Stone to Bowl clay dip moulds; incl wax melt out and all-in casting

Returning to Stone to Bowl:-

stonetobowlmouldfiringOnce the wax models have been made and sprued they are then dipped in a slurry mix of clay (this time from Kingsbarns) sand (Cellardyke beach) and fibre (horse poo from near Kilrenny). There are two mixes, one is fine and the early coats are done in this and the other is coarser to build up the outer layers. Each layer has to dry before the next layer is added so it takes several days to build up the mould.


When the mould is built up a clay funnel is added. The moulds are then ready for the wax to be burnt out. The first photo shows the burn out. Below are the moulds that have been burnt out.


The link below is to an animated film about lost wax casting, which explains the process well.

I also tried out a casting method where you burn out the wax and then put the copper alloy in one end of the mould. You then seal up the mould with a lid and clay mixture and return the mould to the furnace. stonetobowlmoulds

This photo shows the moulds and lids ready for burn out.


This photo shows the all in one moulds ready to return to the furnace for the copper melting stage.

In theory the copper heats to melting point and you upend the mould and the copper pours into the part that you want to cast, In practice because you can’t see the metal it is difficult not to either get incomplete melting or over heating and the metal seeping out through the ceramic shell.


The photo shows incomplete melting, the copper is fused (bottom right)


This photo shows a mould where the metal over heated and seeped through the mould walls. There are two moulds, one complete (but rattles so I’ve not broken it) and an open one.

The moulds with incomplete melting can be ‘re-used’ as open moulds.



Clachtoll Broch: Scottish Sculpture Workshop

ironpourg copyIt looks like we should be able to bring an iron pour to Assynt as part of creating my final piece and involving local people. It’s still a long way to go, but it looks like iron will come to the Iron Age broch. The access to the broch site is a big consideration, as is the weather – molten metal and rain do not mix so we will need careful plans (and shelter). I would not use the actual broch site or anywhere that would adversely impact the site and will probably do a lot of prep work at the Sculpture Workshop.

I had a really useful meeting at SSW today with George Beasley, iron artist, and Eden Jolly, Senior technician, to scope out what I could do practically during my Clachtoll Broch artist residency. We could, for example, borrow SSW’s cupolette furnace, pictured, to cast iron in Assynt.

georgebeasleyOnce I’ve had a chance to meet and talk some more with the archaeologists who are working on the broch finds, I’ll be back up in Assynt to carry on working on the design, meeting people and seeking out resources

Thanks to Ross of RoRo studios for the photos.

Clachtoll Broch Art Project – Proposal

This is an extract from my Clachtoll Broch Art project proposal, which was selected by a local panel (out of more than 40 applicants):-

“I would be making a sculpture or series of small metal pieces using traditional casting techniques and working on site as far as practicable. This would mean that the local community could join in throughout the process. The people who lived in the broch would have needed to work together and I think it important that the togetherness of this project to date is reflected in the final work”


This is the broch the day before the summer dig finished. (I know this as the lintel has not been put back in place). This is the main entrance with a triangular lintel stone.

The project application continues:-

“I work sustainably with materials from my local landscape, such as malachite scavenged from the edges of old copper mines. My work is inspired and informed by traditional processes, bringing us closer to the landscape and lives lived on the land.

I have also developed my practice so that I can work in the landscape. The ancient making processes that I am rediscovering allow me to work as a pre-industrial maker would.

My pieces are domestic in scale using non-precious metal. Their character arises from the process of making and from age, patina and wear: suggesting solitude and liberation from a material world – a simpler life.”


This is the inside of the broch that has been excavated. The lintel on one of the cell windows is broken and has had structural support added.


Clachtoll Broch post 1

I have just started work on the Clachtoll Broch Art Project.

I have come to Assynt for a few days now (still working on Stone to Bowl) to make contacts, experience the place and continue thinking about design and outputs.

looking backThis is the evening view from the broch over towards Assynt

Summer 2018 excavations ended today, so it was a good chance to meet people and set up meetings.

beachnbrochThis is the view towards the broch from Stoer beach

beachStoer beach

The broch was lived in by Iron Age people for a few centuries, but has been in disrepair for a long time. The dry stone engineering required to make a broch several metres high on sloping bedrock site proved very challenging. Much of last year was spent making it safe before excavating the main area and some side chambers.

Stone to Bowl model making

waxfingersprued I make my models using beeswax from a beekeeper who lives near St Andrews. She and her bees make lovely wax that smells delicious and is just right for making models.

I  started small but wanted to make fine models to challenge the techniques. I made finger tip rings by dipping my fingers in the melted wax. stonetobowlJuliaCowieThese then need to have pouring stalks added (sprues). They are then ready to be dipped in the clay mix to build up the mould.


After successfully casting finger tip rings I moved on to small bowls which were made by dipping clay bowls in wax and adding pouring stalks.