Sometimes the old ways are the best. The first weekend in August silversmith and jeweler Juan Reyes will take students through several casting techniques that have been used for millennia in, Low-Tech Gravity Casting. Not only are they tried and true, these methods also use a minimal amount of equipment, and can be easily reproduced in a home studio, or even in your backyard.
Juan will guide students through various mold making processes and approaches. Whether it’s sand casting found objects, such as twigs or buttons, exploring the unique textures of cuttlebone, or carving your own molds in tufa stone that you can reproduce time after time, this two day casting class opens novice and experienced jewelers alike to this fun and rewarding sculpting method. It is also one of the best ways to use your scrap silver!
With his expertise and enthusiasm Juan Reyes brings warmth and creativity to every class he teaches. He recently took the time to answer a few questions about his work.
What got you started in metal smithing and jewelry making?
My family has several jewelers in it. As a child, jewelry was something that I didn’t want to make when I was living with them. When I came to Seattle, I realized that I was missing that part of my family.
What do you like best about casting pieces?
One of things I like about a casting a piece is that once you made the first piece, you can make a mold and make as many as you want.
Do you have a favorite casting method?
Sand casting is my favorite method. It’s easy for me, because you just have to have something to print into the sand, then you close the mold and pour the metal. However, at the end of my class everybody has their own favorite method.
What are the biggest challenges new learners might have in this class?
The big challenge that I notice in my class all the time for my students, is learning to be comfortable with a big torch and pouring the metal into a mold once the metal is melted.
Do you have a favorite casting material?
Silver is my favorite metal to work with. Silver is very forgiving, you can melt and reuse it many times, that’s why I like it.
Come play with fire this summer! Spend three Wed evenings, July 12,19, & 26, 6:30-9:30 learning everything you need to start doing this fun and fast form of casting.This class is only offered once a year and features, among other things, sand casting, cuttlebone, and tufa stone casting. Gravity Casting is a great way to learn metal casting with out a huge set up like lost wax casting and is a great class to use up any scrap silver you might have laying around.
Gravity Casting is a permanent casting method where metal is heated until it is molten and then poured into a mold. The molds can be made of many materials such as metal, sand, tufa stone, and cuttle bone. In jewelry making the most frequent mold materials are sand casting, tufa stone, and cuttle bone.
Learning to cast isn’t just about making jewelry components. By knowing how to cast you can alloy your own metals; for instance creating sterling silver out of fine silver casting grains or pouring ingots. An ingot is a block of metal typically oblong in shape. Ingots can be rolled out in a rolling mill (creating sheet or wire) or can be forged. Pouring ingots is a great way to use up small bits of metal scrap and shavings getting the most out of your precious metals.
This metal casting technique takes advantage of the properties of a finely porous bone-like internal organ that is shared by all members of the cuttlefish family. Using cuttlefish bone to carve out molds in order to cast is one of the oldest casting methods on record. It creates a very distinct texture that is unique to carving the cuttlefish bone. Cuttlefish bone will wash up on beaches from naturally-deceased animals all over the world. It’s ease in carving and accessibility is probably what led to it being used as a mold material since ancient times.
Tufa Stone Casting
The Spanish coming to New Mexico and Arizona is what brought the tradition of silversmithing to the American South West. They taught the Navajo and Pueblo people how to cast molten silver to create jewelry and other items. The mold material that they used was tufa stone. Tufa stone is a soft and porous volcanic stone that can be found in many parts of the world including the Navajo reservation in Arizona. Tufa stone can be easily carved and withstand high heat making it an excellent mold making material.
Sand casting is a metal casting process where sand is used as the mold material. Jewelers and industry uses the sand casting process and it is the most commonly used method in industrial casting. The basic process is that a pattern is made in the sand and then molten metal is pored into this recess. Once cooled the casting resembles the pattern made in the sand.
Have we got you interested in gravity casting yet? Come check out this class and all classes on the summer schedule at Danaca Design by clicking right HERE!