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Sand Casting Advice


#1

Any sand casters out there ? I’m about to begin casting my own
pieces, and I could use some general advice. My father-in-law was a
caster/pattern-maker in an iron foundry for 50 years so I’ve had
some expert advice. However he’s had no experience with other metals.
I’m starting with artcaster’s bronze, and will progress to silver and
gold later. I’m doing lost wax initially but I might take a tip from
the iron casters and carve my models in wood. Anyway, speak up, you
sandbox players !

Brian Corll
Vassar College


#2

Brian,

Sand Casting for jewelry is not a good way to go in my opinion. It is
too rough a process, you cannot have ANY undercuts, not easily 3
dimensional, is or can be rather wasteful of metal, is a difficult
process to learn, etc. With any casting method, you have to melt the
metal, which many folks are intimidated at the though of dealing with
such hot material. In gold and silver jewelry, I would say for the
cast items, 100% are done in investment, and for a reason or reasons
(pewter is another story). So why do you want to sand cast jewelry?

A list you can go to and look at the archive or ask questions about
sand casting is ArtMetal.com I would just flatly say, don’t sand cast
jewelry, it will be a waste of your time and of materials.

My 2c worth, the value of my free opinion. By the way, I am a ceramic
shell art bronze caster, my wife is an x jeweler, I know both process
as well as sand casting, and I stand by my free advice.

John Dach


#3
Any sand casters out there ? I'm about to begin casting my own
pieces, and I could use some general advice. 

Brian, it depends on what type of model you’re casting, whether
you’re using the usual 2-part cope and drag method, and what type of
sand you’re using (say, green sand or Delft clay type). You sound
like you already have quite a bit of background in casting already,
so I’m not sure what it is you’re asking. I’ve had quite a bit of
experience using old, low-tech methods of casting (tufa, sand,
Delft), and each has their advantages and disadvantages.


#4

Although I have known some sand casters, I’m out of touch, and I
don’t do it myself - it’s pretty easy to do, though. I understand
that you have a family history and all - I appreciate that. But if
you’re going to do finer work - silver and gold as you say - you
can’t beat centrifugal casting, or many prefer vacuum. Why? Sand
casting is a gravity pour - centrifugal and vacuum put a lot of
force - a LOT of force - behind the metal. Both methods just pack the
metal into every little detail - you can, in fact, cast such things
as leaves, butterfly wings and the like, with the proper preparation.
Sand casting is fine for large, massive objects with few or no
undercuts, and have at it. Trying to build a sand mold for a ring,
with a core and gates and all would take an hour, with a 50% chance
of success - lost wax you pour cream into a flask and the mold is
done, with a 98% chance of success, if you do it right. I’m not
saying don’t do it by any means - just laying out some of the
limitations. Lindsay Publications (I assume they’re still around)
has a great reprint of the US Navy Foundry Manual - it has everything
you want to know, and more…


#5

Hello Brian

I have not done all that many sand casts but I had a good experience
with: Delftse gietmethode (this is a Dutch word / trade mark, and I
didn’t find an English translation for it).

It is sand that seems saturated with ( motor?) oil. It makes the
sand sticky and keep shape very well.

The cast is done in two frames. You can buy special rings for this
but a tin can will do the same if you align them properly and have an
uneven ridge in the rim (this will help separating the two halves,
the rim will grip the sand to split in two) Fill the bottom half
with the sand,

-Place your object (I usually make this from polymer clay but
anything would do) pushing it in the sand.

-Dust the surface with talcum powder this is important it acts as a
barrier between the top and bottom.

-Place the other frame on top and stuff it with sand. (make a mark
on how they sit with a marker so you can replace them exactly after
removing the original)

-Hammer the whole lot tight.

-Break the to frames away from each other (the talcum powder helps
to separate the two)

-Take away the original that you placed in there.

-Make a pouring funnel and air vent holes in the top part of the
mould (I’m sure your father can help you on these it you don’t know
how to do them).

-Replace the top exactly to the marks from the marker.

-Heat the metal that you want to pour

-Pour the heated metal quickly in to the pouring funnel

-Break the cast

-Take out and cool your casting.

-Scrape away the sand that has gone black.

-Keep the rest and put it away air tight u can re use it the next
time

I’ll include a picture done by this method all parts where cast
individual and later soldered on to wire

Front: http://tinyurl.com/re4ef

Back http://tinyurl.com/lf6xx

Any further questions feel free to mail me

Nicky


#6

I’m interested in doing things more like casting a medal in
bronze, gold or silver, but with provisions for mounting stones. I
seem to have gotten a lot of negative responses about the idea. I was
looking for advice in the use of gold, silver, and bronze in sand.
Brepohl says nothing negative about it, even says there’s absolutely
no reason not to, and that results can be excellent, but doesn’t
fully explain the process.

As an aside, I mentioned that my father-in-law spent 50 years in an
iron foundry as a caster and pattern-maker. Before he retired, he
used to complain that the new employees kept telling him that the
work he’d been doing for 40-some years couldn’t be done. At least,
they didn’t know how to do it. Donald had it figured out, though. :wink:

Brian Corll
Vassar Gems


#7
I'm interested in doing things more like casting a medal in
bronze, gold or silver, but with provisions for mounting stones. I
seem to have gotten a lot of negative responses about the idea. 

I have had a lot of good results with sand casting, but I use it
almost exclusively for things like twigs, where it doesn’t matter
much if there’s a bit of porosity or flashing. However, I had a
student use it to reproduce a three-dimensional silver fish pendant
(which would be much like a medal, in terms of detail), with
excellent results-- though it took her several tries to get it
perfect. The good news is, it is pretty fast, and the original is
undamaged, so you can keep trying.

As far as tips and tricks, here’s what I can think of: It helps to
pre-heat the sand mold in an oven to maybe 350-400 degrees, to help
reduce the likelihood of incomplete fill. You can’t go hotter than
that without burning the binder in the sand.

It helps to hammer the sand in really hard, to get good detail and
no flashing. It also helps to put vents at the far end of the
object-- just scratch them into the sand while you have the two
halves separated. Curve them back around toward the top, then out to
the edge, as the metal doesn’t like to flow back the other way, but
air doesn’t mind.

It is important to pay very close attention to how the sand meets
the model in the bottom half; if there is any gap around the model,
the sand in the top half will fill it, but this produces tiny, thin
sections of sand that tend to break off when the halves are
separated to remove the model, causing lumps of metal where they
were.

Be sure you sweep away all loose crumbs of sand before you put the
mold back together, so they don’t end up in the casting.

Lastly, I have actually put a sandcasting mold in the centrifugal
casting machine and cast it, with no problems, though I always
expect the sand to fly out (it never has). Even though it has
worked, it makes me nervous, so I don’t generally do it, and I can’t
promise that it is a good idea. I guess you could clamp a sheet of
metal on each side of the frame so you wouldn’t have to worry.

Sure, it is not the ideal way to cast-- that would be lost wax-- but
it is quick and easy, and you get to keep your original. There’s
something to be said for immediate gratification.

Noel


#8

Nicky,

Delftse gietmethode is the Delft clay method (I lived in Amsterdam
at one time). I’m going to be working with that too - just as son as
the clay gets here. :wink:

Brian Corll
Vassar Gems


#9
Delftse gietmethode (this is a Dutch word / trade mark, 

Rio Grande carries the Delft Casting Clay. I’ve used it several times
and the results are a very smooth surface.

Dorothy


#10

I’m you…several years removed.

Skip sand and stay with lost wax.

Skip bronze and go directly to silver. Silver is easier and more
rewarding. I know it costs a lot but for learning you can recast the
metal several times as you learn the various lessons.

I wasted a lot of time with sand and bronze and remember the anxiety
as I cast my first silver pieces in a flask.

Also, even if you do stick with the sand, carve wax. It is superior
to wood in so many ways. It will form the impression in the sand as
does the wood but the carve ability is far superior.

My 2 cents


#11

Thanks, Ben.

I’m going to stick with sand and bronze for starters, just because
I’m actually shooting for a somewhat crude, “Bronze Age” look. I’m
going to try Delft clay also. Later on, I’ll spring for a centrifugal
machine. And yes, I’ll be carving in wax. My father-in-law, the iron
caster, always cut his patterns in wood. I have to disagree a bit
that you can’t do delicate enough work in wood. After all, the 19th
century wod engravers didn’t work in wax. :wink: Neither did Albrecht
Durer.

Brian Corll
Vassar Gems


#12
I'm interested in doing things more like casting a medal in bronze,
gold or silver, but with provisions for mounting stones. I seem to
have gotten a lot of negative responses about the idea. 

I don’t understand the negative responses to the idea of sandcasting
either. I have loved sandcast work all my life, I see allot of it in
Native American work which I used to sell and grew up around. I have
seen many examples of fantastic sandcast work, large scale, like big
bracelets in sterling. I always consider sandcasting something I want
to learn, like enamel…someday… Far from being limited in
function I view it as a method which will get results like no other.
Sure wax casting will get any result you could get with sand but it
is still not sandcasting. Sandcasting provides a quick low tech way
to turn scrap into inventory which can be retailed instead of
scrapped. Sandcasting is another method, and art in itself. The
Oscar Branson books have a description of Southwest Native American
sandcasting. These are usually one sided molds where the sand is
carved to get the original then the original is used to pack sand
around to produce copies. In the world of pure authentic Native
American art, wax casting or centrifugal casting was completely
taboo, that was only done by knock off artists in the Philippines or
China who would buy an original from a Native American craftsman and
use it to mold, sometimes with the original makers hallmark still on
it! Wax casting was looked down on by the one of artists, even if
they made only one and used it to produce as I described above.
Sandcasting was always viewed as a one of, no matter how many times
the original was used to pack sand around and make a new mold. I had
these “hardline” views for may years which prejudiced me from
learning wax carving and casting. I have since given up my hardline
beliefs and really enjoy wax carving. My father carves tufa stone and
enjoys the limitations it provides, limited mold life and
unpredictable fills, and uses those effects for the final product.
Incorporating no fills and partial fills into the final design. If
you want repeatable consistent production work or a more consistent
casting method, then go with wax and a vacuum or centrifuge, if you
want one of each time go with sandcast and enjoy the
unpredictability, textures and design opportunities it offers.

Sam Patania


#13

The same texture can’t be achieved with wax as with sand casting. I
like the texture and appearance of good sand casting gives.


#14

Hi, RCP,

Yep, you know what I’m talking about. I don’t want perfectly smotth
surfaces in everything I do. Texture has a lot to do with jewelry as
it does in many kinds of sculpture. And after all, what is jewelry
but miniature wearable sculpture?

Brian Corll
Vassar Gems


#15
I'm interested in doing things more like casting a medal in bronze,
gold or silver, but with provisions for mounting stones. I seem to
have gotten a lot of negative responses about the idea. I was
looking for advice in the use of gold, silver, and bronze in sand.
Brepohl says nothing negative about it, even says there's
absolutely no reason not to, and that results can be excellent, but
doesn't fully explain the process. 

The process in short: Pack the cope (the proper name for the pinless
half of the mold frame) with sand. Dust with parting medium. Put the
drag (the other half of the mold frame) on. Add your model, dust the
model with parting medium. Pack more sand onto the model filling the
drag. Separate the packed mold, carefully remove the model. Cut a
gate and any vents you think the model requires. Melt and pour your
metal. Break the mold apart to get the finished casting. Discard the
badly burnt sand that was in contact with the pour. Those are the
basics.

I suspect that the negative commentary comes from the fact that it’s
not very effective as a production technique, since packing the mold
is time consuming, and the finished piece generally needs
considerable cleanup to meet most current jewelry standards. I use it
for duplicating one of a kind antique leather hardware, and the like.

More details can be found in books like Practical Casting
http://www.ganoksin.com/jewelry-books/us/product/096159845X.htm, or
C. W. Ammen’s Metalcasting.


#16
Any sand casters out there ? I'm about to begin casting my own
pieces, and I could use some general advice. My father-in-law was
a caster/pattern-maker in an iron foundry for 50 years so I've had
some expert advice. 

I understand your thought real well.

Before I began vacuum lost wax I did a good bit of sand casting. I
bought a procraft kit and ended up using home made copes and drags. I
even got pretty good results from clean sand out of the river. I
bummed a 5 gallon bucket of real casting sand from a local foundry.
They have truck loads and a bucket full was trivial gift to a
dedicated caster apprentice.

I would heartily recommend the book “The complete Handbook of Sand
Casting” by C.W Ammen. He is an old time foundry man and could very
well be your father in law. They sound alike…war tales about the
good old days etc. it is published by TAB books 1979.

He also wrote a companion about Lost Wax Casting that is also good
but out of date.

He is very practical as opposed to theoretical or technical. He
knows his subject inside out and tells it like it is.

The Complete Handbook of Sand Casting
By C. W. Ammen
Price $11.67
http://www.ganoksin.com/jewelry-books/us/product/083061043X.htm

Ben


#17

Ron,

Thanks for the advice. I think most people who read my message
thought that I was trying to create pieces that adhere to current
jewelry “standards” (whatever they are). I’m not interested in the
standards. I’m doing whatever the heck I want. :slight_smile:

Brian Corll
Vassar Gems


#18

Ben,

Thanks - I just ordered the book. I am also using the ProCraft kit.
In fact, I got double-shipped and have two of them. Anyone want one ?

Brian Corll
Vassar Gems


#19
I don't want perfectly smooth surfaces in everything I do. Texture
has a lot to do with jewelry as it does in many kinds of sculpture. 

The first time I eve got to wear gold jewelry was when I was a model
in the early 70s and did some work for a gallery owner/jeweler in
Coconut Grove. Those were the days when gold was cheap, and therefore
a medium attractive to artists, and sand casting was the method of
choice. I loved that style, which I haven’t seen in years, and am
very happy to know that someone can afford to “revive” it.

Lisa Orlando
Albion, CA, US

PS: I know a sculptor who is giving up on bronze because the
process is now so expensive…


#20

Lisa,

Well, at $ 700+ per oz. I don’t know how much gold you’ll see coming
out of my molds. Gee, I wish I had bought more a few weeks ago when a
did buy some 18K gold.

Brian Corll
Vassar Gems
No longer in Poughkeepsie.