Friday, August 07, 2009

Wax Carving and Silver Design

Crowded platform at Union Square — I dodged past Peruvian pan flute players and German tourists meandering past the kid on the Casio keyboard playing "Für Elise." I caught the L train to meet up with Dan at their place in Bushwick. They have an incredible live-and-work space where Caroline runs her jewelry gallery and studio, LILOVEVE.

Caroline Glemann designs beautiful bespoke jewelry — wedding & engagement bands, neck wear, pendants, rings. I always stop to admire her show pieces in the gallery cases when I'm over. While I was there I figured that I should repair the silver ring that I made in her Wax Carving class. I went down into her workshop to use her ring mandrel and leather mallet. As a metal, silver is not as hard as gold or platinum alloys, but its forgiving quality is what makes silver so easy to work.

Silver artist and jewelry designer Sakurako Shimizu, taught the class at LILOVEVE — she specializes in wax carving and the "lost wax" method. In this class we learned how to accurately draft our designs, carve a model, and bring our silver cast to completion.

After sketching our designs we drafted a plan on grid paper using precision instruments to determine ring size and metal thickness. With this type of planning you can compensate for the mold shrinkage.

It's recommended that you use pre-made wax forms to save time. We used heated carving tools, different grades of files and filing paper to create these models.

The resin carving wax comes in grades of hardness — blue wax is medium, but green is harder allowing you to carve sharper detail. The carving wax is also available blocks, wire, and square dowels. I bought most of my tools and supplies at Melalifforous. They were inexpensive but if you're not careful it can get spendy.

We had silicon molds made of our models. From this mold another type of wax cast is made that is again casted into a plaster mold. Molten silver is then poured into this second mold, extruding the second wax.

The mold is then broken open and discarded after the silver has cooled. With this type of method, multiple casts can be made. This sounds like a lot of work but we used a service in the jewelry district to do all of this. When you first get your poured silver the surface appears matte white. The goal in this class it to take it to a highly polished finish.

A small stem (the sprue) on the ring marks where silver was poured. It has to be removed and filed down along with any small imperfections. Sakurako helped me with mine, the sprue was on the inside and I couldn't completely file the shape down to match concave interior. Sakurako is a hands-on instructor, she demonstrated every part of the process in detail.

Careful work lies ahead. If you over-work you'll lose the detail and shape that you created in the wax carving stage. But if you don't file enough imperfections stand out.

After the initial polishing you can add a matte finish with a Scotch Bright pad, but even then you must be careful with the direction of the grain.

I used the wheel, a Dremel tool and diamond polish to get it to really shine.

After that I used a blackening agent to bring out the detail in my ring, but you can also add green, red, or blue patina to your work.

After a final buff and polish the pockmarks and holes are more prominent.

Caroline's studio is well furnished with all the equipment and tools you need. My friends Eva and James took the wax carving class to make their wedding bands, it was gift from Eva's mother. Carrie's sister Gabrielle and her husband Paul made their platinum bands as well.

My ring fits perfectly. I'm not at all a be-jeweled guy, but after many hours of filing, sanding, and polishing I do feel as if my ring is a part of me when I wear it.

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