Stone to Bowl

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Finally the hand cranked forge blower has arrived. This is hopefully the last piece of the Stone to Bowl project. The forge blower will deliver air to the furnace, powered by hand rather than electricity. I’ll find out next month at SSW if it can be made to work. If the bellows can be hand powered it means that I can work anywhere,

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This is the model we hope to replicate.

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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.

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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.

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

https://hyperallergic.com/286780/an-animated-guide-to-the-bronze-age-technique-of-lost-wax-casting/

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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

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.

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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.

 

The allure of copper – Stone to Bowl

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Alongside the traditional copper casting project I have done a copper/silver cast; using plumber’s copper and silver.

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and two-part sand moulds. This is partly sustainable, with all materials being recycled; but the heat used is gas.

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One of the pieces sold unfinished at ENOS 2018. The bowl has a metal ‘pebble’ inset, a blue heat patina and is almost clean copper on the exterior because I used a different greensand on the outside.

Some learning – try different sands to give cleaner surfaces but retain textures, cost in the silver, keep experimenting, copper is an attractive metal although challenging to work with.

Stone to bowl – finger tips

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A bit of a leap forward in time. These are the first pieces cast in copper from beeswax lost-wax models dipped in clay mix. I’ll explain the process more later.

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The finger tips are a simple development of the work that I was doing in Munich and were a good test of the process, being very fine but also small. I like that they are handmade by me for my hands; and exemplify the whole process- having been made using environmentally-friendly, traditional processes.

The surface finish is pitted, but I like this and I plan to make more. It would be fun to do a community finger project.

Takako Selway and I will do some filming of the process for her film about “Hands Making”

Stone to Bowl. Copper smelting

Finally I am three weeks into my Stone to Bowl residency and I feel that I should share progress.

One element of Stone to Bowl is to develop a replicable way of smelting copper from malachite/copper ore in a traditional way that means that I can work in the landscape anywhere.

First task was to source some Scottish copper ore. The mine in Bridge of Allan is long closed, but I found some copper traces on the waste heap. These photos show the mine entrance and the pieces that I collected.

After initial smelting experiments I have been putting the ore in closed ceramic  balls with added charcoal to give a reducing atmosphere for the smelt. (While I was on my residency another artist was successfully smelting malachite using oxy-acetylene.)

The furnace is charcoal burning; and for these experiments I was using an electric air blower, although I will use bellows when I understand the process more. The dry ceramic balls are made of a local refractory clay mixed with fibre -horse dung, and sand. Inside is copper ore in pea size chunks  with 25% charcoal. The balls are placed on the furnace charcoal once it is burning well and the furnace is run until the ore is to a high enough temperature to smelt, hopefully. The balls are then plunged into water and broken open.

The first smelt was not a complete success. Some copper was formed, but a lot of this was pelletised rather than consolidated and some had to be panned from the ashes of the furnace.

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However I reheated this copper to consolidate it and a reasonable amount of copper was retrieved. Again I used an electric furnace for this process while I am experimenting.

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I am not sure that a chimney furnace is needed, a horseshoe hearth might be as successful as one can see what is going on. The chimney furnace is made of a refractory clay mix similar to that used for the balls.

I tried another smelt later in the residency of which more anon.

Stone to Bowl

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Following further research I have made up some clay balls with a mixture of malachite and charcoal inside to smelt. Copper results from removing oxygen from the copper ore, so the sealed clay balls should be more successful that the pit smelt that I did at the Sculpture Workshop.

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I like the way the clay balls look a bit like poppy seed heads.

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I’ll let them dry out a bit before I try and get them to smelting temperature in a charcoal furnace.

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