Tuesday morning saw me excitedly entering the Jewellery Workshop at Gray's School of Art to begin preparation for casting on Thursday. I am eager and excited to play with the amazing facilities on offer, for who knows if I will ever get this opportunity again?
Under the guidance of Head Technician, Phil Chaplain, I began by preparing my wax model. Wax sprues are added to the piece, these will be the channels into which the molten metal will flow into the sculpture.
Once the sprues have been added the wax sculpture is weighed so that I can calculate how much metal is required. For brass the formula is 8.8 times the weigh of wax. To be safe I multiplied by 9 as I was unsure of the pureness of my brass.
It was important for me to use brass shells in this project but the number required was more than I could procure so I used a combination of shells and old window fittings.
With the metal prepared the wax sculpture was set in the investment - a mix of plaster of paris and silca. This then went into the ceramic kiln for a 12 hour burnout programme.
With the mould ready it was time to begin melting the metal by placing the brass into the crucible and heating it to 1000 degrees centigrade!
Because my wax model was solid a lot of metal was required and it filled the crucible to capacity. Once the crucible was full of molten brass it was time to retrieve the investment flask from the ceramics kiln and load it into the bottom of the investment casting machine. A lever on the top was depressed which allowed the lava to flow into the mould below.
When released from the machine you need to wait until the hot metal turns a cherry red before it can be quenched.
The brass sculpture born from its womb will now need to be cleaned and polished. Thankfully there was JUST enough metal. The lesson learned is to make my next wax piece hollow.
With a matter of weeks till hand in of practical work I have been impatient and anxious to get into the jewellery workshop at Gray's for my investment casting project.
The studios and workshops are at present uber busy with the undergrads manically making and preparing for their end of year exhibition. I decided therefore that it would be wise to wait till after the Degree Show
My main worry though in waiting to get started is that I may fail at this new untried process. Head technician Phil Chaplain assured me that he would allocate me two sessions so that if the first attempt was unsuccessful I would have a second opportunity to succeed.
For my casting project I will be employing the lost wax technique. There are different grades of wax that you can buy which vary in pliability. To sculpt the wax I used dentistry tools and a mentholated spirit burner. The burner allows you to cleanly melt the wax and heat the tools thus preventing a contaminating sooty residue.
It is important to note that the resulting cast will be an exact replica of the wax model.
Today saw me excitedly take delivery of the publication I have produced to accompany my latest film that will be premiered at Gray's School of Art, MFA Exhibition in September.
The A5 publication is composed of manipulated stills from my movie. It is a monochrome narrative of my two year Masters journey. An autobiographical tale, an exploration of local landscapes and my movement through them. A cathartic pilgrimage of self-analysis and healing.
The limited edition visual publication will be free for visitors to the Masters Show.
The piercing pain that is the pressure of a looming deadline is at present compounded by the persistent pitter patter of heavy rain that punishes and enforces me to work indoors when I am desperate to be out taking footage to finish off my film collaboration. Another sixty seconds of blustering angry seas is all that is required.
It is not as if I do not have plenty of other tasks to address.......my thesis for example. Yet I am still managing to avoid the inevitable task of 10,000 words. And why? I am not sure. It's not as if I don't have a question to answer or a structure build upon. And yet today saw me hiding in the darkroom and working on my argyrotype series of prints.
As with everything alternative and darkroom, processes and good results always take twice or thrice as long as you expected. However, the extended time spent in my dimly illuminated darkroom is peaceful, happy and contemplative. Nothing is rushed and results are always analysed before the next image is begun. This is especially important for three reasons:
By mid-afternoon I had a number of prints that I was happy with. The rain has stopped too! Time to venture forth..........