of processing
of a casting, such as steel shot tumbling or burnishing, or anything
else which is working and compressing the surface of the metal, will
result in metal that, for finishing purposes, is the same as forged,
rolled, drawn, etc, simply because that surface skin is indeed such
metal.

Add to this, issues of grain size. In some castings, the grain size
may be quite large, and sometimes this can lead to an orange peel
surface when polishing. Proper casting methods usually can help
eliminate this, and with some metals, it’s also possible to cause
such problems, usually by over annealing, or over working, the metal
while fabricating. Still, the problem seems a bit more common with
castings.

Peter Rowe


#11
it's possible to make outstanding pieces either way. What matters
most is that the piece is produced in the manner best suited to its
design.

Brian, the voice of reason. This is a perennial nonsensical argument
that jewelry students (and professors) sit around in berets, sipping
on espressos, debate endlessly. Because the entire topic has no
meaning whatsoever. Jim Binnion says today that you can’t cast much
fabrication because of shrinkage and loss of detail, which is true on
the face of it. But jewelry and production design is based on working
around that. Certainly you can’t cast mokume.

What do you mean by “match”? What do you mean by “quality”? It’s
almost always, almost entirely simple snobbery. You can say that
your handmade, sheet metal signet ring is superior because you
constructed it. I’d say it’s inferior because it’s lightweight and
full of solder seams. Como se, como va…

I’ve found fabricators might sneer at casting mostly because they
don’t know how, and generally vice-versa. Yes, fabricated gold has
another strength than cast, but as was said not long ago, so what?
It’s on your finger, it’s not the structural member of a bridge. And
again, production design is about adjusting the weights of those
elements so they are of a quality. That’s why they’re professionals.
The jewelry world is bigger than this entire topic, and in fact even
broaching the question betrays a certain naivete. Rant over…

Phaaaaaaah!


#12

OK, some might get POd at me here but…

Putting too much emphasis on one over the other because of some
subjective notion accomplishes nothing.

Make good jewelry. Make it suitable for its purpose and parameters.
You will at times be faced with the decision to cast or fab. I’d say
you should base that decision on that particular job. Its
requirements. Remember that unless you make strictly museum pieces
that never sell, what you are really making are (hopefully)
commercially viable products. While I am the first to say that
sometimes overkill is a good thing…sometimes good enough is just
that.

For a few years I became very familiar with the products of
OHB(Oscar Heymann and Brothers) as it was a carried line in a store
where I was the benchie. As was Henry Dunay. Some of those pieces
were cast. Some were fabbed. They were all glorious. Is anyone really
going to look down their nose at OHB or Dunay?

Ok throw your cabbages now, but please be careful not to pick up a
rutabaga. That might hurt.


#13
The original "hand made piece is the wax model, once cast it is a
duplicate, an industrially produced item that at best can be hand
finished but is not hand made jewelry. 

Sorry, Jim: I can’t agree.

To me, it really depends on the amount of hand work done to the
piece post casting.

It also depends on whether the wax was worked in the studio (by the
maker). Even if the casting itself was jobbed out, I would still
consider it hand made.

In any case, we have all been down this road before…

Take care, Andy


#14
This all leads back to John Donivan's thread about craftsmanship.
Once you have embarqued on the journey of making things, you have
a need to embellish, design, modify or whatever and it applies to
many things that you do. If you are a jeweler because you love to
sit at the bench and create beautiful things, then the advantages
of fabrication are apparent. As stated before, the working of the
metal imparts strength and density that is far more durable than a
casting will have. Is it possible that a molded piece will be
nearly identical to it's fabricated parent? Of course, but as Noel
said, it will be slightly small and thinner. Not quite the same
thing. 

This is something that we discussed just yesterday. The end product.

Taking the casting vs. hand manufacture discussion one step further.
Tribal production methods. The premise is making items without
electricity. The end products can look exactly the same, it’s just
their construction methods are very different.

The candid question was “how would a customer off the street know
the difference between two identical items?” The answer of course was
that “they wouldn’t know”. The only time they would know is if they
were educated enough to spot the difference… which of course is
getting harder to do due to the availibity of technology.

People get satisfaction from putting the effort into making
something, and this does pay off if the customer appreciates the
effort. If the customer doesn’t see the value of the effort, meaning
the customer will not be happy with the higher price due to extra
labour.

Back to casting, Noel stated that a copy of a piece would be smaller
and thinner, this would not always be the case. A good founder can
allow for metal shrinkage, and can replicate your details exactly.
What would not be replicated would be the work hardenning, due to
manipulation by hand tools.

Recently I took a 5th century Anglo-Saxon brooch to a gentleman with
a Roland cnc machine. He mentioned that he had a probe that could
digitise my original. He set the precision to the maximum, and my
piece was digitised to a very fine detail (I’ve got it as a.stl
file), it was an experiment, so he didn’t charge me. I can get him to
produce a wax copy in Ferris, or whatever. I can allow for shrinkage,
so I can make an exact copy i.e. a casting of a casting.

This of course brings up another point. Cast rings (and other
jewellery) have survived centuries, have very fine details, and are
cast out of various alloys and pure elemental metals.

There’s no reason why you can’t do a hybrid process either, a design
I’m working on requires part of the piece to be created by CAM, the
other requires soldering and polishing. This design will not work, if
you use one method over the other. Doing the CAM part by hand will
give you undesirable results, the precision required is not humanly
possible. Doing the hand manufacturing part by CAM is also not
possible (unless you use sintered metal technology, and who can
afford that?).

My hope is that this discussion doesn’t get heated, as it has
afforded me the opportunity to think about a lot of things.

Regards Charles


#15

Leonid, This proposal makes as much sense as doubting gemological
insight because opals may grow in bamboo. This ring should be
handmade because the design is perfectly suited for it. Arguing that
your ring is better than any cast version of it does not prove
anything. For the same, there are pieces that are impossible to make
by hand - following your logic this would prove the superiority of
casting over fabrication. Sometimes I have the feeling that you are
doing it on purpose.

Leach


#16
This is just not true. even the best mold is a degraded copy of
the original. Properly done it can be adequate for the purpose of
the designer i.e. to make reproductions for production. But it will
never have all the detail of the original piece and will be
dimensionally different due to shrinkage in molding material, wax
and metal. 

I think that would depend on the replication method. A good founder
will be able to give you a precise copy of what you give them, and
are able to take into consideration metal shrink rates.

The technology is very good, but I will stress it’s “technology”. At
this level it’s not craftsman ship it’s design replication, an
industrial process.

If you wanted to go even further along the path of technology, you’d
use a 3D scanner to get all the details of your piece, then either
print it out as a wax for casting, or directly print out a metal
master.

For a more craftsman approach :-

If you craft a ring out of silver, then craft the same design out of
wax allowing for shrinkage, what’s to stop you making a look-a-like?
You’ve made both pieces, it has your flair on both pieces.

Granted I haven’t read a confirmation on the durability question I
posed earlier in the thread, but I know from working ferrous metals,
about work hardening metal.

I’m not trying to start a war (there’s enough of this going around).
I’m new to fine jewellery, but I am not new to metal casting or
metal working. I know what’s possible from my past experiences, and
it’s a natural exploration for me to see if those technologies can be
utilised with this craft.

Regards Charles


#17
I am providing a link to the short preview preview of how I make
eternity ring. 

I like watching a DVD of craftsmen at work :slight_smile: Thanks for sharing.

I could replicate that ring (and I’m a noob to fine jewellery). I
take it that for the purpose of this exercise we are allowed to
"copy" this design?

This could be a fun exercise, and would be a good excuse for me to
play with some technologies. This is how I would do it :-

  1. Create a model in Lightwave (I own it so why not use it), output
    an stl file.

  2. Take that model to a guy with a Roland printer (I’m going to ask
    him how much tomorrow), normally it’s about $150 for a wax and a
    cast master at another place I know.

  3. Take that wax to a casting house with a vacuum casting machine,
    and get it cast.

So making the metal parts of the ring wont be an issue, seeing how
long it lasts, could be an issue, do we have a destructive testing
method we can employ?

Btw, is there anything in the ring you would like to see done
differently, or is the purpose of this exercise just simple
replication?

Regards Charles
P.S. I couldn’t find a x10, can you post an image.


#18
To me, it really depends on the amount of hand work done to the
piece post casting. 

I understand and to a certain degree agree with you.

It also depends on whether the wax was worked in the studio (by
the maker). Even if the casting itself was jobbed out, I would
still consider it hand made. 

So what is the difference between a highly detailed, skillfully made
wax model that is reproduced once and one that is reproduced
hundreds or thousands of times and both skillfully worked after
casting? In my book they are both reproductions. This doesn’t really
matter as good work is still good work whether one or many are made.
But the FTC definition of handmade doesn’t seem to allow for
castings.

In any case, we have all been down this road before.... 

Oh yes and we should probably resist going back over the same old
arguments.

Take care, Andy 

You too,
Jim

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#19

The craftspeople who are very good at fabrication have alot of time
and skill invested in thier form of expression and are going to
prefer that product and process. I have been a silversmith from the
age of 16; however by the age of 18 after walking through the malls
looking at jewelry stores, i realized that I needed to learn to carve
wax, and cast. Today the next step is CAD,(obviously), suppose you
made a ring,either by fabrication or carving/casting, and it was
alittle too small or big, in CAD you would go into the computer file
and increase or decrease by lets say 2.57% within a few minutes you
would be on your way to a new model. Fabrication or tradition carving
you now have a long road ahead. I have gotten alittle off the path of
fabrication vs casting.

I would be surprised if more than a few of all who read this have
ever had a customer even ask if a piece were cast or fabricated, they
are interested in the design or not. And I’m not talking about the
customers who are jewelry hobbyists who are asking so they can try to
duplicate the look.


#20

I can make crap either way and even use cnc. The techniques used
rarely matters. Choose the best for any job. Everything has to cross
a bench before being finished.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand