Friday, December 14, 2012

How To Sculpt A Wax Figurine - Lost Wax Casting

I started sculpting some new pieces in wax. I want to show you the progression of how I sculpt a miniature figurine so you can see how it is done. This is the first step and what I call the "rough-in." The sculpture is very crude with no detail. This is basically a three dimensional sketch to see how the piece will look. From here, it may take three months to a year to complete the sculpting of the wax master if I decide to complete the piece. This is just an idea and I may decide later to not make the piece. After the sculpting is complete, I will make a mold of the wax, but more on that later.

I first start by building up a special wax onto a sculpting stick. The stick allows me to sculpt the piece without touching it, because the heat from your hand can destroy detail in the wax. This first idea is an Archer or Robin Hood idea. I really like the action and pose of the figure. The piece has delicate and open feel. Stands about one inch tall but when completed, there will be some shrinkage in the mold and casting so that has to be accounted for in the design. There is about two hours of sculpting time in the first rough-in.

The wax I use is a blend of a red jewelry wax I bought a long time ago from Swest (went out of business). I have enough of this wax to last me a couple of years, after that, I am not sure what I will use. There looks like something similar available at Rio Grande that I haven't tried yet. I like this wax because I can see the design well and it is a little softer so it takes some pushing without breaking. If you look at the rough-in, you will notice a purple color wax as well. This is an injection wax that I often use as skeleton to build upon. This purple wax is much softer than the red and allows me to work on the sculpture without it breaking every ten minutes. This is an old trick used by Sculptors who work in wax.

I build the wax up using a hot tool that is foot controlled. When I want heat, I press the foot pedal for a few moments. Controlling the temperature is critical to being a good Wax Sculptor. The right amount of heat allows the wax to flow.


For my next idea, I roughed-in this Mariner piece. I found a picture of an old bronze and just love the action and feel of the Mariner guiding the ship through a storm. Below you can see the picture and the wax master rough-in. Also notice, I used a thin wire as an armature for the ship's wheel. I will coat the wire with wax. The wire will give strength to the delicate wheel. The piece is about 7/8 inch tall.

Finally, this week, I roughed-in a long awaited Macaw bird. I say long awaited because collectors have been asking me for years to make a colorful Macaw. So this is the rough sculpture so far. Stands about 7/8" tall. I have two sculpting sessions into this piece, about three hours so far. You can begin to appreciate the immense amount of work sculpting these pieces in wax must be. Refining the details takes hundreds of hours of working on these delicate wax master sculptures.

More updates on these will follow on these sculptures. Stay tuned.

Also this week, I am casting in bronze. I just spent two weeks making molds and injecting about 400 wax patterns. This picture show the wax patterns mounted on the bases and ready to be invested.

Here are the invested flasks placed into the burn-out oven. There are about 65 flasks in here. After about 12 hours and hitting the high temperature of 1350 degrees, the flasks cool to 1000 degrees. I then take them out one at a time and cast them into bronze. This is a very long process and can take me up to 16 hours to complete this many. I hope these pictures help show the amount of work involved in this labor intense Lost Wax Casting Process. Stay tuned for more updates on how the cast came out.

Thanks for your interest. Please contact me if you have any questions.
Randall Zadar
Sculptor/Zadar Studios
Call the Studio: 440-878-1474

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