Workshop – Bronze casting – Lego and Sugar mice

To see the finished objects properly photographed click here

Casting objects into metal is a lengthy process and quite different from casing objects into wax or clay, which was quite confusing at first and I couldn’t work out how the cast was going to be made. I casted my ever present ceramic sugar mouse, as well as a block of Lego.

First we covered the objects in cling film, to protect it from getting covered in clay. This will not effect the cast of the object, as you remove the cling film later.

Cover the items in strips of clay and lay them loosely over the objects. You don't need to imprint the objects into the clay

Cover the items in strips of clay and lay them loosely over the objects. You don’t need to imprint the objects into the clay

Smooth the clay over into one solid cover, the smoother the better

Smooth the clay over into one solid cover, the smoother the better

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Add a ring of clay around the edge and smooth it

Add a ring of clay around the edge and smooth it

Cut the edges so it isn't a 90 degree angle, you want a slope so it is easier to remove later

Cut the edges so it isn’t a 90 degree angle, you want a slope so it is easier to remove later

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Add small triangular wedges, this will also make it easier to remove later

Add small triangular wedges, this will also make it easier to remove later

Add a cylinder of clay and attach to the highest point of the object. This will be to pour rubber through later

Add a cylinder of clay and attach to the highest point of the object. This will be to pour rubber through later

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Build walls around the objects, and pour plaster over them. Build up the plaster around the funnels

Build walls around the objects, and pour plaster over them. Build up the plaster around the funnels

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When the plaster is dry, turn over and cover object with clay the same way you did on the top side. Make notches into the plaster so the two halves of the mold will fit together

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Smooth surface, add wedges

Smooth surface, add wedges

Build walls for plaster

Build walls for plaster

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Don't forget funnels

Don’t forget funnels

Coat plaster with seize to stop it sticking to the new plaster we're about to add

Coat plaster with seize to stop it sticking to the new plaster we’re about to add

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you now have both halves of your mold

you now have both halves of your mold

Mix more plaster and pour in, building up around funnels as before

Mix more plaster and pour in, building up around funnels as before

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Remove all the clay from ONE side of the mold

Remove all the clay from ONE side of the mold, make sure it’s clean

If you open it up, your object is still inside

If you open it up, your object is still inside

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When you remove the clay, make sure you weigh it. To work out how much silicone you need, you take the weight of the clay, x 300 and then divide it by 200. Also, make sure the surface of your object now not covered in clay also does not have any clingfilm or anything covering it’s surface. The silicone will now be going directly onto your object and we want to capture all the detail. Don’t worry about your object getting dirty as unlike the clay, the silicone will just peel off without leaving a mark

You should also smooth the surface of the clay that’s left on the other side, as well as making some notches in it like I did with the plaster. I forgot to do that here

Make a rough wall around the funnel to stop spillage of silicon

Make a rough wall around the funnel to stop spillage of silicon

Put two halves back together, making sure the notches fit into place

Put two halves back together, making sure the notches fit into place

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Cover all seams with wax, we don't want any silicon seeping out

Cover all seams with wax, we don’t want any silicon seeping out

Secure with rubber bands to keep the two halves tight

Secure with rubber bands to keep the two halves tight

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Then add your activator

Then add your activator

Carefully  pour silicone into a bucket/bowl (it's messy)

Carefully pour silicone into a bucket/bowl (it’s messy)

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Your activator should be 1/10th of the amount of silicone you need. For example, if you use 500g of silicone, you add 50g of activator

Pour into funnel

Pour into funnel

Stir until you get a bubblegum pink. Make sure the bottom is mixed too

Stir until you get a bubblegum pink. Make sure the bottom is mixed too

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When pouring, make sure to pour from a height so that it creates ribbons/folds as it goes into the mold. This helps to get rid of any air bubbles which can ruin your mold. The silicone will take around 24 hours to solidify, so at this point you can take a well earned break. There’s still plenty more to come.

I forgot to smooth my clay so ended up with this bumpy silicon. I tidied it up with a scalpel

I forgot to smooth my clay so ended up with this bumpy silicon. I tidied it up with a scalpel

Once the Silicon's hardened, you now have 1/2 of your silicon mold

Once the Silicon’s hardened, you now have 1/2 of your silicon mold

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You need a funnel to pour wax into your silicone mold later, I made this

You need a funnel to pour wax into your silicone mold later, I made this

Now to remove the opposite side's clay. Weigh it and make the corresponding amount of silicone as before

Now to remove the opposite side’s clay. Weigh it and make the corresponding amount of silicone as before

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I made a more straightforward funnel for the mouse

I made a more straightforward funnel for the mouse

Put the plaster mold back together, make sure pouring hole does not touch the sides

Put the plaster mold back together, make sure pouring hole does not touch the sides

Slots into the lego block to make a funnel

Slots into the lego block to make a funnel

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Seal it back up with wax as before, pour in silicone

Seal it back up with wax as before, pour in silicone

You now have two sides of your silicone mold!

You now have two sides of your silicone mold!

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the silicone got completely stuck to the mouse

the silicone got completely stuck to the mouse

Look at all this beautiful detail, you can see the word

Look at all this beautiful detail! And one or two small air bubbles

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While the silicone picked up lots of detail with the plastic Lego brick, unfortunately it completely stuck to the ceramic sugar mouse. According to the tech dem it sometimes has issues with ceramic which is unfortunate for me.

The next step is to use the silicone molds in order to create a wax cast of the object. Luckily for me, even though my sugar mouse mold was completely unusable I could cheat because I had made wax mice for an earlier project. I had some difficulty with the wax Lego as it is quite thin and so areas would snap off or not get any wax into them at all. I found a workaround with this by painting the liquid wax into the problem areas first, and then pouring the rest of the wax in. I didn’t use the funnel in the end and used it as a press mold instead, it’s a matter of working out what best suits your mold.

Once you have your wax objects, you then have to attach them to a wax tree, which will act as a funnel for the bronze to travel down later.

poor liquid wax onto a table and then scrape it off as it's cooling

poor liquid wax onto a table and then scrape it off as it’s cooling

Make a wax rod and a cup. Screw them onto a hook and attach well by welding wax with a hot knife

Make a wax rod and a cup. Screw them onto a hook and attach well by welding wax with a hot knife

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place around joints and melt with a hot knife until smooth

place around joints and melt with a hot knife until smooth

you can use this warm plastercine like wax to strengthen joints

you can use this warm plastercine like wax to strengthen joints

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Objects welded onto tree. Larger objects may need

Objects welded onto tree. Larger objects may need “risers”

My tree was too big, this is the finished smaller version

My tree was too big, this is the finished smaller version

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Once your tree is done, you will then need to coat it with a ceramic mixture which will harden around the objects. Once that is done we can burn out the wax and have a hollow mold to pour liquid bronze into.

Pour in Molochite, a powdered ceramic. Keep adding and mixing until double cream consistency

Pour in Molochite, a powdered ceramic. Keep adding and mixing until double cream consistency

an elastic mixture. Be sure to stir and scrape the bottom as it sets when exposed to air

An elastic mixture. Be sure to stir and scrape the bottom as it sets when exposed to air

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Sprinkle ceramic powder over tree, making sure it covers every surface

Sprinkle ceramic powder over tree, making sure it covers every surface

Pour over tree, blowing away any bubbles that form. These will break your mold

Pour over tree, blowing away any bubbles that form. These will break your mold

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Now hang to dry for several hours. Apply a second coat then leave to dry 24 hours

Now hang to dry for several hours. Apply a second coat then leave to dry 24 hours

My first layer of dipping

My first layer of dipping

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then the tech dem broke off my lego block trying to fix the mouse ;__;

then the tech dem broke off my lego block trying to fix the mouse ;__;

unfortunately one of my mice snapped off when I bumped it :c

unfortunately one of my mice snapped off when I bumped it :c

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Once you've done 6-7 coats, you can move on to the next step

Once you’ve done 6-7 coats, you can move on to the next step

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some hot wax and elastic agent later they were fixed back on

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if you are sensible you should scrape off the ceramic each coat, but our instructor forgot

if you are sensible you should scrape off the ceramic each coat, but our instructor forgot

Remove the screw from the base of the tree

Remove the screw from the base of the tree

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Place your tree on a grate, standing on the base

Place your tree on a grate, standing on the base

file off any ceramic so that you have a wax base like this

file off any ceramic so that you have a wax base like this

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Lift the furnace (heat proof oil barrel) over the trees. It will heat to around 1000 degrees

Lift the furnace (heat proof oil barrel) over the trees. It will heat to around 1000 degrees

make sure there is a full tray of water beneath, and some water on the floor

make sure there is a full tray of water beneath, and some water on the floor

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The wax will melt and fall into the water tray, you need to keep scraping it out or it could catch on fire

The wax will melt and fall into the water tray, you need to keep scraping it out or it could catch on fire

don't forget to wear your attractive fireproof gear (my friend Bryony)

don’t forget to wear your attractive fireproof gear (my friend Bryony)

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Squeeze out the water and then put the wax in a bucket to be reused later

Squeeze out the water and then put the wax in a bucket to be reused later

Someone else is in charge of sweeping away the wax that is scraped out

Someone else is in charge of sweeping away the wax that is scraped out

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furnace in action

furnace in action

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dig out the sand

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The pouring bucket is held and manoeuvred using this

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pour the molten bronze into them

pour the molten bronze into them

Place the now wax free, ceramic molds into the sand

Place the now wax free, ceramic molds into the sand

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Break off the ceramic

Break off the ceramic

leave it to cool overnight

leave it to cool overnight

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You now have a bronze tree!

You now have a bronze tree!

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Once you have a clean, bronze tree then you can cut off your object using saws, and files to tidy it up. I used power tools which were a lot easier and faster than doing it by hand (although more dangerous), and then an electric wire brush to shine the metal to get the bronze colour.

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES.

I’m really happy with how the final pieces turned out, especially that the lego bricks even have the word “LEGO” visible on them. The mouse has some obvious lines on the face, but that is due to the fact I used the wax mice that I made previously rather than casting from the more detailed silicone.

This is definitely a process that I would use again, especially now that I know how to do it and can therefore do it at my own pace without each stage having to be explained. I think that if I was doing this independently I could likely finish a bronze cast in a week. The objects certainly take on a more valuable and desirable quality being cast into bronze, not because of the value of the metal but simply the lack of availability to the public to have objects made in bronze, as it is not something that can be done easily without equipment.

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One Comment on “Workshop – Bronze casting – Lego and Sugar mice”

  1. […] To see how these were made click here to read my bronze casting post […]


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