Steam Casting

After all the discussing about casting I thought I might just
start a weekly posting of how to do steam casting for any one
that does not do casting now. I believe that there might be some
lurkers out there that would like to do casting, but do not want
to spend the $1,500 to $2,000 to set up vacuum and centrifigal
casters. Of course, if this is not good use of the list and I get
flamed I will leave. Please let me know as I do not want to
offend too many people, a few I can live with, if it benefits a
few others. Of course the delete is a quick tool if you get

Steam Casting by Don Norris
(Please if I want this to turn in to a book or article, I will
publish it. Please consider it copywrited.)

Steam casting does work and in my opinion as good as vacuum
casting. If you want to give it a try, round up these materials.
Next week I will start explaining how to use it. By the end of
the month you can start a buisness casting! I promise! Even if
you know nothing about silversmithing or casting! You can start
this buisness for, lets guess, around or less than $170.00. This
will include a caster, kiln, small tools and even a dremel tool
for polishing!

So lets get started, here is a materials lists. Buy what you
need, but use what you already have. If you have a torch, do not
buy one. If you have a kiln do not buy this junk, Ok! But this
junk will do everything you need to cast 10 to 20 things a week
in you spare time. i am rounding the cost up to the nearest
$1.00. Most jewelry supplies can be purchased at your local
jeweler’s supply or through the mail from Naja or Maroon Bells in
Denver, or the Rio Grande Co. Just call for their
phone numbers.


$ 1.00 1 empty tuna can (mix the tuna with mayo and eat it with
crackers while reading the rest of this steam casting info.
$ 1.00 1 six inch piece of broom handle of one inch dowel.
$ 1.00 1 roll of paper towels (you need 3 towels but you can
use the rest to clean up your tuna and crackers mess!)
$ 0.10 1 sheet metal screew #10 by 1 inch


$ 2.00  1 6" clay flower pot
$ 2.00  1 roll of aluminum foil
$ 0.00  1 coat hanger
$17.00  1 single burner propane campstove
$ 3.00	1 propane tank


$10.00 1 propane torch from Ace Hardware, if you press them
they can get one on sale for $10.00 with two tanks!


$ 5.00 1 soft fire brick available from Maroon Bells or Naja in
Denver or the Rio Grande Co. in Albequerque.

$ 3.00 1 tweezers from Rio Grande spring loaded shut and bent on
the end.

$ 2.00 1 copper strip 1/4" wide by 10 inches from a hardware
store for making copper tongs.

$ 5.00 1 small package of Pickle Safe or Rio Pickle for Rio

$ 2.00 1 pryrex dish

$ 8.00 1 box of 20 mule team borax soap. You will only need
about 1 cup for a year or two, but I do not know where you can
buy a smaller amount. Of course if you have a jewelers supply
close you can buy some powdered borax flux from them.

$ 2.00 1 package of childens clay or cheap sculpting wax.

$ 1.00 1 small tall narrow can of tomato paste

$ 2.00 1 cheap one gallon platic bucket

$10.00 1 small package fo Satin Cast 20 from Rio Grande or
local supplier (I am quessing about this price. The more you
buy the cheaper it is.

$13.00 2 ounces of sterling silver in any form that you can

$10.00 5 to 10 commercial waxes of your choice or email me and
I will send you some that I know will sell. I will even send
you more waxes if you follow all these instructions and do not
get good castings, as good as a vacuum caster can do! I will send
you 20 proven good sellers for the

$10.00 just to get you started. If you like hummingbirds, and who
would admit that they didn’t. I have a pendent that only weighs
aout 2 grams that with a chain is easy to sell for $15.00 to


$35.00 1 Dremel tool (Target prices) with very few accessories.
You do not need one with 50 accessories!

$ 5.00 1 stick of white diamond polishing compound (Rio Grande)

$ 3.00 1 stick of zam polish compound

$ 7.00 misc dremel polishing wheels (4 1" yellow wheels, two
mandrels, 10 briteboy wheels from Rio Grande

$20.00 10 to 15 sterling silver chains-light weight chains-20"
from Rio Grande.

$170.00 I think is the total, not bad to start a business.

That’s it! With the stuff above you can cast 10 to 20 small
pendents that you can sell for $10.00 to $20.00 each. Take that
money and buy silver and waxes and do the same thing every week.
Take the extra money and start buying better equipment. I will
give you a priority list later.

By the way, I do not work for any of the above supply places. I
teach private classes in my two class rooms in Boulder and
Loveland, Colorado. I hope they do not mind that I give them as a
source for materials.

Please visit my web site for about my self and my

Don Norris
PO Box 2433 Estes Park, CO 80517

Hello Great idea about casting process. First issue is well
written and will try to follow the rest. I will print it for my
reference only, if ok. Otherwise I won’t remember details.


Bob B

Hope others don’t object!

DNorris---- please continue doing what you started with the
weekly steam casting post to orchid. I find it invaluable to
those of us on a small budget! If orchid feels this to be beyond
the scope of this forum, then please keep my email address, and
send the post to me directly. Thank you so very much!!! God
bless, Donna and Tom

Hi Don,

I am BJ and new to the list. My timing is just right and I just
checked out the list for steam casting and want to try it out. I
have a very small operation and just want to try casting without
a big investment. I have most of the supplies and will get the
rest. I think you are terrific for taking the time to do this for

OK Don, Since I started this whole mess by asking Dan the
original question I’ll bite on this one… I will gather together
this list of yours and give it a shot, or rather a steam, as I’ve
never done it before. I must say my last two Vacuums were
perfect, with very little clean up on only my third time
around…After 15 years centrifugal time to try something else.

Terry Parresol

Terry Parresol Hi. I guarentee you that you will not want to use
steam casting now that you have a vacuum caster. Well, may be
just for fun! It certainly can not do every thing a vacuum caster
can do, especially the quantity, but castings will be just as
good. However, as I go through it, you will find that everything
has to be done exactly as taught. There is very little room for
error, unlike vacuum, and especially centrifigal. Both of which I
have seen almost everything done wrong, at one time or another,
and still got good castings. I had junior high kid, especially
with centrifigal do everything that you can imagine wrong, and
still get a good casting. Steam casting will not be nearly as
forgiving as either of these methods, but it is great for anyone
that has not purchased a caster to get started as a hobby or
small business for very little money.

I truly am happy that you are having good results with vacuum
casting. I hope it will be fun and profitable for you.

Don Norris
PO Box 2433 Estes Park, CO 80517

Donna and Tom–in case we miss Don’s next installment, a
description of this low-tech technique can be found in Tim
McCreight’s “The Complete Metalsmith”, p. 96. Don’s description
is infinitely funnier though! Marty R.

Reynard Designs

Don, You have offered of value to me, and certainly
to others. You may have noticed, there is at times a rather
passionate defense of ones chosen method.

Please continue for those of us who are perhaps not casting
hundreds of pieces per day.

Thank you for your efforts.


Hi Folks,

I want to echo the thanks for the info on steam casting. I will
be teaching silversmithing at a camp this summer, and I am
looking for techniques that are suitable to using with teenagers
working under adult supervision. Do you think that steam casting
will qualify in terms of its safety, etc.

Related to this, I would be interested in hearing suggestions
for content, projects and general tips for teaching jewelry and
art metal techniques to younger teens.

I have been playing with metals for something like 40 years, and
feel like I know a fair amount. Also I am reasonably familiar
with Tim McCreight’s and Alan Revere’s teaching materials. On
the other hand, I am self taught from books, so I have not had
teachers of my own whose teaching stlyes I can borrow from.
Suggestions are welcome. Thanks, Michael Parkin

Thank you, Marty…Tom was looking through the complete
metalsmith the other night and came across steam casting,
ironically. About Don’s version, I agree that his is definitly
funnier. I do have one serious question, though. The tuna can
that you use… is it supposed to be regular tuna, or the
dolphin- free tuna? I really don’t like it now since they took
the dolphin out. Some day ask me about the cockroach allowance
in chocolate bars! God Bless, Tom and Donna

If you enjoy torch work a lot…does that make you a

Related to this, I would be interested in hearing suggestions
for content, projects and general tips for teaching jewelry and
art metal techniques to younger teens.

I have taught this method to junior high kids. There are always
concerns of safety, but no special ones for this process, but
read the next installment carefully about mixing water with
molten metal.

I will “teach” a very simple silversmithing project for
beginners on the beginners list starting next month after the
steam casting “class”. It will be exactly what your looking for.
I teach this as a two hour “class” to folks at a quest ranch,
that have no idea what a torch and solder is! They all leave with
a pretty neat pendent, all in two hours.

Are you teaching in Estes Park this summer? If so, I live is
Estes. Mayber we can have lunch, when you get here!

Don Norris
PO Box 2433 Estes Park, CO 80517

Teenagers can do anything adults can do. The question is more
about how much time you have and whether you want the classes to
be project oriented (everyone makes the same thing) or more open

Just as you would with adults, start out with the safety rules
and procedures.


I agree 100 percent, I taught junior high students steam and
centrifigal casting for over 7 years with out one mishap. There
will be some safety concerns as with any process.

Don Norris
PO Box 2433 Estes Park, CO 80517