I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

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Errant Knight
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I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Errant Knight » Mon Nov 15, 2010 7:40 am

Made from bees wax that I have added food colouring. It was all done free hand by me using simple tools.

1st step - try to make this oval shape look symetrical. It was harder than I imagined it would be.
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2nd step - carve the 2 lips around the bottom and add the balls.
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3rd step - start carving the design. I found bees wax tends to be pushed by the tool and leaves a rough edge
around the groove. So it takes a lot of time to clean up the groove to give a sharp line.
Image

4 step - Make the edges of the lines rounded.
Image
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The original:
Image



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby guthrie » Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:24 pm

Nice. Do you know that you can mix various amounts of beeswax, paraffin wax and rosin to get wax of varying hardnesses? I can't recall any recipes off the top of my head, but if yuo put it in the fridge before carving it may be hard enough to cut not push out the way.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Lady Willows Retinue » Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:57 pm

As an observation, any areas of undercutting will cause the casting to stick in the mould. You will need to make sure that all of your lines therefore are of a wider V or U profile, which is a simple fix. The "balls" however, look to be a bit of a problem. As they have been made as blobs and stuck on, there appear to be underhangs under them where they meet the body. This would be where the casting may stick. That's ok if you intend to destroy the mould to get the casting out, but after all of that work I think you might want to test the mould perhaps with pewter first, or at very least, sometimes the first casting ***ks up and it's the second one that is the keeper. Not insurmountable problems tho, just practical observations. It looks a good attempt, worth a try.
Do you have any more info on the original tho, as to whether it was actually cast? It may have been beaten to shape and the blobs attached/fused on later. Closer observation of the original may show casting marks or evidence of hammering to shape.
not that it matters much if your copy works - it's the end result that matters to you really.



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Errant Knight
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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Errant Knight » Thu Nov 18, 2010 1:23 pm

hi & thanks for your replies,

Guthrie: I have heard of mixing other waxes in together, but have only tried a modern modelling wax which didn't like being melted and
was didn't like mixing either. Where does rosin & paraffin come from? As I was trying to do an all natural recreation, just like the Vikings
would have done.

Lady Willows: You are quite right about the undercutting. I was thinking this piece was created by lost wax casting. Therefore the mold
would be broken after it has been cast. I have recently tried to make my own clay molds for casting only to see 2 of them explode
because I knew nothing about clay firing. So this time I have sent it away for a modern mold to be made. I am not sure how they will do it,
but it may need to be atleast 5 parts to get around the undercutting.

This is all the extra info I have about this brooch:
"An exceptionally piece of jewellery in the Gotlandic soil is oval brooches. These female brooches are typical in all parts of the Viking world outside Gotland. This brooch probably comes from Karelia, and belongs to the late part of the Viking Age,meaning the 11th century. That it has been found in Fröjel, underlines very clearly the broad contacts people have had in Fröjel.."

Inside 1 of the molds that exploded was a wax carving of a Devil's face & hands for a 14th c plaque belt. Would you like to see the progress photos for that?
I will eventually remake it in wood, so that it can be sand cast.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Neibelungen » Thu Nov 18, 2010 2:36 pm

Nice work and always good to see people working in the exact processes used at the time.

As a lost wax caster myself I've tried a few examples of original methods so I'll look forward to the finished result.

The vikings were great inovators of lost wax casting. Probably picking up a lot of different techniques from all the trading areas the branched into to, especially the steppe nomads, who are incredibly underated for their skills.

I'd suspect those ball mounts would have been riveted into place afterwards as seperate castings, as it would have simplified the process and avoided undercuts entirely.

Some of the later totoiseshell broches are incredible examples and are often 2 piece ones, of a size and finesse, that even modern lost wax casters find them a challenge.

They also used a cheat method of reproduction by pressing a master into a clay front and a seperate clay pressed into the back. When dry, the wax or master is removed and you have reproducable clay moulds, rather than expending a wax. Another interesting technique they employed was hesian backing the waxes, which makes them a lot easier to move and solidifies the wax to some extent.

They also used 'lost lead' rather than wax on some incredibly intricate bits too. Worth experimenting with as it's interesting the finess you can get on detailing thin work.

I'd recomend investing in some RTV silicon for taking a quick mould off your master before ever attemping to cast it. Nothing ever worse than finding several hours of creative effort dissapearing or having a major casting flaw. Plus a soft flexible silicon will cope with a few undercuts and teaches you the importance of designing them out.


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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby guthrie » Thu Nov 18, 2010 5:33 pm

Errant Knight wrote:Guthrie: I have heard of mixing other waxes in together, but have only tried a modern modelling wax which didn't like being melted and
was didn't like mixing either. Where does rosin & paraffin come from? As I was trying to do an all natural recreation, just like the Vikings
would have done.

Rosin comes from tree's, as in pine rosin, so I think the Vikings had it. Also you can try mixing with tallow. Traditional materials sells both in smaller quantities, and if you start using a lot you can buy it cheaper in bulk elsewhere.
http://www.traditionalmaterials.co.uk/html/substances.php


I had information about what waxes mixed with what made specific quality wax, but I can't think where the information is right now. It'll be somewhere in my library or online.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Errant Knight » Sat Nov 20, 2010 4:50 am

Neibelungen wrote:Nice work and always good to see people working in the exact processes used at the time.

I'd suspect those ball mounts would have been riveted into place afterwards as seperate castings, as it would have simplified the process and avoided undercuts entirely.

Some of the later totoiseshell broches are incredible examples and are often 2 piece ones, of a size and finesse, that even modern lost wax casters find them a challenge.

Thankyou for the compliment! Your idea about riveting the balls on is clever. The brooches with the cutout work have got me thinking. They certainly were great artists. I tried a 3 piece clay mold, but I knew nothing about clay and had air bubbles trapped in it. During firing it exploded. I have also tried the RTV silicon for making wax copies. I tried to use a modern modeling wax (on a ring) and had a lot of problems with it. I've got lots to learn.

Guthrie: thankyou for the supplier and info. I will have to try this on my next carving.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Neil of Ormsheim » Sat Nov 20, 2010 9:55 am

Some extra information you might not have -
Many oval vroaches were cast in two pieces; a heavier, more solid, back piece and a lighter "pierced" front. These were then riveted together with the "balls" to hold the whole lot as one.


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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Lady Cecily » Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:31 am

It sounds rather dry - but it may be worth your while digging this paper out

Jansson, I. 1981 ‘ Economic aspects of fine metal working in Viking Age Scandinavia’ in D.M. Wilson and M.L. Caygill, Economic Aspects of the Viking Age 1 -19 (British Museum Occasional Papers 30, London)

The single shell brooch you are producing predates the double shelled ones that Neil is describing - the above paper goes into quite a lot about the manufacturing process - that's if I am remembering correctly.


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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby steven pole » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:31 pm

I love project being attempted in the original craft. Can't wait to see it finished.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby guthrie » Sun Nov 21, 2010 12:59 am

Errant Knight wrote:
Neibelungen wrote:Nice work and always good to see people working in the exact processes used at the time.

I'd suspect those ball mounts would have been riveted into place afterwards as seperate castings, as it would have simplified the process and avoided undercuts entirely.

Some of the later totoiseshell broches are incredible examples and are often 2 piece ones, of a size and finesse, that even modern lost wax casters find them a challenge.

Thankyou for the compliment! Your idea about riveting the balls on is clever. The brooches with the cutout work have got me thinking. They certainly were great artists. I tried a 3 piece clay mold, but I knew nothing about clay and had air bubbles trapped in it. During firing it exploded. I have also tried the RTV silicon for making wax copies. I tried to use a modern modeling wax (on a ring) and had a lot of problems with it. I've got lots to learn.

Guthrie: thankyou for the supplier and info. I will have to try this on my next carving.

Ahh, wait, you are in Australia. There'll probably be more local suppliers to you...

For clay moulding, what you want is to mix the clay with organics, either chopped wool (or perhaps linen) about 2 or 3mm long, or else use horse dung, and it may well help if you have a fair bit of sand. I've been researching and re-inventing late medieval casting techniques, and these are the ones I've found to work quite well.
The other trick is of course slow drying. If you do it at home you can melt the wax out in your oven (set low) and leave it like that, below 100C, for an hour or two to dry the mould, then turn it up to over 100C for half an hour, and you get a nice dry mould.
If doing it outside, you have to make sure you've squished the clay onto it nicely to ensure few air bubbles, then dry it slowly. Don't stick it in front of a great heat, with experience you can tell what is too hot and what is about right for drying it nicely. I've made, dried and cast small moulds within 3 hours, so it can be done.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Errant Knight » Thu Nov 25, 2010 4:16 am

Lady Cecily wrote:Jansson, I. 1981 ‘ Economic aspects of fine metal working in Viking Age Scandinavia’ in D.M. Wilson and M.L. Caygill, Economic Aspects of the Viking Age 1 -19 (British Museum Occasional Papers 30, London)


I live in Australia, how would I go about getting a copy of this? help appreciated.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Errant Knight » Thu Nov 25, 2010 4:26 am

quote]
Ahh, wait, you are in Australia. There'll probably be more local suppliers to you...

For clay moulding, what you want is to mix the clay with organics, either chopped wool (or perhaps linen) about 2 or 3mm long, or else use horse dung, and it may well help if you have a fair bit of sand. I've been researching and re-inventing late medieval casting techniques, and these are the ones I've found to work quite well.
The other trick is of course slow drying. If you do it at home you can melt the wax out in your oven (set low) and leave it like that, below 100C, for an hour or two to dry the mould, then turn it up to over 100C for half an hour, and you get a nice dry mould.
If doing it outside, you have to make sure you've squished the clay onto it nicely to ensure few air bubbles, then dry it slowly. Don't stick it in front of a great heat, with experience you can tell what is too hot and what is about right for drying it nicely. I've made, dried and cast small moulds within 3 hours, so it can be done.[/quote]

Guthrie do you know how the organics help with the mold? As they would burn out at those temperatures. Yes part of my mistake was trying to build up the clay in small pieces.

If your casting brass/bronze won't you have to fire your mold up to 900c? A local potter suggested firing to a state they call "brisque" (about 1100c). At this point the clay molecules change and reach an even harder state.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby guthrie » Thu Nov 25, 2010 11:26 am

Well I've just been re-reading Theophilus (11th century), and for small scale casting he uses clay mixed with dung, it is unclear what type of dung it is. Adding organics helps stop it cracking when you dry it, burns out and gives it a bit of porosity and so helps make it less prone to cracking when casting.
Theophilus also says to cast into them when the moulds are glowing red hot. I do this as well, although I can't recall what temperature red hot is. If you heat it to 1000 maybe it'll be too strong - from what i have read it seems to help if the mould material has some give to it. So yes, heat it to red hot at the same time as you are melting the metal, but you definitely don't need it at 1,000C. The mould doesn't have to be the same temperature as the metal unless you really are struggling to get to the required overheat or superheat or whatever it is called. If you can get the metal to 1100 or 1200 it will pour nicely and not set until it has occupied all the fine detail. Pouring it into a mould will obviously cool the metal down, but heat the mould as well, so it has to be able to take the expansion, which it may not do so if it has been fully high fired to 1200C. So I've poured into moulds which by the time I've poured are not glowing red hot, and had it work, but they were red hot when I took them out the other end of the furnace. Remember and make nice large ingates for the metal, I suggest 3 or 4 mm wide at least, and it also helps if there are air vents as well for the displaced air.

The British museum occaisional papers are likely to exist in a decent university, although you may be quite a few hundred miles away from a university at all.



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Re: I'm making a Viking brooch - wax carving

Postby Errant Knight » Tue Dec 14, 2010 6:04 am

thanks for the info, I will try this some day but I am also in the middle of making some gauntlets I found on a painting.

Does anyone know how they make (punch/drill) the holes on the post that the pin gets attached to? There is not much room there.




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