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THE sculpture
Process

THE sulpcture Process

HOW A CUSTOM BRONZE SCULPTURE IS MADE

Interested in how a custom bronze sculpture goes from idea to conception? Follow along as I take you through each step of the bronze sculpture-making process to learn how.

Sculptor sketching ideas for custom bronze sculpture on an ipad

01

Concept

Capturing a sketch or vision for a bronze sculpture can be an exciting and unique experience. It’s the beginning phase of bringing to fruition what the client has always imagined for themselves and now others to witness their dream come true. A sketch contains much more than a simple image, it holds the memory of what inspired them, from visions handed down from generations before, life experiences that serve as visual reminders, or even a sudden thought brought on by emotions too powerful to ignore. Even if it’s as small as a sketch provided for guidance, keeping this sketch alive is vital in order to make sure every detail is accounted for throughout the entire process. This sketch provides the roadmap towards making that dream sculpture become reality.

02

Clay Sculpting

Working on clay for a bronze sculpture is often a two-step process that begins with sculpting a foam outline. I then apply an oil-based clay, which never dries, to the foam in order to create the finished product. This clay allows me to add the maximum amount of detail necessary to capture realistic expressions and details and bring life-like vibrancy to the sculpture. For smaller sculptures, instead of using this two-step procedure, I sketch out a scaled down version– referred to as a maquette– that follows the larger design but does not need foam for its foundation. In this way clay sculpting gives flexibility in capturing one’s vision and conveying it into a tangible form.

Colorado War Dog memorial mold making By Austin Weishel

03

Model Making

The mold making process is essential for creating bronze sculptures. To begin, an artist must create an original model from wax or clay. After that, mold making begins by encapsulating the mold in either a fiberglass or plaster case, also known as a mother mold – this provides extra support for the flexible mold material and can be kept as a mold template to refer back to for creating multiple copies of that particular sculpture. Although mold making might seem like a simple step in the monumental task of creating a bronze sculpture it is truly one of the most important and should not be left undone if you are striving for perfection.

04

Wax Pouring/ Wax Chasing

Wax pouring is an essential stage of the wax-based casting process. The wax is melted and poured into the interior of the mold, where it takes the shape of the form and hardens. Additionally, wax pouring serves dual purposes: firstly, a wax pattern of exact size, shape and detail is created which can be modified as desired until finalized. Secondly, it forms a protective layer inside the mold that increases surface smoothness and prevents any sharp edges caused by small imperfections in the mold’s inner walls. As wax has superior wax liquidity compared to metal, wax pouring can increase intricate designs too. However, careful maneuvering while pouring wax into molds is important to get accurate results; this factor makes wax pouring a challenging step but also an integral one for quality castings

05

Silicon Sand

After building a wax model of the intended shape, it is attached to a base and embedded in a ceramic solution called a “shell”. This shell is created by dipping each individual piece into a slurry of silica sand – usually repeated several times to increase its thickness – before being fired at very high temperatures. Once cooled and solidified, this ceramic shell can be further reinforced with more layers, until finally it’s ready to be filled with molten metal, creating the desired finished product.

06

Burnout

This process is burning out the wax to where the bronze will pour in. After the workers finish applying the ceramic Shell to the wax, the workers burn out the wax. This step involves de-waxing the sculpture and completely eliminating any remnants of wax remaining on the eventual final product. To do so, ceramic shell is built up around the wax until it begins to take on its form and shape. The shell is then placed in a furnace or kiln, which can reach temperatures up to 2,000°F. As it slowly reaches this extreme heat, all of the internal wax melts away and escapes from pin holes left in the ceramic shell. When cooled and cracked open, stunning metal sculptures with incredible detail are revealed.

07

Metal Pouring

Metal pouring is an artful ancient bronze sculpture technique. Workers create a ceramic shell and pour in molten bronze heated to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once cooled and solidified, the ceramic shell is broken open by hammering and chiseling to unleash the bronze creation. Sandblasting is then used to clear away any remaining pieces of ceramic, revealing a bronze sculpture with intricate details.

08

Welding

Welding is an essential process to joining the pieces that were just cast in bronze. It’s a very precise and skilled process that requires dedicated attention and refined techniques. Getting the welding right can make all the difference in crafting a beautiful piece of art or artifact. Every welding joint needs to be done perfectly – from ensuring the heat used at each welding location is consistent to making sure there are no signs of stress on the material around the welded area. It can take a lot of time and hard work, but it’s worth it when you have a finished sculpture or artwork with impeccable welding that adds strength, stability, and beauty to the masterpiece.

09

Metal Chasing

Metal chasing is an essential metal working procedure in sculpture making, coming just after welding. It involves intensely grinding down each weld with the help of grinding tools until the metal is perfectly smooth – a surprisingly arduous task. Not only does metal chasing require immense concentration and physical strength, but also safety awareness and dexterity to maneuver the metalworking tools with control. The end result makes all thatgrinding worthwhile, naturally leading to beautiful metal sculptures created with precision and perfection.

10

Sandblasting

Sandblasting is a technique that is often used to remove excess material and smooth the surface of a bronze sculpture. It involves the use of a high-pressure stream of abrasive particles, such as sand, to etch away at the surface of the bronze. To sandblast a bronze sculpture, the piece is first secured in a sandblasting booth or chamber. The sculpture is then coated with a thin layer of protective material, such as wax or a rubber coating, to protect the areas that should not be sandblasted. Next, the sandblaster sprays the sculpture with a high-pressure stream of abrasive particles, moving the nozzle back and forth across the surface of the sculpture to evenly etch away at the bronze. The pressure and type of abrasive particles used can be adjusted to achieve the desired level of surface roughness. After the sandblasting is complete, the protective coating is removed, revealing the newly sandblasted surface of the bronze sculpture. Sandblasting can be used to remove excess material, smooth the surface of the bronze, or create a textured finish on the sculpture.

11

Patina

Patina is the unique and beautiful patina that gives a bronze sculpture its much-sever after visual appeal. To create patina, an experienced patiner carefully selects and applies chemical substances to the metal. This creates intricate and captivating rust, blue, green, brown, black and yellow colored patinas. During this process, patiners are able to bring their own artistic interpretation to the bronze piece. After application of the patina chemicals, the patiner then adds heat in specific spots in order to truly make each piece original. This results in individualized pieces of art with an interesting appearance due to nuanced color variations. Patina gives a distinctively distinctive touch to any bronze sculpture – one that draws attention for years to come.

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