Plaster Mould Workshop

I got myself inducted into the plaster room.

imageI decided to plaster mould my cow horn, I found I learned a lot of important techniques and principals. Such as when building the clay up in the beginning, you really must not build it further than the centre of a curved surface other wise the mould will break when pouring plaster over it.

Creating a pouring hole was also important, And especially considering the shape of my horn I needed to make sure the shape of the spout didn’t flow similarly to the horn.

My horn ended up being a 3 part mould due to a small over hang at the top and just its general awkward shape. I did forget to put registration guides to help the moulds sync up on the final piece. whoops!


I was amazed at how fast plaster dries and how quickly it mixes, really odd stuff.

Never the less, my mould went pretty well.


After doing some slip casting I have some pretty good results.

Next I think I will look at glazing them.



Bronze Casting

I have seen this process before, here. and also several times in my dreams.

This is a thousand year old process, and I love how It being approached from this modern digital perspective with 3D printing and digital model making.

This is also a time consuming process, and made me feel that my wax cast was on life support sometimes, just because of the painstaking process of getting the mould ready for pouring.

Creating the wax for this pour was just so painstaking I simply didn’t have the time to make more than one, so I only had one good wax to use. great!

IMG_1532Once thats done, we stuck our wax medals to wax trees and created supports and risers for air flow. I shared a tree with Hannah who had a fair few casts to go from.

Some people had multiple trees and many casts and components as to get as many attempts as possible at getting the bronze right. Very un-encouraging to me with my single cast.

What followed this was the pouring process, which involved creating a fireproof shell over the wax trees. This was not an easy process and I proved that by breaking to off two the branches on someone elses tree, luckily they were repairable and no harm was done.


The fans were used to help drying

This process of pouring was done about twice a day for a week, the eventual shells that were formed around the trees were thick and strong enough to now melt the wax out and be left with the negative imprint of the medals.

We now have shells in which to pour bronze into.IMG_1541

As we were setting up to heat the bronze I asked about how the bronze gets poured and how we can tell when the shells are full. The way it was described to me was that the bronze isn’t taking liquid form, its not filling the shell like a liquid its still a solid its just being pushed down and compressed by the weight of itself, though it does appear liquid like, this apparently isn’t the case.

So we heated the bronze up, it took about an hour to reach its melting point in the crucible. at this stage we were required to wear fire proof suits. We had to scrape the scum off the top of the molten bronze. then with two people carefully but quickly pour the bronze into each cast. Doing a pour myself I can say it is very hot even in the suit and it is not easy to pour quickly for fear of it missing the cast.

IMG_1623Luckily the pouring went well.

Getting to smash open the shells with a hammer after such a delicate process feel like a sin almost. But thats what we did next. And luckily for me my cast turned out perfect.

Over the moon!

Over the moon!

I cut off the risers with the angle grinder and started filing down the sides to get it all uniform and flush.

After sandblasting I touched up the detailing with the dremel and spent a fair amount of time on making sure the areas for the slabs were smooth and straight to fit the acrylic slabs. Sandblasting creates such an unusual effect, its like a lifeless gold it is such a powerful process.IMG_1648

There was unfortunately a little air hole on the side where the bronze didn’t get to, I was shown a technique to fill the hole. Dremelling a small slither of bronze, plugging the hole and then smashing it with a hammer, seemed to cause it to fill. Filing over the top left no trace its a technique thats thousands of years old I’m told. bronze hole

IMG_1677The last things I did were the quote which I stencilled on then stamped with some stamps and a hammer, not easy and unfortunately not as straight as i’d had hoped.

And the patina, Oh boy crushed for time when doing this, just an hour and a half left from the deadline I was applying the patina and it came out purple and black.

Luckily scrubbing with some steel wool, really brought it out, the patina really highlighted and defined all the detailing and made the medal look very characterised and dramatic, very pleased with the outcome!


Wax Casting and Silicon Moulding

I have finally got my successful 3D print after much modelling on rhino and zbrush I can finally create my wax cast to start the lost wax bronze casting process.

silicon mold process

The process of creating my silicon mould left to right

Silicon is weird stuff, it literally gets in to every crevasse what your trying to mold it got into every section of my 3D print in spite of how thick and gloopy it is. I made my mould with a very fetching pink mix, the main reason for this colour was to make sure that the two part mixture combined thoroughly and fully.

It is also largely a waiting game, i had to wait a day to complete each half of the mould, creating registration holes with a pen helped keep the two parts aligned. i was in a bit of a panic when i did the second half as i had forgotten to create a spout hole to later pour the wax in. In the end i had to cut this hole with a scalpel. The end result of creating these moulds was a like for like perfect replica negative of my 3d print. It was very weird to see my medal almost inside out if you will.

Next came the wax.

Ah playing with hot wax, those were the days, I used to pour hot candle wax on curbs to skate them. Here I am years later, using it for something a bit more sophisticated.

This was a bit of a lottery for me, I didn’t have much control over how the cast would form inside the mould. I had issues with air bubbles or wax not reaching every crevasse in the mould. Sometimes I would lose alot of sharpness in the detail.

In the end I had to compromise, and settle on having a mould with a few air bubbles that I would have to manually patch up.

IMG_1415I ended up with a few good casts . I needed to start smoothing out rough areas, making sure everything  fit together I was working with millimetres here, I didn’t have much to forgive, things needed to be precise.

Wax is pretty hard to manipulate when its cold, so I used few scalpels and a candle to heat them up. I had a few different scalpel shapes and sizes to work with so I could get into the small areas and work them into shape.

I needed to get those platforms smooth and flat for the acrylic slabs that will eventually be stuck on. I went around each step and made sure everything fit perfectly.


I lasered out some test acrylic pieces and pushed them into the wax to get a solid fit.

Using some clay scraper tools I smoothed out the wax getting rid of the imperfections that the 3D prints texture left and then I started to work on the quote.

IMG_1422Through out this whole design process the quote was something I didnt really know how to tackle. I assumed I would just take my time and scribe it by hand. I had an idea to write up the quote in illustrator and put it in a box the equivilent size of the medals circumference. I increased the boldness of the letters then i lasered out the quote onto strips and used them as makeshift stencils. This worked great, to a degree, but it just didn’t look as good as I know it could have and I didnt have the time to think of another solution. So I decided to smooth it over after a few attempts and I think I may look into getting it professionally done.

update: leaving the quote on the wax a good idea!

IMG_1451In trying to repair the figures arm on my medal, I ended up chopping off his hand by mistake, so I had to perform some surgery on him.

I took one of the figures from one of my other casts, chopped it off, thinned it out and stylised the blank side with some energetic streaks. I then reattached the figure to my original cast with some hot wax.


all in all im rather chuffed.

Rhino and 3D Digital Modelling

Oh rhino, our relationship is a fickle one, at first I ignored you, and then I approached, you were cruel at first but we grew on each other, you let me draw simple shapes and our relationship was easy, then I had bigger ideas and you started to give me trouble, I think we may have to break up after this project if you don’t change.

Rhino strikes this balance of being intuitive and just plain frustrating, it is simply impossible to use if you don’t have access to a catalogue of commands. I appreciate its a very complex programme that requires much practice, I am still learning. as a cad programme tacking basic structures and shapes its great, I would never expect to model anything to complex like a human body or whatever on it. To be honest, through use of Zbrush, rhino and other 3d modellers, I’ve learned each has there strength and weaknesses and crossing through platforms was almost essential for me to achieve my medal at my current skill level. You cant really cheat your way through the design of a cohesive 3d model everything needs to match up and be scaled correctly or the 3d printer just denies its existence. As I’m a complete beginner at rhino I started off by not using rhino,I drew my 3d drawing in Adobe illustrator, and encountered many problems. getting the 2d drawing in rhino was as easy as importing it. The challenge came when each pen line in my drawing registered in rhino as a separate unjoined line, and so if the lines were unjoined they could not be capped, so as a result I had to manually go through the image and connect each line.Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 21.17.06 Though tedious it did work.

Screen Shot 2013-12-08 at 01.33.14

With the figure closed, it capped and extruded with no problems, I’ve also added the medals body to the figure.

What I decided to do was because extruding objects was rather basic and was manageable for me I would make that the basis of my design and would utilise that technique of extrusion to its fullest. So every shape, conformed to this principal, and I started to draw in further shapes. I counted how many steps there were on the heroes journey chart and I designated a slab to each key step, I then looked at placing that around the the medals inner ring. Image001 A brief sketch I did with a Wacom tablet on photoshop with an screen shot.             Each shape is formed from drawing a circle from the centre and joining the lines, this simple premise worked very well for my design. I also altered the heights of each slab to give the idea of stairs, this represents the ordeal of the heroes journey  so  as you would reach the central ordeal of the journey thats the tallest step as its the most crucial and hardest step.

Each shape is formed from drawing a circle from the centre and joining the lines, this simple premise worked very well for my design. I also altered the heights of each slab to give the idea of stairs, this represents the ordeal of the heroes journey so as one would reach the central ordeal of the journey that is represented by the tallest step as its the most crucial and hardest step. I 3d printed this model, with moderate success. it didn’t form perfectly, however I got a read on size of the medal (waaay to big) and how these slabs formed . I had a good idea of what needed to change from this prototype.

It didn't print correctly but was still useful

It didn’t print correctly but was still useful

Firstly the thing was just a behemoth, I don’t know why I thought 100mm would work but it didn’t. Next the slabs, I needed to marry the heights a bit more consistently, and the fact that the figure didn’t form correctly must mean there was a glitch in the GCode or the model wasn’t properly closed.

So taking it back into rhino I began correcting the sizes, I thought about using acrylic fro these slabs so baring in mind the size of the acrylic (5mm) I used that to deduce that each step needed to be 1mm apart in height to get a full variance in height.  

Screen Shot 2013-12-15 at 20.37.34

Where I went next was to try and remove the slabs and extrude the shapes down to create  these spacings for the acrylic.

front profile

I discovered the render plugin for rhino.

Getting all of these dimensions in order and the front of the design complete. I was free to start coming up with the back of the medal.

Where I started when coming up with ideas was thinking about the heroes journey and remembering that the 2 half’s of the journey were the known world and the unknown world. This reflection of half’s could fit the premise of my medal well.

Im still currently reading the hero with a thousand faces book by Joseph Campbell, there are lots of amazing analogies and sayings in the book but one quote stood out for me the most.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

― Joseph Campbell

Thinking about that cave and how the medal utilises this negative space, and how you can see yourself and the rest of the world through it, I thought that maybe I could create the caves entrance on the rim of the medal on the other side.

I already had an idea of what I wanted it to look like so I did a little research for a reference point, and I found these amazing sculptures by Arran Gregory. These geometric shapes speak of the modern techniques I’m employing to create the medal and the jagged edge of the cave.

I did some drawing

back medal concept 2

My rough concept highlights this geometric edging, how I was going to achieve this was virtually a mystery to me.

So I went on a rhino support forum and asked.

The forum was a great help and i got some great suggestions, I really felt like my query was handled well and I was given a lot of patience being a newbie.

The result of my post on the forum yielded a great response. One response suggested I create shape and use that shape to overlap my medal and cut away the overlapped space.

So thats what I did.

And it worked!

And it worked!

After 7 hours of meticulous cutting I was left with the entrance to the cave. What this did however was leave an incredibly large amount of unclosed edges on my model. I don’t know how this happened and it was a simply breaking my computer to generate the code, I was very stuck on this problem for a few days. So I once again turned to the forum for help.

Let me preface I never expected more than advice, but someone was nice enough to take a look at my file and lend a hand, aesthetically it looks no different but he was nice enough to close up the edges as I didn’t understand. Not to mention I was on a deadline.

Closing up those edges took my file from a 350mb file to a 17mb file. Generating the code on MakerWare was working now.

This was the result after rendering.

This was the result after rendering.

Now I have a problem yes my model is printable and refined. Is it my final medal? nope. My final medal design was to use acrylic for the slabs instead of whats already there. So I needed to add this same edging to my other model with the slabs extruded down into the meal to create the spaces for the acrylic.

This was a genuine issue, as I didn’t want to post a secondary problem on the forum and I also didn’t want someone else doing my work. So what I did was explode the extruded down medal removed the bottom base and then exploded the refined medal, took the edging from the base copied and pasted it over then snapped everything together. It worked like a charm!

Rhino really displaying its versatility to me.

Rhino really displaying its versatility to me.

But I had more unclosed holes in my work. Damn!

At this stage, I’m there, I can walk away happy and i can print the thing and creases can be ironed out later on.

No. Theres more.

Whilst researching for my drinking horn project I came across a designer maker named Jennifer Gray. Gray utilises a 3d and traditional approach to achieve her work and referred to one of her programmes as a modeller of “digital clay”. as hard as I searched I could not find a match to the programme she used, so I decided to email her. She was nice enough to respond.

Dear Claudio,
Apologies for my slow response.  I have only just returned to work today after the Festive holiday.
I use a combination of computer programs along with hand-making to produce my work.  The mixture of programs used vary with each piece.  I mainly use Rhino, Magics, Solid Works and digital sculpting through Pixologic.
I hope this helps.
All the best for your studies,
Jennifer Gray MA RCA
Designer Maker
Merely having a response from Jennifer made me feel very good. It made me want to try even more. So I started to model in Zbrush.
Zbrush talks to models in a very different way to rhino and is much more forgiving.
I utilised one of the default tools and just played, I produced this geometric face that I liked, and I produced it with ease as well.
Medal clay
So all this 3D modelling has taught me a great deal, and is definitely going to be the way forward for my future practice. I need to challenge myself with more complex projects to utilise more of the tools in the programmes.

The Laser Cutter

Using the laser cutter is nothing new to me, using it a lot in my DT classes in high school really allowed for a great exploration and refinement of ideas. But the problem was a lack of freedom and trust, because I was young, and for some reason they didn’t trust me to use the high powered laser machine that can cut through nearly anything. And this resulted in a very narrow approach to its use and outcomes.

Anyway here I am in university years later, and the laser technology hasn’t changed all that much, but one thing has, the trust to allow me to work independently with it. And so with this trust comes a flurry of ideas and new ways to think about things. Its a very weird thing you start looking around you and so many everyday things appear to use this laser technology, it provides a refined concise way of working that can help achieve accurate and repeatable results each time, so nothing feels out of your reach. Once I received my induction to the laser cutter, I started to think about what I could do with it, and I decided it would be nice to raster (or etch) a design onto one of my journals. So I worked over the weekend to produce a design and laser cut onto the leather on monday. The results were a very crisp, albeit slightly wonky design, and the burnt leather smelt like an old mans back hair, but I was pleased, and I felt like the permanence of the design made it all the more gratifying, almost akin to tattooing.

Jornal laser image

Incorporating the laser cutter into my project lead to me exploring a few ideas, one of these ideas was edge lighting. And in that how I could use a piece of raster cut clear acrylic to refract an LED’s light to enhance its design.

breadborardThis lead to me learning about how to wire up an LED with a resistor and batteries on a breadboard. It was certainly useful to already be learning about this in my constellation class.

What was achieved was a very bright and well lit design, if I were to improve I would like to sandblast the edges of the acrylic, to further enhance the lighting on the edge of the piece.

Shameless self promotion

Shameless self promotion

a good example of this would be here:

Next was a dilemma I’d been having for a while as I was researching for my medal project I came upon the problem: How can I colour in a design on clear acrylic with ink? how can I achieve clean black lines? I could use lithography, but thats imprecise and a nearly impossible process the smaller you go.

So the answer finally came, when I had a brief workshop induction in the print room, I was shown many different ways in how printing can be utilised, and what I discovered was there was indeed a technique for what I wanted to achieve.

It involved raster etching a design onto the acrylic and then scraping a thick acrylic or oil based ink across with a piece of card. You would then lightly rub plaster skrim over the top, to remove the ink out of the negative areas.

What I was left with was an overwhelming success! what was most incredible about this technique was the ink created different shades based on the depth of the cut by the laser. leading to a really accurate and rather beautiful interpretation of the design.

The design I chose was a line drawing from artist Alex Konahin. I altered the image a little so it would laser a bit clearer, but it was just so phenomenally detailed, I couldn’t resist.

genuinely can't stop staring at this.

genuinely can’t stop staring at this.

So these first couple of tests have gone really well, I have been helping friends use the laser and learning about how there designs work to. I know that I will learn to use the laser in more unique ways as I explore further.

Forging Workshop

I really want to manipulate and get to know a material. Never does something reward you quite like heating and then hitting it repeatedly with a big hammer. The permanence of the result and the power your feel from manipulating hot metal, is a very compelling feeling.

Before I took part in the workshop I had a keen interest in the process of how metal is used and how blacksmiths work. It started when wanted to create a metal rose for my girlfriend I looked into how I could do it, and even emailed a blacksmith for some advice, he was nice enough to draw out a basic template for me, though I never made the rose in the end this little foray made an impression and I stayed interested.

I found a few videos on youtube that really captured my interest. Tony Swatton a blacksmith with a 30 year pedigree, forging for films and TV releases a weekly video of him making a weapon from gaming, pop culture or fiction. Each build appears to challenge him and are very different from the last build. The original designs of these weapons were never intended to be real or functional, so its interesting to watch a professional try and realise them as functional pieces. Some of the techniques he employs such as damascus steel forging and chemical etching really show what you can do with metal and its exciting to see the broad scope of there applications.

My first experience with forging outlined that the process was a lot more about patience and effort than how many times you hit the metal with the hammer. There was a lot of understanding where to hit the metal to loosen or strain a specific part to make it bend a certain way, your experience can entirely depend on the materials tolerance of your treatment of it. Although I made a few mistakes that were correctable, I certainly could see that there would have been a point of no return and the piece would have been ruined.

Im looking to do some more forging for my future projects and keep the process firmly in mind for my next designs.

The Forging workshop


The first thing we did was cut off a piece of steel bar, then heat up the forge. If I recall the forge can be heated to 900 – 1400 degrees. We would allow for the steal to go white hot. positioning of the bar in the forge was key for the section we wanted to bend.


Using the Horn section of the anvil, we hammered the bar around it and started to create a fold, which we then refined on the face of the anvil to create a loop. it was interesting to learn how each section of the anvil has its own particular uses for manipulating metal.


The final step was twisting the metal, such a surreal feeling to actually twist metal. we would heat specific ares of the bar by making sure the correct section of the bar was getting the heat from the hottest part of the forge. Whilst the bar was hot the end of the bar was secured in the clamp and using the new loop we made on the horn we began to twist the bar to create these swirl patterns, it was important to keep the bar straight so constant adjustment was required.


Swattons website:

This was a nice introduction to forging, interesting to see how the metal feels to mould. I was given a handbook to further have a look at some techniques, there is one or two I am keen to try.