Owl jewelry design : wax carving for lost wax metal casting in silver and pewter

As mentioned in my previous post  I love creating unique pewter jewellery items by casting them from my original wax carvings, using the lost wax process. Here, I’m going to outline the basic process I use for carving a wax piece, in this case, an owl. I have already made an owl for my jewellery range, but that was an experiment in using precious metal silver clay for the first time, and the result was not exactly what I was looking for, though a sweet design, I wanted something more precise which is what jeweller’s carving wax is perfect for.

wax carving 1

The wax I use is the green modeler’s’s wax which can be bought online through any metal casting & jewelry supply store. It is extremely hard, and gives very fine detail; it can be sanded, melted, scraped and even machine worked with a hand tool / Drummel. First, I draw the design – I trace over the lines with a ball point pen in order to transfer the impressions of these lines onto the wax underneath.

wax carving 2

 Then, I cut this out and glue it over a piece of the green wax with normal school type stick glue. I then cut around the wax to get the basic shape of the design – initially I use a little hand saw, then linocut or woodcarving tools to do this. Now it is basically a process of copying my drawn design on the wax using sculpture techniques – more relief than actual 3-D sculpture.

wax carving 3

It’s important to work in layers, and not to make the wax too thin or else when it comes to casting the metal it may not work well. The techniques I use depend on what I am creating. I love to just use a basic craft or surgical knife to slowly scrape and sculpt the form as well as different grades of sandpaper to smooth and sculpt the model further.

wax carving 4

I have not melted any wax for this design, as I did for my Tree of Life design, where for the fruit I melted blobs of the green wax, which is fun to do – best to do with with a very hot flame as you would get from a little hand-held butane torch.

wax carving 5

Wax carving is a technique which is best learned with at least one session taught by a professional, as one needs to understand how to fuse wax together if something breaks, how to avoid air bubbles so that the metal casting does not get ruined, and other techniques that are quirks of the trade. I am by no means a skilled wax carver, but I was lucky enough to spend a few hours learning from one so that I do understand the basics and I kind of just follow my creative intuition and feel for the lovely wax medium.

wax carving 6

It is also important that the wax model has been smoothly sanded and cleaned before it is sent to be cast. I sand the model as I work in conjunction with the sculpting knife. Sometimes it can be hard to imagine what the finished piece will look like cast in shiny metal, with a lovely dark patina applied to pick out the details….

wax carving 7

I am actually going to try to cast this at home, not with the lost wax method, but I am going to make a silicone mold from the wax carving, and then gravity cast with pewter just to see how it turns out. Eventually, I will send this wax carving to a professional investment casting company that specialises in lost wax casting in silver. After I have the silver master copy,I can further touch it up until I’m completely happy with the design, then get it cast in lead-free pewter in multiple molds using spin / centrifugal casting, again with a professional who specialises in this method of casting.

owl wax carvingThanks for visiting, I hope you enjoyed reading about this wonderful process – please feel free to post any comments or questions you may have !

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Cat Dreaming : Stunning cat beaded necklace, with birds and fish

Today is National Cat Day !!

This is my “Cat Dreaming” necklace I made inspired by my love of Cats.

I have used a selection of gorgeous Czech glass beads, as well as Turquoise gemstones, to compliment the little silver tones bird and fish charms. I wonder what this cat is dreaming about….!?

I have also created some adorable little bird earrings to match with turquoise beads. I have been making a lot of very unique jewellery pieces lately for the local galleries here in Iowa and Wisconsin, along the beautiful Mississippi Valley where I live. These items feature my unique pewter original castings, from my hand carved designs. I carve the designs from a hard jeweller’s wax – you can read more about the process on my website here.

blue bird earrings

Both are available in my Etsy shop here.

I have been carving wax designs and casting these in lead-free pewter for about 10 years now. I am largely self taught, having gone to a 4 hour workshop at a music festival in Australia to learn the basics, I really took to it with a passion and developed my style from there – and I am still learning! It is a process I love and my original pieces of jewellery are becoming increasingly popular, as they are exclusive, hand made and entirely original. They include cats, a dragonfly, moth, lizard, butterfly, tree of life, pixie, owl and mermaid jewellery designs in lead-free semi precious pewter.

I get a master caster to create and cast the molds in South Africa, where pewter casting and design is very popular, from items such a cutlery, to jewellery and giftware…Below are some more creations I have been working on which feature my exclusive pewter designs and carvings, all of which you can find in my shop:

Tree Jewelry Design for Necklace & Brooch

I have finally finished the Tree design – the master copy has been cast from my wax carving.

I had previously posted the initial wax carving and sketch – see Jewelry Designs to the left – and here is the final piece cast in solid silver after the wax carving was finished. I used the hard green carving wax and filled in details with pink relief wax – wax is such a wonderful medium to work with. The finished piece or master copy is used to create a silicone mold to be cast centrifugally in pewter, and the design will be a brooch, a choker, a keyring and a pendant. Exciting!

I love depicting trees in all forms; their sinuous trunks and branches are perfect for translation into Art Nouveau style designs, and trees have powerful symbolism in their soulful beauty.

I decided to put two little birds in the branches of this tree so it would have company….

Tree Necklace and Tree Brooch
Tree Necklace and Tree Brooch Design