KautzCraft Studio

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Wax Carving

IMG 0915Today I returned to the basics skills in Lost Wax Casting. Hand carving the wax. 

The very first project in the course Shelley (my daughter) and I took was carving a basic ring from wax. The goal was to cast what we designed in silver. We both finished the project and the course with excellent results.

That is where I have returned. I am hand carving a size 12 ring from a block of blue wax. A nice little project.

Nothing special. A simple band design I am just designing “on the fly”. No drawing or pre-conceived plan. Much as I did with my very first project.

Feels good just being creative with the design and working directly with tools on the wax. Truly hand-carved and hand-made. I may use a powered hand tool like a rotary bur or an electrically heated wax pen.

The first training class was to learn to work with all hand tools and no power tools. That’s fine for learning the basics. But for me there is nothing lost by using power hand tools I totally manually control. It is still “hand carving” in my perception. 

Other folks are perfectly entitled to a different opinion of “made-by-hand”. Any difference is more emotional than tangible. It’s called being human. 

I have no problem with designing with CAD and using CNC to do intricate wax carving. The results are usually far more detailed and accurate. The bulk of the carving is done by CNC but there is still a great deal of hand work to cast and finish a piece. 

IMG 0917I never claim “hand carved” unless I do the actual carving through muscle control of my arms and hands.

“Hand made” and “hand carved” are two different terms. I don’t consider them synonymous. 

All my work is “made” by my skills which can include power tools. If CNC is only a step in the process of a Lost Wax cast project. I consider the complete piece “personally made”. Portions hand-made and/or hand-carved.

The electrical powered kiln burn-out takes far longer than a CNC run and it too is fully automated with digital temperature control. I don’t watch the kiln for 12 hours adjusting the on/off cycles.

Like this project, I will brag on “hand carved” when true, as that requires special skill. But CAD/CAM from ones own mind and assembled tooling, is also a special skill set. Often producing far more details and accuracy than hand carving. 

Hand carving is a special manual skill, involvement and enjoyment as an artist and is never replaced by watching the CNC machine run. Feeling the force of tool removing material is an emotion and special feeling not experienced with full automation. That’s the magic for the artist and can influence a resulting feeling of special ownership of the piece for another person.

There is no correct or best production method for enjoying something personally made. Lost Wax casting; It’s just a process with many steps. It can result is a simple functional cast part or it can be a ”work of art”. 

In this post I have bounced between hand made and hand carved. I don’t specialize in either. I have a motto. “Do what you love for those who love what you do.” How I do that is personal.

I don’t love one single process. I do what I love. I learned long ago there is no one “right way” Variation is natural, like the weather. Results will vary and that is a good part of the human experience.

I am adopting a term for my work. Whatever process I enjoying using, the final result will be something “personally designed and crafted”. Read the fine print if I detail special hand-steps in the process.

Skinny Designs

The recent article I wrote in my “Dimension Print Studio” website titled, “A Thinly Veiled Secret” is a wake-up call for me about some of my cast silver jewelry designs. I tend to leave heavy sections in pieces where thinning is possible. This ignores some of the rules of fine design. Light weight is one signature of professional work. Massive weight has a place but is generally not desirable in wearable jewelry. Unless you are a “Mr. T” or designing a Super Bowl ring.

Thin, light, skinny design requires more creative care as models become fragile. Especially when hand carving. Thin, three-dimensional printing becomes fragile too. Therefore, I have a habit of producing heavier sections in my models. These thicker castings are a “safer” form of silver work. Functional but less refined, less “fine art”.

Casting silver or any metal is by its nature, a more solid process than working with sheet metal or wire. But it doesn’t need to be massively heavy. Lost wax casting is an excellent media for displaying very fine shapes and detail. Once cast in metal, the fragility is gone.

I took formal lessons in the “lost wax - fine art” design and process for casting silver (or any metal). I learned emphasis on design such as thinning and reducing weight; also, to produce perfect models. Lost wax re-produces very fine details from the model. I occasionally stray from that training. Call it creative license; rules to break at my own risk..

The casting procedure is a production process, separate from artistic design. Thin sections can be managed.

The difficulty with three-dimensional resin master casting models, is thick sections in the model. So why are they there? A very good question. I put them there by design.

So, thickness is an inherent problem with resin curing. It is also a wake-up signal for examining the silver work I design. I can improve my designs. I have no control of the resin. Thin is in, and always has been. Ah-ha! There IS a future for castable resin in my studio.

Lost Wax Casting

DSCN02793D printed master model.

For almost six months, I have experimented with three-dimensional printing to produce masters for investment casting of jewelry items. It’s the same process as lost wax casting, except the master model is printed in layers using Ultra Violet (UV) sensitive resin.

The printing process creates outstanding models. It requires skills in making CAD designed models and mastering the combination of printer power and resin exposure. A somewhat technical process but one that produces very detailed models from designs first created in the computer.

The problem is the casting process. The resin does not burn out of the investment the same as wax. It usually leaves resin ash or debris, or damages the internal investment mold surface. Casting results are occasionally satisfactory but far from routinely repeatable and therefore dependable.

KautzCraft Studio continues the thousands of years old process of lost wax casting as our primary process. Wax remains the superior master model material in the “lost wax” casting process. I will continue making and using real wax master models.

Resin printed masters are experimental research at KautzCraft. Items made with resin masters will be labeled as such, not using the term “Lost Wax“ in the product description. They will proudly be labeled as “investment cast” clearly stating using a “Three Dimensional Printing” process.

Three dimensional printed models should not be considered inferior in any way. When the issues with clean casting is resolved, three dimensional printed models will be the dominate high quality process in investment casting. I look forward to when that becomes reality for me.

A Valentine in Silver

DSCN0059I saw a coloring book design while looking for valentine heart designs. It was very complex. I wanted a small design I could use in about a 1 inch diameter pendant. This heart looked so interesting I used it in one of my Ramblin Dan blogs that I called, "Feel the Love". Later on I thought maybe I could make it work in a less than a square inch of area as a pendant. I made several examples and played with the design a lot in my Aspire CAD program. It took more than two days of work cleaning up the drawing.

I next ran across a Celtic border design I thought I could make into a pendant. Or perhaps ear dangles...  It's not a ring...

First thought was to recess the design into a silver bar and darken the background. Playing in the CAD, I pushed the design all the way through the bar. I liked the look!

The cross wax model was made years ago. Just waiting for an available flask to get cast into silver.

So, here are the new designs I just finished. When I get some jump rings and bales on them, I'll take a more formal disply photo.

Happy New 2018 Year!

Client Custom Designs

3D Printed jewelryKautzKraft is improving! I am working on a new process of producing high detail Lost Wax Cast, client requested, custom jewelry. My plans are to have it fully operational in the first quarter of the new year.

I have long been using CNC milling of wax for my high detail pendants and other items. That will remain, along with my hand carving. The new process is high quality three-dimensional printing to produce the casting masters. This process is the favored method for many, if not all, the major jewelry designers.

High quality jewelry 3D printers are now within affordable reach of small custom designers like myself. I have more than two years’ experience with 3D printing. Printing provides a level of in-the-round detail not attainable by other methods, including hand carving.

I will let the results tell the story within a few months after the new year (2018). I have great expectations for use, especially with custom client requested designs in mind.  Full size examples can be examined before committing to the casting process.

Tell me what you would like to see… Can I make something just for you?

KautzCraft Update

bizcardBusiness Cards

I ordered some business cards. At last! …I was embarrassed at my first show by not being prepared with a proper business card. I had to borrow my daughter’s. Fixed that. A business card is like the sacred first step in being a real business. Especially one that has face to face contact with its customers.

I have another business selling small machine tools. All sales are made over the Internet and I almost, but not never, see my customers face to face. I should have a card to put in my packages and for the times I do see my customer. That’s next. I may opt for a more generic card without fancy graphics.

My KautrzCraft cards are kind of fancy, feminine looking. I decided they needed to have some style since the product is jewelry and mostly feminine jewelry, but not always. The guys will just have to deal with the look, and buy something for the lady in their life. Ha!

Why Silver

Silver is a good metal for jewelry. Sterling is a hard silver and makes great durable jewelry. Tarnish is a bit of a problem. Argentum is an alternate silver that doesn’t tarnish but is a bit of a different color. It’s also a product made from recycled silver and not a produced in the USA. For now, at least, I’ll cast with sterling from USA sources. I never say never…

I am capable of casting gold; the process is the same as silver lost wax casting. But the extreme cost is likely to make it very hard for me to sell. I think I will leave gold work to the better-known producers. Expensive pieces are sold as much for their brand name as well as the quality of the work. I may need many years of high end work to gain the instant name fame recognition to sell high dollar jewelry. Ha!

Goal

I am happy being the little guy with a niche, doing nice specialty silver work. My goal is not to build a dominate presence in the world of cast silver jewelry. At age 70+ I have something I enjoy designing and spending time creating and people are willing to own. Reward enough.

The new business card will help my best salesperson, my dear wife Gloria, present my work. About time I did that for her.

DSC07746Private Art Show

CrossNote

I thoroughly enjoy the craft and art of creating lost wax silver cast items. The creation is where I find the enjoyment. The finished product is… well, just the finished product. I like what I make but I like making of it better.

I realized that there is art in the steps of creation and I am usually the only one who ever sees it. At least in my shop. I work almost exclusively alone. I see it, enjoy the moment, and then it is gone forever. Unless I take a few photo’s along the way.

I have been taking photos and publishing the sequence of creation for years. They are the basis of the many blogs I publish of the things I love to create or make.

Here are a few shots of my most recent private art show.

This silver pendant project I call a CrossNote. Suitable wearable for church choir member, church musician, or someone who just enjoys Christian liturgical music.

IMG 1437 IMG 1436
 This design was created in Vectric Aspire 3D CAD and then cut with my Taig CNC mill. The remaining wax is a bit of art in it's own appearance. The calculation is the number of grams of silver required for casting. I melted 40g.  This is the tree that will be encased in investment then totally burned away or "lost" in a 1350 degree kiln. It too is a colorful bit of temporary art.
FullSizeRender DSC07748
 After the cast, what was wax is now silver. Here the tree is in the hot acid "pickle". I think it has an artsy "misty" look.  Out of the pickle and undergoing inspection. I think this could be something displayed as art...
DSC07749 DSC07751
 A closer look. I am pleased the casting went well. This is not the stopping point so this tree is about to be chopped apart and lose its association with looking like a tree.  All eight pices of the CrossNote finished and ready for market. The entire process took about 36 hours with about 12 of them being hands on labor, design and finish work. The rest, machining and kiln firing.time.

DSC07706Plastic Land

I have ventured off into Plasticville, a little village I knew about in my youth. It was a not-to-realistic collection of plastic structure models intended for model train use. They were mostly snap-together and not of realistic colors. That is, not high scale accuracy. They did the job for tinplate toy railroads.

However, this post is not about this old commercial toy product. Only Illustrating the fact, I have become highly involved in making small objects using 3D printing and plastic materials. Therefore, I must be virtually living in Plasticville, USA.

I will certainly continue with my creative plastic endeavors. I will try to back off a bit, though. The nice part of making high quality 3D plastic parts is, quality demands fine layer printing and that takes a long run time. Time, I will use to get back to my more artistic efforts.

I am making effort to return to wax carving by the good old manual process. I will reserve the CNC carving for the mass-produced items. I want my hand carved effort to be unique items. If needed, I do have the tools for making rubber molds for creating a series from hand carved masters if I desire.

My thinking (for this moment) is to express myself as more of the old school artist. To me that means more creative hand carving.

The rings I make are all one hundred percent hand carved. My thoughts are not to limit hand carving to just rings. I like to make rings, but I only have ten fingers, the last time I counted…

The coming Summer is an excellent time to turn my focus back to the air-conditioned wax carving area of my studio. I can fire up say, a twelve-hour 3D print job run and then switch to the wax carving project. The printer to do its monotonous repetitive motions and I can do my inspirational wax carving motions. Ha!

Casting Metals

A list of the metals that can be cast at KautzCraft.

  • Gold 10k -24k
  • White Gold 14k
  • Fine Silver
  • Sterling Silver
  • Argentium Silver
  • Bronze
  • White Bronze
  • Yellow Brass
  • Lead Free Pewter
  • Tin Alloy
  • Other

Feel the Love

  KautzCraft Studio is an artistic endeavor. I love making things you like. I sell my work so I can make more. It’s a partnership with my customers.

  My moto: Do what you love for those who love what you do.”

  Knowing the craftsperson adds a special quality. My time, effort and care are a part of every item. No factory production. I love my work. I like what I make, but I sell what I love… how it’s made.

  I put that love in every item. A quality you feel, from knowing who made it.

  I love the special things made by friends and family. You are also my friend and like family.

  Follow the Companion Links in the left column to learn more about me.

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