or “there’s a million ways to the top of this mountain”.

a while back some nice person commissioned a medium seahorse– i had long thought this might be a good idea, and a commission was the perfect goad to actually making the attempt. as with any item one wishes to make multiple copies of, the first thing was to make a “master”– something that can be put in a mold to make casting waxes from. one can cut a master using hard carving wax, or model one by building softer wax up to form a design, or “construct” one using sheet and wire wax, or build one of metal, or….. as i say, there are many ways of doing things, and some even involve using several of these techniques.

my first thought was that the tail of the seahorse was going to be the most difficult part– not because the work is too picky, but in wax it would be super FRAGILE– working with broken and repaired wax is no fun at all, and often leaves you with a lesser design. my best bet was going to be to cut the form out of some thick metal and sculpt it into shape.

however, this wasn’t satisfactory either, as it wouldn’t give me the thickness i wanted to give a good volume to the piece. what i finally settled on was cutting the form out of thick silver sheet and applying wax to the surface of the sheet to build it up. however, this method was not totally satisfactory– whenever i got near the volume i wanted the wax stopped adhering to the surface and would fall off, entailing some interesting use of the english language as i cursed and cursed.

so– on to PLAN B– i brought the sheet and wax to as close i could without losing anything and made a mold of that. the mold material is a catalytic latex formula– one mixes two components together and pour it into a frame with the mounted designs within.

when this compound “cures” it looks pretty transparent, and it makes the cutting open of the mold easier– cutting molds apart is a whole art in itself, and sometimes i am confounded in visualising just how to do it, but this one was pretty easy really.

of course, THEN i had to use a machine that holds wax in a molten state, and fill the empty space left when i cut the first design out– it extrudes the wax under pressure, and then you have to wait for the wax to cool and take it out of this mold. BUT– this wasn’t the finished design.

no, now i had to model using soft wax, a wax spatula and a small torch, building up this intermediate wax to a usable form. i then put this new version into the mold frame and made a second mold, which i could use to shoot more waxes. now i could cast the first copy.

here is the piece as it looks, freshly cut out of the cast– you’ll notice the extra “sprues” that connected it to the body of the cast, just like the ones that connected the design to the mold frame. on the right you will see an image of the piece with those parts trimmed off, the bale (part that the chain goes through) properly oriented. looks pretty rough, don’t you think? you’d be right. but many pieces look this way when first cast. it takes a lot of effort to bring the design to a finished form– if you’re lucky you have worked all the bugs out of the design in the initial stages, and for the most part i had. my only glitch was figuring out how to put the karat stamp onto it– it’s in between the dorsal fins at the back of the piece. i hope you like the finished piece as much as i did!!