I was wondering about pouring liquid sterling over ice to get a
casting, similar to the Broomstraw casting process. Would the
resulting casting be strong or too brittle since you are,
essentially, instantly quenching it rather than waiting for a dull
Errr.... I'd use a *thick* leather apron, leather welding gauntlets,
and a full face shield before I tried it.
The words I fear are "Steam Explosion". I don't *know* that it'd
blow up on you, but I suspect it strongly enough that I'd rig up some
sort of remote dump rig to try it with bronze or something from
across the room first. What's really scary is that it might--or might
not-- blow up on you depending on how the metal hits the surface of
the ice, and what happens from there. If it's a small piece that
freezes in a way that doesn't trap steam, it's harmless, but if it
*does* cover the surface in any coherent way, there's a good chance
that it'll come flying back into your face. Hot metal, moving fast,
plus face, equals nothing good.
Think *long* and hard before trying this, and wear *lots* of
protection. If it tells you anything, I wouldn't do it.
That is going to be very, very dangerous. I suspect you will scatter
silver all over yourself and your shop.
Use crushed ice! This type casting is done at Ghost Ranch, as well as
pouring over cooked spaghetti. Some interesting forms are produced.
Rose Marie Christison
Oh Oh, my favorite persons are suggesting caution.
Actually, it is one of my more favorite methods of odd ball casting,
and I have done it for 20 years. I recently even added Frit to the
ice and gotten some very interesting and useful results.
I will share my method, and then welcome discussion.
I use a Tuna or Cat food can, usually the 5 ounce can. I place that
inside a cake baking pan half full of water on a Solderite Board. I
quickly put in a layer of ice chips about half an inch thick, melt
the metal, usually silver in a WHIP held crucible, and pour in on
top of the ice.
More recently I have added frit into the ice chips and then poured
the molten metal. I have never seen a splash or steam pop of any
The result is similar to broom casting, except the resulting
castings tend to be more circular than linear.
I recently taught this method to a group of seniors, who loved it.
I have also used gravel, beans, rice, and fancy pasta shapes in the
tin can, and they all work rather well. Yes, as straw, they do have
an odor during the process.
Safety precautions always, glasses, apron, etc.
Just had another idea, randomly placed heat resistant stones, CZ's
etc, on top of the ice and then pour. Yes, you do know I will try
I'm 100% positive it will at the least violently spit hot metal
right back at you, if not explode the whole affair!
I did it one time, Didnt get burned but was kinda freaky-not real
thrilled about doing it again. Most of what I poured (scrap gold)
did not end up in big enough pieces to be of any significant use. I
suggest taking very strong safety precautions.
We just did some ice casting in class. We poured the silver into a
bucket of ice cubes and water. The result was little pieces of silver
that we had to pick up off the bottom of the bucket. We then just
poured the molten silver into water. We got nice big shapes. The most
fun was the straw broom casting.
Oh Oh, my favorite persons are suggesting caution.
I think the reason so many are reacting cautiously is because of our
experiences with accidentally pouring molten metal into a ingot mold
too cold and getting a steam explosion. We've all done it. It is easy
to forget that casting grain and the like is poured into a swirling
water tank all the time without problem. A lot of water (or ice) that
cools rapidly is not the problem but rather a small amount of water
that expands into gas phase in less than a millisecond; that is the
I have also used gravel, beans, rice, and fancy pasta shapes in
the tin can, and they all work rather well. [snip] Just had
another idea, randomly placed heat resistant stones, CZ's etc, on
top of the ice and then pour. Yes, you do know I will try that.
I have played with all these methods, including stone bits and
beads. The only time there has been any safety issue was with
stones. Even glass frit was very well-behaved.. But the stones
popped like corn and flew all over. A few did get captured, but most
cracked and popped. If you still feel that you must try this, please
wear a full face shield, and stand back!
By the way, though the castings come out a bit heavy, one of my
favorites is pouring over peas. Try all the different materials--
all I am saying is give peas a chance.
I use a Tuna or Cat food can, usually the 5 ounce can. I place
that inside a cake baking pan half full of water on a Solderite
Board. I quickly put in a layer of ice chips about half an inch
thick, melt the metal, usually silver in a WHIP held crucible, and
pour in on top of the ice.
You caught my eye with the mention of frit -- I've worked in glass
far longer than metal, and it remains my primary medium. Can you tell
us a little more about the results of that? Have you used frit on
anything other than ice?
Hi, Others have replied to the danger of ice casting, I am adding my
ditto to that. It is very dangerous, however if you are looking for
odd shapes, one way is to use wood. I have even melted my silver on
some charred, scraped and dinged hardwood. Fluxed and watched it
slither off to change shapes, using a long carbon rod to poke it
around. Just plain fun! Kind of smoky and a fire hazard if done near
other flamable materials. Exercise comon sense so you don't end up
with it in your shoe or elsewheres.
There is definitely danger here. It is possible to pour molten metal
into water or ice without an explosion. You must have enough water to
take away the heat and the volume of metal must be small enough. That
said I have witnessed an explosion when a small drop of water
splashed back out of a tub of water that molten shakudo was being
poured into and landed in the crucible. I was holding the torch
while someone else poured and actually saw the drop of water splash
up and land in the crucible, then bang. The sound was like a cherry
bomb going off and the molten metal was sprayed over all the
participants. Luckily the volume of metal was only a couple of oz and
it was literally turned into dust and tiny tiny beads that were solid
by the time it contacted the participants. All involved were wearing
safety gear and no one was hurt but it scared the hell out of
everyone. Larger volumes of metal hitting water can cause massive
steam explosions. People have been killed in some of these
explosions. If you want to see what happens when the molten iron
produced by burning thermite hits ice watch a recent Myth Busters
show where they try this. It is a major explosion from only about a
pound or so of molten iron and several hundred pounds of ice.
James Binnion Metal Arts
In my other life I am a Pastry Chef. When I make caramel for Creme
caramel and there is a lot of caramel left back I can make caramel
This is done by adding fresh cream to the hot caramel while
whisking. If it is not done in the right increments, there is a
lovely explosion of caramel that is unnaturally high. It can also
cause an amazing burn on your face if you are not expecting it and
do not dodge fast enough.
This was my first thought when your described the silver over ice
I would think that the extreme contrast in temperatures would be a
good reason not to do it. The broom castings work and are relatively
safe because the temp of the broom is neutral and is not demanding
too much of the silver except to burn and cool off.
The ice is demanding the silver change drastically in temp like the
cream/caramel except the results are more extreme and dangerous. My
guess is that it would also produce brittle silver.
My 2 cents and a recipe to boot....BUT a very interesting question
If you enjoyed the straw broom casting, you might like doing
pine-needle casting too. There are many varieties of pine, but the
ones with longer, thicker needles work best... Also, salt throws
produce some interesting effects. Fill a tuna fish can with rock
salt, melt your silver, and pour. Rinse your creation in water to
get any salt out before pickling.
There is definitely danger here. Well, Jim, when you speak, I
listen, but I'm a bit baffled. Water casting in very common, and
not= the least bit unruly. My students and I also tried ice
casting, but didn'thave an easy source of crushed ice or a way to
keep it frozen in the classroom, so we let it go.
ANow, we are talking about quantities of an ounce or less, poured
slowly into plenty of water or ice. Not pounds, not a mere drop of
water (THAT was a freak accident!). I endorse the idea of letting
people know when there's a potential hazard (I just did that about
pouring on stones) but this seems overblown to me, anyway when
dealing with pouring these tiny amounts of silver.
On the other hand, it seems as though a reasonable compromise might
be to make a 2" hole in the bottom of a large mixing bowl, put it
upside down over the water or ice and pour through the hole. Any
untoward activity would happen inside the bowl. What do you think?
A lot of water (or ice) that cools rapidly is not the problem but
ra= ther a small amount of water that expands into gas phase in
less than a millisecond; that is the problem.
Or, in the case of water casting or "splash casting", I'm pretty sure
it's the benefit. To explain-- The most unusual and fun shape you
can get is a sort of bowl shape, almost like an old chamber pot (but
tiny, of course). Looking closely at these, I found that they often
have a yellow area on the bottom that resembles the exploded outside
of the corn kernel on popcorn. Seems pretty clear that these forms
are somehow formed by the outside chilling first, then the insides
My students and I have tried to figure out how to get these shapes
instead of "chili peppers" or "corn flakes". The first drops, when
the metal is hottest, seem most likely to produce them.
all I am saying is give peas a chance.
I made a t shirt with that phrase, and a peace sign made of peas
coming from the end of a gun barrel.
The ice is demanding the silver change drastically in temp like
the cream/caramel except the results are more extreme and
Pouring cream into hot caramel would be analagous to pouring water
into molten silver, and no one in his right mind would do, or even
suggest, that. If, on the other hand, you poured a thin stream of
caramel into cream, all you would get would be cream-cast caramel.
I used a a well used charcoal soldering block, gouging a screwdriver
blade into it making random shapes, then melted gold in the cuts and
squeezing in with another flat charcoal block. Nice pieces and
shapes with flat backs, finished and stone set accordingly, for
pendants, tietacs, etc...