LOST WAX (cire perdue [Fr.]) – the cental role of wax as a process material in fine art bronze casting is reflected in the common terms used to describe the method.
Early written references to the use of wax for casting designs can be found in the clay cuniform tablets excavated from the Babylonian city of Sippar. These tablets date to 1789 BC, though there is strong evidence that wax was used in metal casting processes at least two thousand years earlier [ref 1].
Wax was also prominant in India and West African metal casting cultures - though the absence of any direct connection between these cultures suggests the universal appeal of wax for use in highly detailed metal casting processes. Wax is simply the best available material for the fine art foundry process; and whatever the distant origins of wax as a founding material, it is no less important to the modern founder, than it was to metal workers five thousand years ago.
Of course, wax is not the only product suitable for use in the casting process. Wood, paper, fat, various synthetic materials and a whole host of other alternatives can be used directly or indirectly in the casting process. Few these alternatives though, offer the exceptional working qualities of a good foundry or modelling wax. Wax is easily melted, it can be cast, moulded, modelled and blended to enhance the working properties demanded by the user.
INFO: Igbo Ukwu (W. Africa) metalsmiths produced exceptional LOST PATTERN casts by working liquid latex over a pre-formed CORE. Known as the 'Spiral Method', the technique enabled founders to produce exceptionally intricate designs [ref 2].
The wax products available to today’s founders can be divided into roughly four basic groups of origin – animal/insect, vegetable, mineral and synthetic. Many foundry waxes are composed of more than just one type of wax, these products or BLENDS will usually include one or more non-wax additives as well. The process and purpose of wax blending is discussed in more detail in later articles.
Attaching wax runners to
a hollow wax pattern for
the ceramic shell process.
(Bronze Age Ltd).
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