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Sheet or cast or?


Hello Fellow Orchidians:

Recently while reading the posts, it got me to wondering…

How many out there use sheet metal to make their jewelry vs. how
many do casting vs. how many do both but primarily do ______? Or
perhaps you are doing something completely different?

Curious little poll.

Lisa Fowler
Fort Collins, CO



Sheet. Not that I prefer it, I just dont have any casting equipment
or much casting experience, so I do everything by hand.



I fabricate almost everything using sheet metal and wire - I do a
small amount of sand clay casting using the delph (sp?) clay system.


How many out there use sheet metal to make their jewelry vs. how
many do casting?

Hi, Lisa,

Put me down in the fabrication column. I have nothing against
casting, and do get a few components cast for my low-end line, but I
just have “fabrication ideas”, not “casting ideas”.



Everything I’ve done so far has been fabricated. I would like to do
some casting.



I’m on the fabrication side. Someone told me years ago to cast only
if the piece couldn’t be fabricated. I have stuck with that advice
for 35 years.



Hi Lisa,

I do both. probably 70% Fabrication and 30% casting. I often include
cast items in my fabrication.

Silver Squirrel Designs
Elizabeth, CO


I do about half pierced and layered pieces and half cast pieces.
Taking two different approaches helps keep my point of view fresh
and keeps me from getting bored.

Janet Kofoed


Both - I fabricate from sheet and wire, and also cast when

For some of the pieces I make, I don’t think I would get the crisp
clean finish by having the piece cast, so it has to be sheet and

On other pieces, designing in CAD and then having a wax milled and
cast is a far more efficient way to go.

So it depends on the design.

Eva Martin


Hi Lisa,

98% of my work is constructed from sheet and wire - that excepts the
use of commercial findings and mountings. Since I don’t have casting
equipment, Racecar Jewelry (hi Daniel) has done my bit of casting.
Judy in Kansas, where we had a freeze early this a.m. However, it’ll
be in the 60s by afternoon.


Hi Lisa:

For your poll: I fabricate all of my work, haven’t done any casting
since college, how many lifetimes ago. Even all of my production
pieces are made one-at-a-time by me by fabricating. They are lined
up in piles of parts and put together in the same run. They start on
the left side of my bench/soldering area, put through the next phase
of soldering and placed on the right side after quenched and cooled.
When all pieces of the same run are on the right side, they go back
to the left side to begin the next round until they are finished.
Now, when I get a special order, or two or three, in the middle of a
run of production items, the whole process gets a little scrambled.
Compound that by clumsily dragging your sleeve or elbow over the
organized mess…time to go for a walk. I use a lot of sheet metal in
silver, not as much wire, and what I can afford to use in 14kt gold
with most of the trim on my new pieces being 14kt wire. Since I have
no rolling mill or drawplates I order it in the form I need it. I
also agree with Noel, I have sheet metal designs in my head, not
casting designs.

Kathy in Colorado, SW


Virtually 100% fabrication for me, at least so far. Partly because I
don’t have the gear or space to get into casting in a serious way but
mostly because a day without a hammer in my hand is like a day without
sunshine. Fabrication is interesting to me, and fun!. Casting just
seems like a means to an end, however interesting and profitable that
end may be.

Trevor F.
in The City of Light

Casting just seems like a means to an end, however interesting and
profitable that end may be. 

If you try wax fabrication you might find it very interesting and
challenging and another means of satisfying you creative juices.

Wax fabrication should never be used to create a piece that can be
created with metal fabrication. However wax fabrication allows you to
create work that can be created in no other way.

It is very enjoyable to take various pieces and types of wax and put
them together to form a piece of art work. I started fabrication and
still do some fabrication work, but I enjoy the wax process much

The casting portion is the black art of the process. There is always
the chance that a piece may fail to cast. Production casters do not
get the same feeling as an individual artist does when he converts
his wax into metal.

There is a lot of anxiety when you take an original wax through the
burn out process, pour the metal then quench the flask until you
project falls to the bottom of the quench bucket. You are already
evaluating the casting by touch as you reach into the quench bucket
and pick it out. Is the whole project there? Did it fail? That little
bit of anxiety does not go away until the piece is polished and ready
for sale.

Casting is not for everyone. There are a great many artist who
create artwork of tremendous beauty using the fabrication process.
There are a great many artist that create tremendous beauty using the
casting process.

Many people look down on wax casting because they forget that there
is a tremendous amount of creative ability required in preparing the
original wax. The casting portion is the way to turn the wax into
metal. That process is no more than the many steps that are required
to fabricate a piece in metal.

There are several things that are detrimental to the casting
process, some of which are:

  1. The cost of casting equipment

  2. The amount of time it takes to take a rough casting and grind away
    the sprues.

  3. The time it takes from the original wax until you have a finished

  4. Most cast pieces will be heaver that fabricated pieces.

my two cents,
Lee Epperson

Fabrication is interesting to me, and fun!. Casting just seems like
a means to an end, however interesting and profitable that end may

Not to offend, but isn’t fabrication also a means to an end?

There are designs that are simpler to fabricate and there are
designs that can’t be fabricated or at least easier to cast. Casting
seems more appropriate for designs that have more flow; perhaps more
"modeling" might be the word.

K Kelly

If you try wax fabrication you might find it very interesting and
challenging and another means of satisfying you creative juices. 

You’re quite right Lee, I might. On the other hand I’m pretty much in
love with the metals themselves and so it’s hard to imagine starting
an affair with wax. But stranger things have happened so who knows.
Thanks for mentioning it.

Trevor F.



I could not have summed up the creative process of wax carving and
lost wax casting any better. Thank You.

I enjoy doing fabrication work but I get the biggest thrill from
carving a piece of miniature art. Afterall a talented carver that
creates a bronze sculpture from a clay or wax carving is viewed as an
artist, why should a jeweler with the same abilities not be viewed in
the same way.

Greg DeMark
Custom Jewelry - Handmade Jewelry - Antique Jewelry

Not to offend, but isn't fabrication also a means to an end? 

Oh yes, of course, I was just trying to say that for me working with
metals --rolling, drawing, forging, annealing, yadda yadda-- is a
large part of what I like about what I do whereas working with wax
just seems like the way to get something done and not particularly
attractive, to me, in and of itself. Hence for me --and I’m only
speculating because I’ve never actually done it-- it would be a means
to an end. Some folks like to hammer nails and others are just
interested in getting the job done.

I certainly didn’t mean to belittle or speak ill of the whole casting
business. I really admire some of that sort of work and look forward
to trying it myself when time, space and budget allow. In my books of
design sketches there are more than a few things that are casting and
not fabrication jobs so, fates willing, I’ll get there someday.

Trevor F.
in The City of Light
Visit at

Many people look down on wax casting because they forget that
there is a tremendous amount of creative ability required in
preparing the original wax. 

I like to think that, at least on such an enlightened forum, people
who don’t cast don’t look down on it-- they just prefer to feel
metal in their hand instead of wax. Or, like me, they like to make
things that are too delicate to cast; inefficient to cast; or made
of mixed metals so they are impossible to cast. Plus, speaking as
someone who worked in porcelain for twenty years before trying
metal-- I had my fill of the process of work, work, work, then wait
to see whether all that work would go to waste. In fabrication, when
you screw up, at least you know it right away!

On top of that, after all those years of ceramic work, one of the
things that seduced me about metal is that you can, in theory-- and
often also in fact-- get an idea, and see the finished piece in the
same day. This is not possible with clay, and
pretty-darned-difficult-to-impossible in casting.

On the other hand, I’d like to be better at wax carving. One of
these days, I’ll go take a class from Kate Wolf!



I do not understand how a comparison can be made between fabrication
and casting, unless it was a comparison of one specific piece that
could be produced each way, and then it would have to be on specific
merits of each process. Time it would take, quality, number of
pieces needed, uniformity of multiple pieces. Both processes have
advantages that the other does not. Some designs cannot be produced
one way, and some cannot be done the other way. I recently had an
order for 50 replicas of a very large old hotel key. Twelve pounds of
silver was used. No way any of you could have fabricated that order
in the time that I did it, and if you had the time, no way you would
make a profit if you took that long. You cannot charge the same for
casting as you do for fabrication, and most customers usually won’t
pay the labor charge for the time it takes to fabricate multiples of
one piece. If any of you have retail stores, and you make jewelry,
you do both, utilizing the merits each process has depending on the
type of work that needs to be done, and the practicallity of which
process will produce the best results. I can fabricate and make a
mold of something in one day, and cast 20 of them the next day. I
could not fabricate 20 in that time. To me this discussion is like
having a debate on whether using a rolling mill is better than
forging to produce sheet metal. If you have a mill you can do it both
ways. If you do not have a mill, there is only one way you are going
to do it.

Richard Hart


Although I am primarily a fabricating goldsmith and I prefer to
construct the majority of my jewelry through direct manipulation of
the metal, not every item is best accomplished by this approach. I
also utilize waxwork and casting for many of my pieces and I
consider the ability to work in both mediums preferential to limiting
oneself to only one or the other.

In addition to the more common technique of wax carving (the
subtractive method) there is another option of working with wax;
using the build up sculptural technique (the additive method). I
employ this style of waxwork for many of my projects which are not
best suited by fabrication of the item directly in metal. (Good
examples of this are forming bezels or settings for stones by
building the wax directly on the stone to create a perfect fit and
ensuring ease of setting when the piece is cast and finished.)
Additionally, I have a very distinctive texture I apply to some of my
jewelry which is often more effective to achieve in wax than it is in

For those who might be interested in developing their wax working
skills I will be teaching a two day intensive workshop in the wax
build up technique (January 28/29, 2006) in Boston. More information
is available at:

Michael David Sturlin