I can’t believe this is finally done.
So I started talking about this way back in September (Way back? Seems a lot longer ago than it really was) and, obviously, I’ve worked it out since then, one frustrating but ultimately rewarding step at a time. To recap:
Here’s an impression of the koi design from the hilt of this sword–in gold-colored Sculpey.
I made this mold nearly a decade ago, with the intent of pressing another piece of gold clay into it to make a pendant. It worked, but looked like a plastic piece of crap (and I can’t find it to show you anyway.) So I squirreled it away somewhere and didn’t think about it again until I was looking for a new casting project to attempt. BINGO.
I know this is a lame photo (and kind of looks like lungs, no?) But it’s the result of multiple attempts to get a perfecty-perfect wax mold from the Sculpey (which is not the world’s greatest material for this. I’d have been better off getting some flexible silicone mold making material.) For a while there I was obsessing, making more Sculpey molds, each more disappointing than the last, and then making wax mold after wax mold until Bob caught me at it and told me to just sprue a couple of them up, already, and see what I’ve got. Yeah. I needed that.
And here they are after cleaning and cutting off the sprues. Bob was impressed–I think he had low expectations. I was depressed–I had higher ones, and a vision of really nice, even, crisp-edged ovals. Well, maybe I could have done that . . . maybe I still could, if I improve at this stuff. But in time, I came to like what I got, especially the bottom one. The top has a funny wax-blorp upper left corner that I may work on with diamond-plated burs and/or engraving tools. Maybe I’ll make a bracelet with it . . . but that’s another day.
Now for the setting in a wire rim. This turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected, because I made An Amateur Mistake. Before I sprued up the molds, I ought to have run the backs over a file a couple times to smooth them out, nice and even. Did I? No. They were wavy and blobby. So I had to file them down in metal form. I went back and forth from the lathe, and it its big old sanding disk, to a 12-inch bastard file, over a period of an hour and a half to get the back flat. Not how I want to spend class time, but it was my own fault, and definitely the kind of mistake you make once and never make again. And in the end the back was flat and smooth, so THERE.
Setting was not too hard. I put some yellow ochre on the fish just in case the solder wanted to blorp up there and ruin the details, flipped it, and soldered the wire rim on from the back. Then I had to get the bail on–always tough for me when it’s a tiny bail on a big chunk of metal, because the bail always gets hot first and the solder jumps up on it instead of joining the two parts. The trick is to keep the torch on the big part and try not to directly heat the little–took a few tries, but I got it. The only real problem, in the end, was that I seemed to lose some solder from the join at the bottom of the wire rim. I think, with all the heating and reheating, it flowed again a little . . . and away from the edge. Grrr. I’m not going to futz with it, though.
So, a little Black Max and into the polisher it went–but that took off more of the black than I wanted and left a shiny grayness that didn’t really show off the design (I liked it best just after casting, a bit dull and with a perfect black fire scale.) Had to bring it in again after cleaning up a little solder blorpiness on the back at home, and painted the blacking stuff on the front again. Buffed off some detail, and finally! It’s done.
Done, and ready for a teacher/student exhibition that goes live tomorrow. It’s not my very favorite piece, and I might have preferred to submit something that was totally my own design and not an impression literally copied from something else, but for the theme of the exhibit, I needed something that had to do with Bob’s help and influence. And this definitely, definitely fit that bill because I needed his advice every step of the way.
And now I can’t wait to see it in the gallery!