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Inner Workings of Bronze Foundries

Bronze foundries can provide a great deal of support for artists who want to produce their work in metal.  Most artists do not have the facilities or the proper materials necessary available to them.  These factories can take an original work in wood, clay, or other materials, and turn out a perfect copy in metal.  The factory proprietor can work with the artist to aid them in producing a single statue and in producing multiple reproductions of a particular individual piece. 

The artist can create the original model in a material they are comfortable working with.  Artists who are most familiar with clay or other soft materials can continue to work in their preferred medium and maintain their comfort level.  This can be demonstrable in the outcome of the piece, and still have the preferred outcome of it in metal.  The bronze foundries will ultimately do the metal casting to transform the piece.

The first step in the process comes when the artist renders the model for the factory to use as a prototype.  At this point, there are a few different options for the artist and the foundry worker to consider.  One popular process involves a coating of latex surrounding the clay model that is then surrounded by an additional layer of plaster for stability.  This will create the mold for the wax impression.  The wax will fill the hollow and come out as a reproduction of the original.  At this point, the piece will then be cleaned up, or “chased” and any small imperfections will be repaired or resolved.  A hot sculpting tool can also be used to make any further impressions in the wax.  Any pieces that may have needed to be molded separately could be attached at this point.  The reason for this would be if a part of the sculpture was too fragile from being too thin or too long.  

The next step that will be taken at the bronze foundries is the addition of the multiple layers of silica slurry.  This step is done before the piece is heated in a kiln, which will leave nothing but the empty negative impression after the wax melts out.  Once cooled, it will be tested to see if anything else needs to be done before it is heated again.  This step is done to insure that the mold will accept the molten metal without shattering.  After the metal is poured, it must be cooled before the finished piece can be revealed.  The outer shell will be either sand-blasted or hammered off at the bronze foundries, to reveal the metal piece.  Once the piece is finished, minor imperfections are smoothed out and fixed.  This is also known as “chasing”.  Chasing removes any indications of the casting process, so that the finished piece is a perfect reproduction of the original.  At this point the artist may want to patina or oxidize the surface, add a wax coating for deeper color and protection, or leave it as is.

This is a wonderful opportunity for an artist to use a material that might not have been previously available to him.  A small personal studio most likely will not have the facilities or tools to create metal pieces.  Bronze foundries can serve this purpose for the artist.

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