The first and most important step is to create the original figure that is to be cast. My originals are done in burl wood selected from fallen trees in the hills near our home. This wood is extremely hard, requiring special carving equipment. Once sanded, polished and finished it is beautiful. Also the natural contour of the wood contributes to the form of each piece. Using various saws, chisels, grinders, and sanders the details are brought out to reflect the concept of the piece. It typically takes about 20 to 30 hours to complete, sand, polish and finish each original figure.
The bronze sculpture is then produced using the lost wax process at the foundry. A heat-resistant mold is formed around the wood original and encased in plaster. Once dry, the mold is separated into two pieces and the wood original is removed.
The mold is then bolted back together and filled with hot wax to produce a duplicate of the original wood sculpture. Where appropriate I correct any flaws and/or make desired changes. The final wax version is dipped in a plaster-like slurry to incase the wax figure. Multiple dippings are required to achieve the proper thickness needed to protect the fragile wax figure.
Once hardened, the new plaster mold is placed into an oven at 1800 F. where the wax melts away through ducts in the mold and leaves a plaster reproduction of the original mold. The cavity of the plaster mold is filled with bronze or other desired metal. Once cooled, the plaster is broken away leaving a rough cast version of the original sculpture which now has to be cleaned, reconstructed if more than one mold is necessary, and sandblasted.
The sculpture is now ready for patina which involves one of the most interesting and creative phases in the process. After the piece is washed down to remove any contaminates, it is heated to the applicable temperature depending on the combination of acids used to produce the desired finish.
After the patina is applied, a base is added to complete the sculpture. The finished sculpture is now available for gallery display or delivery to it’s new owner. – Tony Dow