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ISSUE 115 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/12/2002

Have you ever wondered how to create your own bronze sculpture?

By Anonymous
Contributing Writer

Friday, April 12, 2002

Most of us have seen the bronze sculptures around campus, but few actually know the process through which artists created these works. This complicated operation is very labor intensive and takes days to complete, but rewards patient sculptors with a permanent art fixture. Here at St. Olaf, students use the Lost Wax/ Ceramic Shell process to produce their bronze works. First, they create their sculpture in wax. Next, they attach a sprue system to the work, also made out of wax. This system connects to the original piece in several different locations and helps ensure that the bronze will spread evenly throughout the mold. At the top of the system rests a cup through which the bronze will eventually be poured. Next, the sculpture-to-be and the sprue system are dipped in colloidal, then silica sand. After several coats, these materials help to form a type of ceramic shell around the piece. These coats must be totally dry before applying another coat, so this process takes at least one to two days. Eventually, artists aim for 1/8 in. in thickness. After the shell is formed, the artists use steam pressure to get the wax out. Afterwards, they must carefully inspect the shell and repair all cracks in it before advancing. When the shell is completely intact, the artists simultaneously heat the bronze and put the shell in the kiln in order to completely rid the piece of moisture. The shell is then packed in sand, which will help reinforce it when the bronze is poured. Only the cup remains out of the sand. The necessary temperature of the heated bronze varies depending on a pieces size and detail, but is somewhere around 2500 °F. When it is ready, the bronze is poured into the cup and is allowed to cool. The piece is then removed from the sand and the mold is chipped off. Because the mold is destroyed, no multiples can be made with this system. Finally, the sprue system is removed from the main piece, revealing a newly made bronze sculpture. For more information on creating your own metal masterpiece, refer to the website Rodin/Bronze/casting1.html.

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