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Thread: New tree of life broach

  1. #1
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    Default New tree of life broach

    This is the latest piece i have completed exploring a tree of life design. The photos are of the sprued wax pattern, the casting before finishing and the completed broach. I think the piece would work best as a scarf pin particularly against a rich dark background

    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
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    Hi jenfay,

    I'm sorry you've been deserted, but at this time of year the members are working furiously to sell as much as they can before Christmas. It might be their only chance of a profit

    Could you tell us a bit about how you piece was cast? Perhaps also show us a back view?

    The tree of life can have a religious connotation, but it is also found in legends. For instance it stood opposite the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately Eve chose to pick from the wrong tree, or we wouldn't be in this mess now. What does it mean to you.

    There, if we keep this up, perhaps someone will be tempted to join in. Regards, Dennis.

  3. #3
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    The concept of the tree of life has a multitude of cultural expressions from Celtic (my own ethnic background) middle eastern and Asian. In my case it expresses a theme that permeates most of the jewellery that I have made, our relationship with the natural world that can both nurture and destroy us if we lose sight of that relationship.

    The piece was cast from a hand fabricated wax pattern. I usually make my patterns by building up the wax rather than carving away. For this reason I use a variety of soft waxes that are quite pliable at room temperature and can easily be shaped in an organic way using the heat of my hands. I weld the components together using an electrically heated wax pen. I find this much more controllable than using probes and an alcohol burner. I started by forming the elliptical frame out of 2.5 mm wax wire around a mandrel. I then formed and welded in the trunk, roots and branches out of soft modelling wax. The mass of leaves was made by cutting triangles out of 1 mm soft sheet wax, welding them on to the pattern and then shaping and softening them with the wax pen. I then textured the trunk with a blunt blade and the leaf masses by lightly dancing across the surface with small wax burr running at low speed in the flex shaft. The piece was then smoothed using orange oil and cotton buds and rinsed in cold water.

    I do my own sprueing and casting using a vacuum casting setup. The sprueing pattern was fairly elaborate ensure as much as possible that there was a direct a flow as possible from the base to the heaviest parts and as little back flow as possible of the molten silver during casting. I probably over sprue but this is driven by failures in the past. I would rather spend more time cleaning up the sprue connections than spending a great deal more time and resources doing another casting.

    Thee piece was finished by cutting off and smoothing over the sprue connections, a soldering hand fabricated broach pin components on to the back, pickling, tumbling, polishing and an ultrasonic clean to get rid of the residue of polish.

    I am not sure what view of the back you are interested in. To me technically the most interesting is the pattern of sprue connections that I actually find beautiful in its own way even as I destroy it and throw it into the next melt. The back of the finished piece is mostly flat except for the broach fittings.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  4. #4
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    You're well set up for waxing and casting then. I suppose that means you have quite a high volume of work and a decent workshop. Being nosy, I asked to look at the reverse of your brooch for the pin and findings. Dennis.

  5. #5
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    Hi Jenfay and welcome to the forum, your work is lovely and I found your answer to Dennis' question very informative. In your latest photo of the back of the piece are the 4 wires the 'feeds' which you then cut off and clean-up?? I'm really impressed with your casting (not something I've tryed myself......yet!!), how many times can the sprues be recycled?? do you make sure there is a certain mix of new and old silver?? just when I over-cook things, it all becomes very brittle!!

    Also, I'd love to see the back view of the finished piece!! I make all my findings too, I'll try and find a piccie to post!!
    Good to have you on the forum

  6. #6
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    It was my interest in casting drew me into jewellery making. Many years ago I was inspired by a museum display of Inca jewellery and ceremonial objects that were mostly made with lost wax casting. I wax such an organic medium to work with, particularly the soft modelling waxes I use for most of my patterns. I can roll it, bend it, squeeze it; weld it and carve it to express my vision of the finished piece. I see the lost wax casting process as somewhat akin to the geological process through which a fragile organic object is encased in rock, rots away and thereby leaves a space to be occupied by a mineral. In my case I destroy a fragile organic object by fire to provide a space to be occupied by metal.

    My setup consists of a kiln which I use for burnout and my partner for firing ceramics; a vacuum casting machine which also has a bell jar for debubblising the investment and a propane fired crucible furnace which is a bit slow and roars like a jet engine. I have these in a shed behind our carport. I have my metal working and wax working space in a studio area in the house. My main wax working tools are an assortment of probes and scalpels, a electric wax pen and a wax injector which I was fortunate enough to acquire along with a lot of other jewellery making tools on E-bay. I use silicone RTV for making moulds. Despite having the wax moulding materials and equipment much of my work actually involves making one-off wax patterns sometimes incorporating natural materials such as leaves and seed pods which can burn out cleanly. I like the Idea of making pieces that are unique. So far I have only used the RTV moulding and wax injection to make wax patterns of materials such as shells and shell fragments which cannot be directly burnt out. Hence I am not engaged in mass production right now.

    As for my use of silver, I usually try to use about 50% recycled materials such as sprues, buttons offcuts from my bench work, and the rest fresh casting grain. I use fine silver casting grain and add copper to bring it back to .925 or a bit higher. This also means that where my melt includes scrap that might contain a bit of easy solder I add a little more fine silver.

    The pattern in the photograph actually had one main sprue going to the heaviest part of the pattern and 4 supplementary sprues two of which were branched. Spreuing is a funny process. You have to imagine how you would behave as molten silver. I possibly over sprue but I rarely have problems with filling or porosity as long as the metal is hot enough when I pour and with my current crucible furnace setup this is sometimes difficult to judge particularly if I'm feeling impatient or maybe it's just not my day for casting.

    I also find that sometimes my castings come out rather brittle. The sprues certainly are. This is probably an issue related to the rate of cooling of the metal in the mould before quenching. In my case I usually give my castings a touch of depletion silver raising by heating them up to annealing temperature two or three times and pickling. That, along with and heating involved in attaching findings seems to take care of the brittleness.

    I will see if I can post a picture of the back of the finished piece tomorrow. It's 11:00 here and I need to got to bed.

  7. #7
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    That's really interesting, you're very informative about casting, thank you!! I have sprued a few pieces, so I know what you mean about imagining how the molten silver will flow!! Seems like a minefield though!!

    I'm having to hunt for a recent photo of the back of my brooches.............I know it's there, I just don't seem to know where!! GRrrrrr.............

  8. #8
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    Sprueing can be tricky but believe me you learn from your mistakes because it can be a lot of work having to make, sprue, burnout and cast a replacement.

    I have attached a photo of the back of the broach. There are four components in the broach fitting On the left there is a "U" shaped bracket made from rectangular strip with a notch in the top to locate the pin when it is closed and a pivot hole through the side. On the right is a sort of top part of an "e" shaped hook made from half round wire. The end of the pin consists of 0.7mm wire wrapped around and soldered to a piece of chenier that fits in the "U" shaped bracket. The pivot pin has one end balled up, was then inserted through the pivot hole and the eye at the end of the the pin and then the other side was balled up. I hammered the pin and gave the whole piece about 8 hours in the vibratory tumbler to burnish the finish and work harden the pin. At the moment in the photo the pin needs a little more shaping to fit the mechanism properly

    Click image for larger version. 

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  9. #9
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    That's slightly different to how I make mine, it looks like a very smooth action with the chenier. Do you get much 'kick back' in the pin helping to keep it tight in the catch??

    (off to find my brooch back picture!!)

  10. #10
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    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	4108Found it straight away!!

    The catch on the left is made out of flat sheet (though I do sometimes use half-round). The hinge is three parts, flat sheet to make the 3-sided box, with hard round wire pin bent into shape and rivetted in to box with small piece of hard wire. It has taken some experimentation to get to this point!!

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