Hi everybody! Season’s Greetings from frosty Barrie, Ontario.
We’re currently doing cuttlefish casting in my first year studio
class, and I was wondering if anyone had any comments or
experiences with this medium. So far, I’ve had mixed results…
getting detail is a pain in the behind, it seems, and I’ve had
several incomplete castings. Any words of wisdom would be
appreciated. Thanks, Kieran
Hi everybody! Season’s Greetings from frosty Barrie, Ontario.
I’ve gotten some nice results using the cuttlefish casting
method. My biggest problem has been missing the hole when I
poured the metal. Are you venting the piece well enough?
As for detail, well, it’s kind of a tricky medium to work with.
I use it when I want that kind of texture. I’ve gotten a
reasonable amount of detail, and you’re right–it is a pain.
Keep trying, my first pour was real lucky so I thought it was
easy. I have since learned to appreciate this method. It’s
cheap though, and I don’t have casting equipment yet, so I’ll
continue to use it for a while anyway.
Susan E. in Dallas
You don’t give us much to go on. ‘Incomplete’ sounds to me like
the mold has parts in it that are too thin for the flow
properties of the metal you’re using. I assume stg, right? How’s
the pour temp?
A trick, well it’s more of a process, I like to use with
students to help them understand flow is to start with a pure tin
pour into the cuttlefish mold. Then you’ll see what’s tight and
what’s not. Alter it as nec.
Progress to pewter (better flow) in the same cuttlefish mold and
study the result of that. Alter it as nec.
THEN cast in your sterling. Same mold.
Hello Kieran, I used to do cuttle fish casting when i first
started in 1968 while i was in Thailand (1965-1980). It does not
give you a smooth casting, but it is workable in an emergency.
Venting the cuttle fish is a critical neccessity to getting your
pieces to fill.
I will try to give a full explanation of the process for those
others who would like to try it, and also a suggestion to try the
delft clay casting method which works a bit better and requires
no special equipment that does not come with the kit… the clay
is reuseable. I believe these kits are available from Guesswein
and Rio Grand.
Here we go…
Cut the cuttle fish bone in half I
Sand the soft sides of the cuttlefish smooth by rubbing them
against a cement floor or a wide sanding belt(power is not
neccessary).both soft sections must be sanded so they are flat.
Press half your model into 1 side of the bone.Remember that
the area that was 1st cut in half is the area that at a later
point you will cut your casting gate into.
line up the other side of the bone as best as possible and
press it until both sides of the cuttle fish are touching and the
part is fully embeded in the cuttlefish(make sure the cuttle fish
is thick enough before proceeding)
at this point, do not open or even look at the part
inside… hold the 2 parts together and carefully saw the edges
off so that about 1/4" of the soft cuttlefish is showing all
around ( considerably more will show where the cuttlefish was
now, still keeping the shell together, put alignment lines on
3 sides of the soft 1/4" cuttlefish… after this, carefully pull
the 2 halves apart.
remove your model from the cavity VERY CAREFULLY.
now , where the edge of the shell is widest… with the 2
parts aligned… use a knife or tool to make a wide pouring
funnel…then open the shell and use a round nail shaped tool to
create the gate going from the funnel opening you just made …
to the cavity of the item you wish to cast. remember to make the
feed as big as the area you are casting into.
VENTING. this is a very important part of getting it all to
work. All around the edge of your cavity… spaced about 1/8 +
… make air vents in the shape of a check mark… the small
part of the check touches the cavity … the long part of check
mark goes all the way up and exits next to where you cut the
funnel shape. NOT in the funnel shape.this will allow the air to
escape as the metal is entering the cavity.
Blow out any remaining dust from the mold, assemble the 2
halves so that all the alignment lines match up, and wrap it with
soft copper or brass wire so that the 2 parts of the mold are
held together tightly.
place the mold on a fireproof item shuch as a large brick
,or casting table… support the mold with the funnel side
pointing up in such a manner as to not allow it to fall down when
you poor your metal.
melt your metal and pour into the cavity. your metal should
be ready to pour when the surface of the metal looks clean and
shiny as a mirror. allow the metal to cool for a few
minutes…cut the wire and let the cast item cool for about 10
minutes before quenching in a pickle solution. Thats all there is
hope this helps, if you have any questions, please feel free to
email me Dan Grandi
I’ve cast in cuttlefish a couple of times. Sometimes a design
just won’t come out the way you want it to. Check the size of
your spues and make sure that the thin part if the design is near
the bottom. And always wear a mask when smoothing out the flat
Kieran: I think cutting some vents will help you and making sure
your metal is hot enough before you pour and keeping the flame ON
the pouring metal helps too…Dave
Kickass Websites for the Corporate World http://www.kickassdesign.com
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I recently took a workshop with Harold O’Conner where he did a
cuttlefish casting demonstration. I believe he said that a
common problem was improper spruing. He used 4-6 small air vents
around the object being cast that were cut into the bone by
scratching with a pick ( I think). If you still have problems
check back with me and I will check the video of the workshop
for more details. Happy Holidays - Deb
Here’s a few more ideas which have worked:
To register the two halves of the mold use round toothpicks.
Stick the toothpicks in one side first, cut to length so they
stick out about 1/8"-1/4". Reverse the toothpicks so the pointy
end is sticking out and press into the other side.
If you want to use the same mold again, coat it with waterglass
and let it dry before casting.
To make release easy and you want a smoother casting, coat both
sides of the mold with soot.
If you don’t want the texture of the cuttlefish at all, carve
into tuffa or blocks of casting investment instead.
K.P. in Wyoming
I was on a cuttlebone casting kick about a year ago. Some
pointers. Always use the thickest part of the cuttlebone, after
you cut the bone in half use fine emery paper to get the 2 halves
smooth. Once you have carved your design use a make-up brush to
get in all the grooves and really clean them out. This helps with
the detail. Also once you put the two halves together make sure
that the buttom is carved in both halves. Also check to see if
you can see a sprue line.
I have had some inconsistant results from time to time. I have
had some luck in casting earring pairs out of the same bone, it
took some practice though. A steady wrist comes in handy too.
Hi Kieran and all others,
I have never tried Cuttlefish casting but I’ve read about it and
it seems “similar” to the Delft clay casting method although the
clay as far from a Cuttlefish
I have no experience from casting in general but it was fairly
simple to learn how to cast using this system by looking at the
instruction video. The detail reproduction is superb - which, by
the way, also means that any mistakes made also are reproduced.
I do not claim to be any expert - not even well trained - but
the only real difficulty I’ve encountered is cutting the pouring
hole (sprue?) through the clay - it sometimes damages some of the
details in the mold. However, that is really no problem - you
just remove the clay and try again - yeah - and occasionally I
miss to vent properly and then I have to redo again. It is so
little clay material lost for every casting (just the burnt
areas around the metal) so you can easily redo if you for some
I paid around $60 (clay and mould rings) which I think is a lot
cheaper than what Rio lists it for and if I recall correctly the
clay included will last for about 100 castings - clay refill is
off course less. This means that the casting cost (material
only) is around 60 cent (or less) - how much is a Cuttlefish?
Maybe it’s worth trying…
Best Regards Lars Dahlberg/Gotland/Sweden
I’m sorry, I’ve held this stupid question in check as long as I
can… WHAT is a cuttlefish? I thought it’s a real fish. ???
thanks for bearing with me! Ryr
JAGMAN: That’s the way I learned cuttlefish casting, too. It
works well. We used masking tape to keep the two halves
together, but I must say that your instructions are the best
step-by-step ones that I have come across. Donna
Thank you everyone for your comments – I’m back in the workshop
Monday, so I’ll try to put them to good use. In response to
Lars’ question, i picked up six medium-to-a-bit-bigger cuttlefish
for $4.35 Canadian at the Bulk Barn near my house. They gave me
an odd look and asked me if I farmed parakeets.
I get pretty good results with cuttlebone casting.
A couple of other tips. After carving, take a soft paint brush
and brush away the powder caused by carving. Keep brushing and
blowing on the design, which enhances the detail.
Venting is very important. Don’t overload the cuttlebone with a
huge design. A series of small cast parts is better than a large
breastbone. Remember to heat the pouring spout. I carve a little
canal right in the crucible and get it very hot. This helps the
silver run smoothly and fill well.
Remember that results are best for a gravity feed, meaning, don’t
carve upwards. You can make a pair of earrings by the way in one
pour. Just dual spru from the main button.
I cast a little charm for my class which was a chicken foot. Good
to ward off evil. A little bubble appeared on one of the feet
and I set a tiny ruby. Now my chicken foot is wearing jewelry!
ROFL! Yes, dear, it IS a fish, rather more like a squiddy thing.
Inside it’s head (?body?) there’s a long bone(?whatever passes
for a bone in a squid) that’s way handy once it’s dried, makes
nice simple castings and keeps your budgie happy, too. That
wonky-looking organic thing hanging on the side of your friend’s
birdcage is a cuttlefish bone. They’re really very cheap, easy to
use, and terrific for producing simple, bold pieces in an
otherwise limited shop (like what I have - or don’t have - at
home). Treat yourself - review the thread, run down to the
petshop, and buy a couple for experimentation. It’s pretty cool.
I thought I’d look around to try and answer RYR’s question about
Searching on Excite for cuttlebone gave many sites related to
bird breeding and nourishment as well as this interesting site -
http://www.cypnet.com/.ncyprus/sipya.html - how to cook sipya
(cuttlefish cooked with its ink)
Searching for cuttlefish was much more successful
http://is.dal.ca/~ceph/wood.html is an excellent site with a
picture of a cuttlefish on the main page- follow the links to
"IN House Articles" and “Cephalopod Species, Information, and
http://www.isis.csuhayward.edu/cesmith/yema/cuttfish.html has a
picture and this description
"Cuttle bone, perhaps known by most of us as the stuff we hang
in bird cages to keep their beaks sharp, was common in the
Yema-po excavation. Cuttle “bone” is actually a light, porous
mass of calcium carbonate that forms an internal brace in the
body of the cuttlefish, a couisin of the squid. Cuttlefish flesh,
both fresh and dried, was relished by the Chinese. It was listed
in customs documents as an important import to San Francisco from
China in the 1870s. "
I also searched the 1997 Orchid archives, because much was
previous said about cuttlebone casting.
If you are not used to using the web search sites (Excite,
Lycos, Infoseek, AltaVista, or others), you’re cheating yourself
out of some great adventures. As soon as I send this, I’m going
back to cephaloland. (I couldn’t sleep anyway)
Thought I’d add a bit to the cuttlefish knowledge base;
When I lived in Malaysia, on the South China Sea, we found more
cuttlefish lying on the beach than we did sea shells. I’m not
into casting so I never collected them. Cuttlefish is a very
popular dish in chineese restaurants in Asia. MILT
Ryr, Cuttlefish is the beak from a squid-type mollusk. (Same as
"cuttlebone" sold for birds at pet stores.) When the interior is
carved out there is a distinctive pattern of parallel ridges
where the the bone is alternately harder and softer. Makes for a
Rene On the Calif No. Coast, where it actually snowed this
morning. No foolin’!
When my husband and I were snorkeling in Bermuda, we came across
a “school” of cuttlefish. They don’t school in the familiar
pattern of most fish, which is in massive bunches, but rather
they swim in a line about one foot apart from each other. When
they turn, they keep the distance from each other constant, more
like a large wing.
Very cool. They also have beautiful eyes.
M E T A L W E R X
416 Main St.
Woburn, MA 01801
A Cuttlefish (sepia officinalis) is related to the squid family.
It is found in the Mediterranean and Atlantic oceans. It is a
very active preditor; it will feed on any small, swimming
animal(please, no references to any Presidents, living or dead).
The bone is pumice-like and can be carved into.
Tom & the other Donna