Jan 21 2010

Wednesday night – Class night #2

Published by at 1:29 am under amy's head,jewelry,photos

#2? What happened to #1?

Well, I didn’t post for #1. But better late then never, right?

Tonight was class #2 of my silversmithing class at the Art League in Alexandria. We did cuttlefish bone castings, which I have to admit, I wasn’t actually too excited about initially, but now I am SO in love with my piece, I got very excited!

Cuttlefish bones are made up of pretty much just calcium. They are very soft, which makes it easy to carve into it, or press shapes into it. You may have actually seen one – they are good for birds, and are often wired to the side of bird cages for the bird to snack on. We decided on the shape we wanted to cast and then carved/impressed the shape into the soft cuttlefish bone, then fitted another bone over it and cut out a little funnel at the topfor the melted metal to flow into the casting.

Cuttlefish bone also has a natural striation in the material that makes really interesting patterns and textures in the casting.

I decided to make a disc shaped pendant with the spokes of a lego gear emerging out of the disc at an angle. I figured with the wavy striations, it would look like a gear or a snowflake sticking up out of the sand.


You can see the striations quite a bit on the back.

It turned out very well! I wish I had thought to snap a few photos of my carving that I cast the piece from, but I didn’t. After I made my mold, I heated scrap silver in a crucible until it was molten, adding a bit of flux (boric acid I think) to help remove any slag (grossness. and yes, that’s a technical term). Then carefully, but quickly, I poured the molten silver into the void i had carefully carved out.

During the carving, the workshop smelt faintly fishy the whole time, but after pouring hot molten meltal into the bone, there was nothing faint about it. It smelled very badly of nasty burnt fish, blech!

A few students had some bad luck with their molds. Not enough material between the mold and the edge of the bone, and the molten metal would find a way to escape the mold and all was ruined. Once used, the bones could not be used again, as they were burnt to a stinky crisp. I was very happy that my casting turned out wonderfully, much better than I expected.

After retrieving my cooled metal from the quench pot and chucking the stinky remains of the burnt mold, I consulted Nick, our teacher on ways to finish this sucker off. On Nick’s suggestions, I filed the angled gear shape down smooth. This week I will need to decide whether to keep the edges as they are, or perhaps cut away around the edge of the protruding gear and into each little coggy protruberance. I’m not sure which I’ll do.


This photo is it’s current state, after a bit of filing.

Good thing I have a week to think it over!


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