Craftsman of the Month
If you know the secret, making professional-looking jewelry can be quite easy. Here, March Craftsman of the Month Diane Prokop explains how she created this stunning necklace and earring set:
"This is an excellent way for anyone to start lost wax casting who is intimidated by the thought of carving wax for the model. There are many objects around the house or yard that can take the place of the wax model. Rubber, wood, cardboard, Styrofoam, plastic, and even macaroni will work, as well as leaves, pine cones, bugs, and all sorts of sea creatures. I have cast tiny plastic apples and ivy leaves with great success. In fact, there are enough useable doodads out there that you may never need to carve wax if you don't want to."
"If you would like to do this project or any other casting but do not own equipment, check out your local community college metalsmithing classes. I did, and found it inexpensive. The teachers guided me through the casting procedure until I felt confident enough to solo."
"For this project, I chose starfish, found at a local craft store, to make earrings and a pendant. The starfish come dried and ready to sprue. (Check local laws before using live creatures gathered on the beach--it's illegal in many states.) I decided to cast them in sterling silver, but you also can use gold, copper or bronze."
"Sprueing is the first step in casting, and consists of attaching wax wires to a couple of points on the object. This is where the metal will flow into it. After making sure they were clean and not misshapen, I attached the sprues to two starfish legs. Since I was making earrings and a pendant, I sprued three or four starfish of the same size and look, and a couple more for the pendant. The extras were insurance for incomplete castings and meltdowns during soldering, and to fill the requests from family and friends that were sure to come my way."
"Next, I put the sprued starfish into a flask and covered it with investment. After it cured, I put it in a kiln and burned out the model, which left a space into which the metal would then be poured. It takes longer to burn out organic matter than wax, so I allowed extra time in the kiln for that. When I was through casting the starfish, I cut them off the sprues and threw them into the pickle to remove as much oxidation as possible. Then I used a little baking soda and water with a soft toothbrush to neutralize the acid and clean out any remaining debris."
"I soldered sterling silver posts onto the backs of two matching starfish using medium solder, and then used easy solder to attach gemstone settings to the fronts. I put a jump ring on the top back of one of the larger starfish for the pendant, and again soldered a gem setting on the front. After pickling the pieces, I used sandpaper and a file to eliminate any sharp edges, and washed my starfish again with soap and water. To polish, I used a silver bristle brush on a flex shaft at medium speed, wearing safety glasses to avoid flying debris. If I had wanted a golden patina, I would have used a brass bristle brush."
"Finally, I set a garnet cabochon in each gem setting and hung the pendant on a strand of garnet beads and Bali silver. It's a good thing I made extras, because sure enough, I have had many requests for these sets!"
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