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Crafting cast medal while social distancing

WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited March 31, 2020 9:20PM in U.S. Coin Forum

Hello forum members.

Covid-19. I know many of you, like me, are at home social distancing at this critical time. Although our state hasn’t officially ordered a shelter in place directive, many of us have headed warnings and taken the cue on our own. Six feet distance is just not an option in my field so I temporarily pulled the plug on the business until we know more in the coming days.

With that said, I’m trying to establish a new routine and model good healthy behavior to my children while they’re home from school. It’s an interesting situation and while we are doing what we can from home with our responsibilities there are still hours that need filling besides sitting on a tablet and obsessively reading news updates. I’m always wishing I had more time in my home studio and I can’t let this opportunity go to waste.

I have basically put my commercial coin collecting on hold, not initiating any buys as it just not essential and thinking it unwise until this story unfolds a bit more. This doesn’t mean my collecting is over. There is a lot I can do with my current collection. I can organize and attribute some medals and re-photograph my sets or just bust out a loupe on some old friends. I can share here on the boards. Maybe my family will get bored enough to check them out with me, I can only hope. That’d be nice but I also have a self crafted and cast medal section of my collection that is pretty cool and now is a great chance to build up an addition while filling the new gaps in time I find myself with today. I’d like to share it here.

Here is a link to a thread where this journey for me began in 2019. Since then I have been adding knowledge and tools to be able to do this all at my home.
https://forums.collectors.com/discussion/1021641/i-recently-completed-making-my-first-cast-medal#latest

With a medal, I feel there is nothing on it that doesn’t belong and every thing depicted needs to add to the overall story, maybe a little interpretation, but I picture a message that can be told hundreds of years from now without much decoding. That both sides need to play off each other and the hardest part, visual images that are fresh and haven't been seen before. I’ve had this idea to do visual representations of Grateful Dead songs that have moved me over the years and have had this one design rolling around in my head for months and now maybe is the right time to get it out and realize it as a medal.

The first step to cast medal making, for me, is model making. I don't have any reduction lathes so I have to create an exact size model for my casting mold. I’ve been working in carving wax lately and have moved to a type that has a harder density than my last piece. New for me, but I feel it will be an advantage to higher detail and hold up to repeated sand casts. The last medal I made was cast with investment plaster and this piece I’m looking at learning and perfecting sand casting, which means no undercuts in the model.

Sawing out the puck isn’t a big deal it’s filing the thickness down with a rasp by hand that takes a bit. I have a lot of tools on hand but nothing that really makes quick work if this. I would like the blank to be about 7mm at the rim and be somewhat domed in the center. The wax slab is ½ inch thick so I have a ways to go. I feel this will help pop the relief and have economy of metal when produced.

That’s pretty much it for this post. I’ve been digging in with my sculpting tools and magnification. I’ll post updates as time permits and get more into what’s behind this particular piece. Hope you are all well. Thanks for looking.

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Comments

  • rickoricko Posts: 72,641 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is very interesting,... I look forward to the progression of your process. Thanks for taking us along. Cheers, RickO

  • Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 3,327 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Interesting, you've got my attention. Obv and rev design ideas? Peace Roy

  • 1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 6,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I agree, this should be a great thread :)

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  • amwldcoinamwldcoin Posts: 7,061 ✭✭✭✭✭

    That's one way to pass the time! Cheers!

  • rickoricko Posts: 72,641 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is great....That song (never heard it before) rings true to an old Navy guy like myself...Those of us who have spent years on the sea can relate. I look forward to the next installments here...Thanks for taking us along...Cheers, RickO

  • habaracahabaraca Posts: 1,475 ✭✭✭✭

    Great stuff....... maybe you can get with David Carr and do a forum piece...
    I would be in for one in silver.

  • smalltimesmalltime Posts: 57 ✭✭

    OUTSTANDING WORK!!! Some real artistic ability on display here.

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @habaraca said:
    Great stuff....... maybe you can get with David Carr and do a forum piece...
    I would be in for one in silver.

    Thanks @habaraca

    Dan Carr is a genius and makes struck coinage that is out of this world and way out of my league. I look up to Dan as an inspiration and influencer, that man flat out blows me away! I make folk art and crafts and struggle with that! Maybe one day I'll get the nerve to tap him on the shoulder and ask him to strike one of my designs.

  • AUandAGAUandAG Posts: 21,894 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very nice, hard to work in metal. Did you soften it before you began the carving?

    bob :)

    Registry: CC lowballs (boblindstrom), [email protected]
  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @AUandAG said:
    Very nice, hard to work in metal. Did you soften it before you began the carving?

    bob :)

    Thanks Bob,

    What your seeing is carved in a hard jewelers sculpting wax. I also have tool called a waxer that I can add melted wax back onto the piece with. It has different tips and a temp dial. If I take too much wax off I can put material back on and there is definitely a lot of back and fourth refinement, but for the most part I just pull material off with a small blade and some old dental plaque scalers.

    Eventually, I will press this piece into a sand mold and remove the model and pour molten bronze onto the cavity.

  • dcarrdcarr Posts: 5,739 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Nice work !
    The advantage with that approach is that you don't have to worry about the strikeability of the medal.
    Will you be able to make multiple sand molds or more than one medal per mold ?

  • rickoricko Posts: 72,641 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very nice work... I have enjoyed the progression of the piece. Will there be a reverse to this item? Not that it needs one, just curious...seems like it would be hard to protect the work already done while working on the reverse. Cheers, RickO

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @dcarr said:
    Nice work !
    The advantage with that approach is that you don't have to worry about the strikeability of the medal.
    Will you be able to make multiple sand molds or more than one medal per mold ?

    Thanks Dan! You are right, the relief can get pretty high on a cast medal. Medallic Art Co video called the Medal Maker shows where they are striking medal blanks with a huge press and have to anneal the medal after 3-4 strikes as it gets strike hardened and have to repeat the process 4-5 times. Again, this is why the casting makes sense for a hobbyist like me.

    Some pieces in my collection are super mountainous and chunky relief. I dig that and they make me want to make mine deeper. I also have other ones that are quite low relief and I start thinking I should try for that. I'm still pretty fresh at this so I don't really know where the sweet spot is in this regard. Some are overall quite thin too and apparently a sign of a master skill level. I feel that if high or low relief has mold making or casting advantages that could certainly probably influence the relief of my pieces going forward. I don't think the depictions require very deep edges to show the designs when they get final toning and tumble, but I think a bit of depth adds to the overall initial impact and heft of the presentation.

    As far as the mold, I think I will be shooting for a flask that is only big enough to cast one medal at a time. I was casting my last medal in casting investment and I could do two with the size of our curing kiln. I imagine, as I perfect the sand process I could possibly work toward a multiple piece pour, but that is a long way off for me at this point. I've seen where medalists have several individual casting flasks and pour them all at once, I could see the economy of that, but again, I need to keep the precess basic small batches while I hammer through the learning curve and wreck stuff along the way and expand from there.

    As always, I appreciate you following along!

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ricko said:
    Very nice work... I have enjoyed the progression of the piece. Will there be a reverse to this item? Not that it needs one, just curious...seems like it would be hard to protect the work already done while working on the reverse. Cheers, RickO

    Thanks ricko, this piece will most definitely have another side and I'll have something worth showing soon. This wax is harder that to looks and can take a beating. As long as it is resting on a soft towel I seem to be able to push on it without any effect or damage at all.

  • jesbrokenjesbroken Posts: 3,065 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Wow, thank you WildIdea for sharing. Great talent and patience. Look forward to more.
    Jim


    No one has ever had a plan to lose money in numismatics, monies lost is a result of not having a plan.

    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

  • jwittenjwitten Posts: 4,099 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very nice work!!

  • erwindocerwindoc Posts: 3,174 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have enjoyed the progressive read of the post. I am looking forward to the final product!

  • GaCoinGuyGaCoinGuy Posts: 2,358 ✭✭✭

    Nice!

    imageimage

  • jwittenjwitten Posts: 4,099 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Great progress!

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Thanks @erwindoc, @GaCoinGuy, @jwitten

    I’ll post my pour later tonight if I can. Our WiFi keeps dumping us at home which can be expected. We’re taking turns in devices or just giving up on them for hours at a time.

    Working on this piece is helping keeping me centered right now. Art has always done that I guess. Since we’ve been closed and hanging at home, there's a lot of time for my thoughts to get the better of me. My wife and I just generated the last partial payroll the crew will be seeing for a bit, so there’s that.

    When I can, I specifically hang in the study or garage for a spell until I have energy worth being around and not transferring any negative juice on my wife and kids. The medal is my excuse. Also, on the other side of this, I want to have something to show for the time we have been given. It’s a mental therapy as well as a new object goal.

    It’s not all I’m doing either, my son and I have adopted a daily workout routine which we agree is the highlight of the day. We do yard work, house work and home cooking takes up some hours, but we’re looking lean and mean!

  • JustacommemanJustacommeman Posts: 19,615 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This thread is amazing. What an enjoyable read. Thank you so much!!!

    mark

    Walker Proof Digital Album
    Fellas, leave the tight pants to the ladies. If I can count the coins in your pockets you better use them to call a tailor. Stay thirsty my friends......
  • jayPemjayPem Posts: 2,473 ✭✭✭

    Diggin this 👍

  • Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 3,327 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is exciting. I too am a lifelong Deadhead. Lived in San Anselmo in the 70's. Best of times, great food, Dead all day long. Mt. Tam.
    What's gonna influence you to melt brass or bronze? Peace Roy

  • Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 3,327 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @WildIdea thanks for inviting us into your project. Have a great day. Peace Roy

  • 1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 6,909 ✭✭✭✭✭

    :)

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  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Namvet69
    What's gonna influence you to melt brass or bronze? Peace Roy

    Thanks Namvet69

    Basically, a lot of the medalists I’m collecting cast in bronze and I’m drawn to the beauty of it. Cast iron was an option during war years such as WWI etc. I will give cast iron a shot at some point but expect a new learning curve.

    Aluminum might be an option as well cast but the old masters weren’t known for that and I like the heft of brass. I have done sterling silver but the cost is prohibitive. Thanks for checking in and commenting!

  • rickoricko Posts: 72,641 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @WildIdea....WOW!! This is an incredible thread... What a great project. That medal is awesome...I am so deeply attracted to the reverse...Don't get me wrong... the obverse is great as well....but the reverse has personal meaning. I would hope you will be offering some of these for sale later....Thank you very much for taking us along on this project. Very impressive. Cheers, RickO

  • JeffersonFrogJeffersonFrog Posts: 511 ✭✭✭✭

    “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

    • Herb Brooks, US Men’s Hockey Coach, Feb 22, 1980

    @WildIdea
    I can't recall a post on the Boards I've enjoyed more. Perhaps it's the odd combination of numismatics, art and our current strange world, but watching your posts go from wax to the near-final piece has been a real pleasure to watch and read. If the Boards had a Post HOF, this one would be enshrined. Thank you.

    If we were all the same, the world would be an incredibly boring place.

    Tommy

  • Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 3,327 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Very nice job. Glad you documented and explained the hurdles. I wish I was there. It would be exciting to do rubbings of the obv and rev designs. Are those letters M and T at 3 and 9 your initials?

  • FlatwoodsFlatwoods Posts: 3,624 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Wow, this is a great thread! I'm glad I dropped in.

  • MeltdownMeltdown Posts: 6,877 ✭✭✭✭✭

    What a great share! Easily top 5 things I've seen written about and posted here. Thanks for taking us all on this long, strange trip with you.

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @ricko said:
    @WildIdea....WOW!! This is an incredible thread... What a great project. That medal is awesome...I am so deeply attracted to the reverse...Don't get me wrong... the obverse is great as well....but the reverse has personal meaning. I would hope you will be offering some of these for sale later....Thank you very much for taking us along on this project. Very impressive. Cheers, RickO

    Thanks @ricko, I appreciate the feedback and I’m delighted it appeals to you at all. I still think it needs more work. Each casting has its own characteristics and I’m pushing for more predictable casting outcomes before any would escape my hands.

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @JeffersonFrog said:
    “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”

    • Herb Brooks, US Men’s Hockey Coach, Feb 22, 1980

    @WildIdea
    I can't recall a post on the Boards I've enjoyed more. Perhaps it's the odd combination of numismatics, art and our current strange world, but watching your posts go from wax to the near-final piece has been a real pleasure to watch and read. If the Boards had a Post HOF, this one would be enshrined. Thank you.

    @JeffersonFrog, Thanks for the kind words! Sometimes I wonder if anyone cares, so definitely nice to see you following along and adding to the thread. I’m grateful I finally noticed medals and that they sparked me to try to make one myself. I’m learning so much every day. Not just what it takes to make one, but how to gauge my appreciation of the craftsmanship of other artist works.

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Namvet69 said:
    Very nice job. Glad you documented and explained the hurdles. I wish I was there. It would be exciting to do rubbings of the obv and rev designs. Are those letters M and T at 3 and 9 your initials?

    Thanks again @Namvet69, I wish you could be here too. We could have a good time telling stories. A digital elbow bump from here my friend. Yes, the MT are my initials.

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Flatwoods said:
    Wow, this is a great thread! I'm glad I dropped in.

    Thanks for checking in @Flatwoods!

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Meltdown said:
    What a great share! Easily top 5 things I've seen written about and posted here. Thanks for taking us all on this long, strange trip with you.

    @Meltdown, what a nice compliment! It makes it all the neater with you all here with me. More to come as time permits.

  • rickoricko Posts: 72,641 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @WildIdea....Thanks for the reply, please keep me in mind if you should decide to release a trial piece... it looks great to me...Cheers, RickO

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 1, 2020 3:24PM

    These days at home are starting to gather structure. I have been speaking to my parents daily in AM and encourage them to stay the course with their isolation. My conversations with them are awesome and text banter with my Dad all day is thought provoking. They're seriously plugged in to what is going on and following essential guidelines. I spoke with my 96 year old Grandmother yesterday for 40 min. She's lives by herself still in her home and she is totally up to speed on the virus situation. She sounds awesome on the phone and rather uplifting to talk to. Our thoughts are on NY and initial states bracing for impact.

    I'm anxious to keep working on the medal. The raw casting needs some finish work. I nip off the sprues and hack saw the button off, then I hit the edge on my Harbor Freight one inch belt sander. Awesome tool to have set up, I use it on more than I would have guessed, from anything metal around the house to pinewood derby cars. This gives a nice sanded edge to the medal and mirrors what I see on my WWI cast german medals. Some are belt sanded and some are even crudely hand filed, either way, the sprue needed cleaned up and this works very nicely.

    The piece is still stained from the casting process. The high temps have scalded some weird stains and patterns on the bronze and they need to be stripped away as much as possible before toning and tumble polishing. Doug gave me a sample of an acid that's made specifically for brass on this step, so I'll give that a shot. It’s the little pro tips like this that really help move a project along! Just a dash dissolved in some warm water and the piece comes pretty clean and bright in just a few min. It works pretty awesome, so I'll have to get my hands on a hefty supply of it at some point.

    Then it gets soaked in a new solution of toning chemical, in this case, Liver of Sulfur dissolved in water and finally off to the tumbler for about an hour is all. I could go longer, but I think this works for me on this one. I don't want to polish the piece, just bring out a little contrast.

    I have some issues with some pitting, micro stress fractures and unevenness of the casting. I’m a picky numismatist that’s all about surfaces, so this is concerning. I don't like to call these blemishes "charm" but I guess they are. I intend to refine my process to eliminate or at least reduce the pitting or mold fatigue as I press on here.

    I have mentioned before that I do tie dye (of coarse I do! ;) ) and I use some repurposed blemished material to sew up a little pouch for the medal to reside in. I'm thinking a little card stock insert with any attributes will go inside at some point. I can see watercolor paper with a toned little tea water to stain it just a bit would look appropriate, we'll see what I have on hand and can run through my printer.

    I've been casting some more today, I
    l'll show some more soon, until then, the first one goes in the mineral cabinet on my cast medals drawer.

    Yesterday I heard Micky Hart say "We're the Grateful Dead, we will endure, if you get confused, listen to the music play".

  • Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 3,327 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @WildIdea so isn't there a casting clay powder that has particles way smaller than red sand? Is the pitting a sand granules problem? That medal looks so good! Peace Roy

  • WildIdeaWildIdea Posts: 1,635 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited April 1, 2020 5:39PM

    @Namvet69 said:
    @WildIdea so isn't there a casting clay powder that has particles way smaller than red sand? Is the pitting a sand granules problem? That medal looks so good! Peace Roy

    Thanks! Yes, that is investment casting and something I explored on my first medal in my other casting thread with decent results, but will not a slam dunk. I can always go back to that style but would need to invest in a kiln with exhaust to cure the investment flask and a vacuum stand to do that work at my home or keep relying on and paying Doug to use his facility. Both devices have significant cost and the reason I’m exploring sand casting as the footprint of hardware is much smaller, less expensive and my lab can be self contained.

    I will be trying green sand from Lost and Foundry (Silica, bentonite and water) next and will post my results. When I contacted them about pitting questions, they said pitting was sand and that they’re not fans of the red oil sand. So now I follow another fork in the road.

  • Namvet69Namvet69 Posts: 3,327 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @WildIdea coincidentally I am familiar with bentonite. Lots of it in Pa. They use it to line the Delaware canal to keep the water in the canal. It has an almost creamy texture. Peace Roy

  • rickoricko Posts: 72,641 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @WildIdea... That finished piece looks marvelous... I like the bit of pitting and the finish...I guess it is my nature, being an outdoors person and used to roughing it for hunting, caving, camping etc....Look forward to future installments and hope I am on the list for this piece when available. Cheers, RickO

  • DrBusterDrBuster Posts: 4,075 ✭✭✭✭

    I like it, think it came out looking nice.

  • jwittenjwitten Posts: 4,099 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I am very, very impressed! I would love to be able to design and make something like this on my own.. how cool!

  • JeffersonFrogJeffersonFrog Posts: 511 ✭✭✭✭

    @WildIdea
    Your finished medal is way cool, but I must tell you I like the look of the medal in the “special acid”. Maybe it’s the bright yellow bowl, but in the acid the medal has a gold, almost Saint-like look.
    From your pics, it appears all of your medals have the “liver of sulfur look”. Is this a medal norm, personal preference, part of the chemical process, other?
    Regardless, an impressive endeavor. Thanks again for sharing.

    If we were all the same, the world would be an incredibly boring place.

    Tommy

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