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#1
Old 09-29-2013, 08:35 AM
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What material to make my own cast metal figurines?

I'd like to learn how make cast metal figurines. What would be a safe and cheap material for a beginner?

Eventually, I'd like to do lead or silver.

Reliable resources also a plus.

Last edited by Superhal; 09-29-2013 at 08:36 AM.
#2
Old 09-29-2013, 09:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
I'd like to learn how make cast metal figurines. What would be a safe and cheap material for a beginner?

Eventually, I'd like to do lead or silver.

Reliable resources also a plus.
Don't use pure lead. Apart from the obvious hazard of lead fumes it does not make clear castings. You need something like "type-metal" which expands to fill the mould as it cools. I'm not an expert - I just remember trying to make soldiers to war game with out of old lead pipes when I was a teenager. Ah - those were the days: melting lead in an old saucepan on the kitchen stove ....
#3
Old 09-29-2013, 10:11 AM
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Aluminum is a very common casting material, and easy to come by and recycle. Good luck!
#4
Old 09-29-2013, 10:41 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusF View Post
Don't use pure lead. Apart from the obvious hazard of lead fumes it does not make clear castings. You need something like "type-metal" which expands to fill the mould as it cools. I'm not an expert - I just remember trying to make soldiers to war game with out of old lead pipes when I was a teenager. Ah - those were the days: melting lead in an old saucepan on the kitchen stove ....
You too! It sure was a lot of effort for a few mangled figures. I'd guess pewter is fairly easy to work with.

Last edited by Sitnam; 09-29-2013 at 10:42 AM.
#5
Old 09-29-2013, 10:44 AM
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Well, I've only cast jewelry, and I'm far from an expert at that, but I imagine I can blather coherently and maybe it'll be useful.

When comes to casting, there is only relatively safe or relatively cheap. I've only cast by two methods: a centripetal caster, which spins to generate the force; or by steam-powered casting, which forced the metal into the mold via a moistened pad. The first method has the danger of the spinning arm or the cover for the device not working. After all, it's slinging molten metal around. The second had the drawback of using asbestos as the cloth that you saturate with water and then vaporize by placing it against the molten metal in the top of your mold. There are other ways to fill your mold, but these are the methods I'm familiar with. I'm not sure if the other methods used for casting (e.g. building enough vents in the mold to fill it via gravity) would allow you to get the detail needed for figurines or jewelry. Using a furnace instead of a torch to melt your material seems safer to me, but it's also more expensive and you can't use it for other metal work besides casting or forging (not sure if that would be a problem for you).

I've only cast bronze, myself. It's not terribly expensive, but requires a lot of heat to melt. So, that will cost you in fuel, but from what I understand it's usually used to train for gold or silver. Traditionally, figurines are cast in lead or pewter. You can get pewter with or without lead. Pewter seems to me cheap enough that you could start with it. No matter which you choose, you can always melt down and re-use any material you don't think was successful.

(On preview, I don't see why aluminum wouldn't work, and it's certainly plentiful and cheap.)
#6
Old 09-29-2013, 11:07 AM
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Check out micromark.com They sell model making supplies including the stuff for casting with low temp alloys. Aluminum casting while doable on a DIY level sounds like overkill for what you are doing.
#7
Old 09-29-2013, 05:35 PM
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Related (apology for highjack) but what do you use to model the original stuff? I've heard that the old D&D miniatures foundries' artists often used twin-agent epoxy putty (the stuff that comes in yellow and blue stripes, which you knead till it turns green.) I love this stuff for repairs, but it has a tendency to "spring back" from shape while hardening. The point of a sword, for instance, rounds itself off. What's a good modeling substance, from which molds can then be pressed?

And, as for casting, are there any decent liquid plastics that can fill a mold? Sort of like casting with liquid epoxy, but not so darn sticky?
#8
Old 09-29-2013, 05:47 PM
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Pewter is my first thought. Not the hardest, but cheap to work with. I had some figurines made from it. Mangetout did some experiments with it.
#9
Old 09-30-2013, 07:23 AM
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Another, arguably safer, method is to use urethane resin with metal powder in it - this is known as cold casting. I've used the Smooth-On resins with brass powder to good effect in the past.

But pewter is ideal for low-temperature hot castings - heats on the stove, and cheaper than copper alloys too.

Trinopus, for making pewter casts for the SCA, we usually use jeweller's wax to make our models, and silicon (see: Smooth-On's Mold Max range) for our molds. Unless we're going full medieval and casting in cuttlebone
#10
Old 09-30-2013, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by thelurkinghorror View Post
Pewter is my first thought. Not the hardest, but cheap to work with. I had some figurines made from it. Mangetout did some experiments with it.
P.S., I am now totallly hooked on this site. Too bad we don't have many feral apple trees in NY.
#11
Old 09-30-2013, 08:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
I'd like to learn how make cast metal figurines. What would be a safe and cheap material for a beginner?
If you want to stick with metal, you might want to look for "white metal" alloys used for casting miniatures. Otherwise, I'd suggest resin casting with RTV silicone moulds. There are other materials referred to as "restics" that are cheaper than resin without the need for metal moulds like injected HIPS, but they are often of dubious quality.
#12
Old 09-30-2013, 10:32 AM
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Only the finest Orichalcum.
#13
Old 09-30-2013, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Grumman View Post
If you want to stick with metal, you might want to look for "white metal" alloys used for casting miniatures.
"White metal" is often the same thing as pewter, with particular ratios of Tin/Lead/Copper/Antimony/Bismuth/Arsenic!/Other Stuff for particular purposes (engineering, casting, plating base). But many "White Metal" alloys still contains lead (the babbitt metals used for bearings certainly all do), so it's better to go specifically for "lead-free pewter", "English pewter", "Britannia metal" or similar from suppliers, just to be safer.

Last edited by MrDibble; 09-30-2013 at 11:23 AM.
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