Making Metal Charms Using Lost Wax Casting

Lost wax casting jewelry of shoes
MAURO CATEB / Flickr / CC By 2.0
  • 01 of 09

    What Is Lost Wax Casting?

    Lost Wax Casting
    Tammy Powley

    Charms, pendants, and rings are just a few items that can be made using a method called lost wax casting. In this metalsmithing process, a wax (or sometimes plastic) mold is used to create a piece of jewelry. This wax mold, called a pattern, is first weighed so the amount of metal required to fill the mold (gold, silver, etc.) can be determined. Then the mold is attached to a base, and a flask is slipped over the base. Once the mold is in the flask, a kind of plaster that looks like pancake batter called "investment" is mixed up, put in a vacuum to get all the air bubbles out of it, and then poured into the flask. It is then left to dry and harden. This takes a minimum of two hours.

    Once the investment is dried, the base and flask are removed. Now the piece is put into an oven to burn out the wax. Next, a centrifuge is used to force the melted metal into the investment mold. Finally, the piece is cleaned up by filing and polishing it.

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  • 02 of 09

    Supplies Needed

    Supplies for lost wax casting
    Tammy Powley

    You'll need sticky wax, designer wax, a stainless steel tumbler, a rubber base, a sleeve that fits over the tumbler, a tool for scooping the wax (typically found at a ceramics store), and a lamp.

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  • 03 of 09

    Preparing the Wax Mold

    Preparing to create a wax mold
    Tammy Powley

    Attach the sprue onto the wax mold using sticky and designer wax, and then weigh it to the amount of metal needed for casting.

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  • 04 of 09

    Add Base to Sprue

    Wax mold sitting on table
    Tammy Powley

    Attach the sprue on the mold to the rubber base.

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  • 05 of 09

    Prepare the Casting Tumbler

    Casting tumbler on table
    Tammy Powley

    Attach the sleeve to the tumbler to prevent spilling, and then weigh out the dry investment and mix it with water. Finally, set it in a vacuum machine to remove air bubbles.

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  • 06 of 09

    Add to Centrifuge Machine

    Placing a wax mold into centrifuge
    Tammy Powley

    After the investment is dry and has gone through a burnout process in a kiln that literally burns out the wax mold, your tumbler is ready. Take it from the kiln and set it inside the centrifuge machine so the hole lines up with the hole in the crucible.

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  • 07 of 09

    Melt the Metal

    Flame pointed at wax mold
    Tammy Powley

    Add your choice of metal to the crucible, and use a torch to metal it. Once it gets super hot, release the pin in the centrifuge (while the torch is still held over the metal) and then back off quickly because the centrifuge spins around. This forces the metal into the tumbler.

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  • 08 of 09

    Casting Complete

    Completed wax molding
    Tammy Powley

    Once you stop the spinning, pull the tumbler out. Here you can see there is a circular piece of metal at the bottom of the tumbler. This is called the button.

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  • 09 of 09

    Clean Up Charm

    Metal charm on table
    Tammy Powley

    This tumbler must sit for about one minute before being plunged into room temperature water. The raw charm will be inside the goopy, wet investment.

    Though the casting process has finished, you still need to clean up the cast item. The button needs to be sawed off, the charm filed, a jump ring added, and then you can polish it.