06 Feb Bronze; From Beginning to End

   The multi-step process of creating a bronze sculpture is delicate and often takes several months.  From the beginning process of developing an artistic idea, to the final steps of chiseling, chasing and sawing, a bronze sculpture is taken from a often just a block of clay to a piece of artwork that can be enjoyed for generations.

First, a sculptor needs an idea, whether an original idea or decided by a third party the sculptor is in charge of developing an idea and turning it into reality.  This idea is preliminary designed using oil-based clay designed for sculptors.  The beginning sculpture can also be sculpted using stoneware ceramic or sculpture wax.  The original wax creation can often take weeks or even months to tweak in a way that both the sculptor and the third party can appreciate.

When the original model is finally completed, the next step involves making a flexible silicone rubber mold so the mold can be reproduced in a wax material.  Unfortunately the original clay sculpture end up distorted or destroyed by the mold-making process.

After the mold has been completed, stripped off the original model and cleaned, a special molten sculpture wax is poured into the sculpture, sloshed around and poured back out.  This process is repeated until there is a layer of the wax about ¼ of an inch built up within the mold.  When the wax has cooled it is carefully stripped of the original sculpture.

“Devesting” is the process during which the investment is removed from the metal. Approximately one hour after the pour, the piece is cool enough to handle. Skill and strength are combined with hammers and power chisels to knock the investment off the freshly solidified metal.  The gates and spurs must also be removed with a high intensity electric arc that can cut through the bronze like butter.  The final step is to sandblast the fine investment from the bronze. When clean, the sculpture advances to the metal shop.

Once the sculpture arrives at the metal foundry it is chased, mold marks are removed and air bubbles are filled.  Metal chasing usually starts with large electric or pneumatic grinders to remove the bulk of the unwanted metal. Then, more refined and smaller tools such as die and pencil grinders are used to re-create the artist’s subtle surface texture.  Finally finishing touches are added to the completed sculpture.

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