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How to create bronze sculptures through lost wax casting (“cire perdu”)

- 234 photos of the process -

The lost wax casting method is extremely versatile and can be used for casting bronze projects too complicated for other methods. A sculpture/model is created or duplicated in wax, this will later on in the process be ” lost”, during burnout of the casting mould.

The method has been in use as early as 3500 BC in Mesopotamia and India, in Egypt since circa 2200 BC, and later it was used by the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans. Direct casting methods has also been practiced early in other parts of the world. Renaissance masters, during the 15th century, resumed the lost pattern technique, after studying the methods practiced by the Greeks and Romans.

Bronze is an alloy, most often consisting of mostly copper with an addition of tin. Bronze are used for sculpture casting, due to it's strength, wear and corrosion resistance, as well as for it's workability and good natural colour and for easily taking on a patina.
(Since the process varies – these photos are just examples of how it can be done.)
.
(Bronze founder, of the casting occasions above, is sculptor Vladimir Stoces, assisted by sculptors
Antonio Priore, Emma Ströde and Kerstin Merlin Eriksdotter. Stone sculptor Ulf Johnsson shows
how to mount a finished bronze sculpture onto a stone base.)
 
Photo: Photo: Merlin, Håkan Emilsson, Johan,
Dan Henriksson, Vladimir Stoces
The process can roughly be split into the following steps:
  1. Creating master patterns (in wax or other materials)
  2. Reproduction mould making using, for instance, silicone and plaster
  3. Casting wax copies of the master pattern
  4. Wax retouching
  5. Attaching wax bars - runners (for feeding metal), risers (for allowing air and gases to vent as the mould fills with metal) and a pouring cup
  6. Investment mould (i.e. building up a heat resistant mould) - in this case “ceramic shell”
  7. Wax burnout and firing of the mould
  8. Casting of the bronze metal
  9.
Finishing:
removal of investment (“knockout” of the ceramic shell) and core mass (if hollow sculpture)
cutting off attachments such as runners, risers and pouring cup,
welding pin holes and repairing casting faults, welding together the sculpture (if cast in more than one part)
fine finishing with a combination of mechanical and manual tools,
surface finishing like polishing and preparation for patination,
chemical patination and protective wax coating.
and in many cases, finally mounting of the finished bronze sculpture on to a pillar or base

With gratitude to Vladimir Stoces for showing the different steps of the bronze casting process,
and to Ulf Johnsson for showing how to mount a bronze sculpture safely onto a granite pillar.


Further information about cast bronze sculptures can, for instances, be found
on Wikipedia (Bronze sculpture; Bronze; Patina)

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