Casting Tree Bark

Hello All, I would like to cast little pieces of tree bark in silver
and possibly in gold. I have been filing the pieces to a thickness of
1.1 or 1.2 mm - if I go on I will break them. There is still some
wood left on the back. I remember a discussion on this from a while
ago: some people said that I cannot be done, while others said
otherwise. Would it help if I took a longer burn out or if I would
overheat the metal a bit? How can I play on safe? Thank you for
reading, Will

big sprues so any ash can fall out, I have cast many found objects
with no problems, I often coat the back in wax for a better surface
and also a good place to hold the sprues, Anna-Margot

Will, I have heard several people say they have successfully cast
all kinds of things, including bark. The thickness you have
remaining will work. I would suggest you seal the bark and wood to
prevent moisture from the investment penetrating the wood. I cast
several seed pods that looked line 1/4" pine cones. I sprayed many
coats of laquer on them to make them thicker and to seal the wood. I
used my normal bury out cycle. I do burn out for 8 hours as I fill
my oven to the brim and shorter burnouts do not clean the flasks
well. The best way to find out if you can cast your bark is to cast
your bark. The results will tell you if you need to make corrections.
Good Luck Lee

We just did this in class- okay it was balsa wood, but the same
substance, the teacher upped the burn out time to 12 hours, (I think
she added time at the highest temperature point, but not certain)
then when removing the flask for casting blew out the dust/ash with a
pressurized air hose. Betsy (hope this helps) PS we still had one
failure, but that was probably more due to awkward spruing than ash
clumps( I was last in line so I got to watch everybody else’s

Dear Will, This is Michael Knight at CASTALDO. It would be a lot
easier to make an impression in our Castaldo Quick Sil rapid setting
RTV rubber, pour a thin layer of wax into the resulting mold and then
cast that the normal way.

I'd be happy to send you a small free sample if you'll give me your

shipping address.

Anyone else out there interested?? Michael

I recently went on vacation to the sunny Caribbean. I found this
awesome plant material that I thought would look beautiful cast in
metal. What I did was to make a silicone mold of the material then
I made some wax injections and I’ve been playing around with those.
That way I wouldn’t risk sacrificing the natural material. If the
bark is growing on trees in your backyard then that’s not an issue
for you. I don’t have my own casting equipment and I couldn’t find a
caster willing to dirty his kilns by burning wood in them so molding
the wood was my best alternative…it worked beautifully. Good luck.

I have not tried this myself,but a friend often casts natural
material including bark, and rather than doing the burn out in his
kiln, he uses the old clay flowerpot on a burner method. He does
this outdoors to avoid the smoke in his studio. then he casts using
his centrifuge caster. Works fine he says, and saves his kiln
from getting all smudged up. Just thought I’d pass this along. Alma.

Hi Michael, I read your posting to the Orchid List, yesterday, with a
mixture of appreciation and bewilderment, and thought I’d better ask
you, before proceeding with my own experimentation… (Concerning
that appreciation, can I take you up on your offer to Will and
others of a free sample of your company’s “Quick Sil” RTV compound?
If shipping to a P.O. address is a problem, please contact me
off-list and I’ll gladly provide you with a suitable shipping
address.) As far as the bewilderment’s concerned, I’m more than a
little curious about how you’d make an effective casting of a porous
material such as tree bark, especially one as dimensionally unstable
once wet (unless the RTV is to be painted onto the tree…).

For one thing, wouldn’t your RTV compound adhere to the bark to such
a degree as to render the two inseparable? If a releasing agent were
first applied to the wood/bark, wouldn’t it be absorbed by the
latter, leaving you either back where you’d started, or swelling the
bark, substantially? If not, could you please explain why not?

Thanks, Michael, I look forward to hearing/reading your reply. 'Til

All my best, Doug Douglas Turet, GJ Lapidary Artist, Designer &
Goldsmith Turet Design P.O. Box 162 Arlington, MA 02476 Tel. (617)
325-5328 eFax (928) 222-0815

Hi Will, I was casting Acorns, top and bottom , at William Holland.
The instructor said I couldn’t do it, so, obviously I had

  1. Use a bigger spure so the ash can be blown out.

  2. I lightly sprayed the acorns, and the stems , with clear lacquer
    to prevent the acorn from absorbing moisture from the investment.

  3. I burned out overnight, about 12 hours.

  4. I let it cool, in order to blow and shake the ash out.

  5. Put it back into the kiln to heat it thoroughly, and then I
    vacuum cast it. Turned out beautiful Silver Acorns.

You might want to experiment with leaves, twigs, bark from other
trees, until you have the process perfected.

Love and God Bless

Hi Will, Get yourself some Castaldo Quick-Sil and make an impression
in the field, pour in some wax and trim it to your desired thickness
and go straight to casting with no special burnout. I made a really
cool belt buckle from rock texture this way. It turned out better
than I hoped. Quick-Sil is really easy to use and a lot of fun. John,
J.A.Henkel Co.,Inc. Moldmaking Casting Finishing, Producing Solutions
For Jewelry Artists

Dear Douglas, Don’t worry so much! There is no problem.

Firstly, the rubber is not a liquid and thus is not wet and will

not wet the bark. It is a clay-like putty.

Secondly it sticks to nothing, not even itself. 

If a release agent is needed-- to keep the rubber out of the pores

of the bark or whatever – a quick spray of fast-drying paint primer
or polyurethane or something similar will do the trick. But mostly
it’s just not necessary.

I know people who have made casting using our Quick Sil of

interesting patterns in road asphalt, gravestones, tree bark, shells,
wood carvings, picture frame moldings, iron fence railings . . . . .
and on and on.

Sure, I'll send you a sample. And one to anyone else out there who

is interested.

Michael Knight

I recently made a RTV mold of some tree bark. I was molding some
other items and had RTV left overs. Instead of throwing it away I
poured it onto a piece of oak firwood that was lying around. Yes, it
did penatrate into the bark and Yes, the bark did adhere. After
curing for 36 hours I placed the RTV/bark item into the sonic cleaner
overnite. The wood swelled and became soft and mushy. After breaking
of the larger pieces, which at this point were easily removed, I
steamed the mold to help remove the tiny particles still attached. I
then repeated the process about three times. I now have a usable
contact mold that I can lay up with hot wax to get a very usable
representation of tree bark. Seems like great minds all think alike.
How is it that I poured this mold just before this thread started?
Trees BEWARE of orchidians with RTV. Frank Goss

Hi Will, Paint a few layers of rubber latex (or RTV) on your bark.
Let it set. Then place a layer of gauze or other cloth on top of the
painted area. Apply more rubber. The gauze will add strength to your
mold. peel the rubber mold from the bark and use your favorite
casting wax with this mold. The wax can be further sculptured to fit
your design. Then just do a lost wax process.I used this process on
ponderosa bark when I was living in Prescott, AZ. Down here in
Bisbee, the only barks we get are from coyotes;) Will Estavillo

Hi A couple of years ago I worked in a trade shop that specialized
in hard to cast castings, a local designer brought in a stem of the
smallest acorn cups attached to the branch I’ve ever seen [total
length was 4" and there were 4 branches with two or three cups on
each the cups were about 4 to 6 mm across]. She wanted them cast in
silver we sprued as normal and burned out as normal and centrifuge
cast at a flask temp of 1000’f they turned out amazingly later she
said she brought it back from Norway, which explains why i hadn’t
seen anything that small before living in Minnesota all my life, it
was from her moms back yard, I was glad I didn’t know that before
for the worry of it not turning out, something I take a little too
serious sometimes. That proved to me that with a little for-thought,
any thing can be cast,

Gold Smith / Diamond Setter