Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sprue system – part one

A sprue is the passage through which liquid material is introduced into a mold. A system of sprues is designed to deliver metal to all areas of the mold evenly and quickly. Bronze has shrinkage as it  cools; A sprue can continue to provide molten metal to the casting, provided it is large enough to retain its heat and stay liquid, as metal in the main casting cools and shrinks.

I prepared four waxes to sprue up. I may try different arrangements and discover which work best. This is especially crafty work. There are a variety of ways that this is done, superstitious and occult, and I wish there were more people to consult about it. Much of the shop talk in a foundry is on this subject.

The instinct is to start in attaching wax rods to the obvious points where the cleanup of the sprue marks on the final bronze will be easiest, and joining them up at some single location which will be the pour cup. But working this way can make a weak and fragile system. It has got to be strongly integrated with the sculpture, and really there is no way that an attachment point of wax merely melted together will hold the weight of the sprue system through all the handling that going to follow. No, not this:


What is needed is a self supporting structure which can bear all of it’s own weight, and further lend support to the sculpture. Something like your hand securely holding onto something delicate.


Your hand is the strong thing; the sculpture the delicate. Build something as if from the wrist, being the common point where the pour cup will be, to the hand, where the fingers are rooted from, to the fingers, which aren’t glued to the thing they hold, but hold/grasp onto it by virtue of their placement alone. Like this:


Here’s how. Warm up a pot of water to gently warm, not melt the rods you’re using. Pliable, but not soft. This is lukewarm or body temp water.


In this case I’m using the largest diameter rods I can, (to move metal into the mold fast and to be a strong structure), sometimes larger than the attachment point allows. Flattening the rod into a oval allows it to be fitted onto a smaller spot while keeping its same volume. Shape the rod to the piece, directly and without angles. The liquid metal wants a smooth path to follow, without creating turbulence.


When you have it right, dunk it in cold water to hold that shape.



Your shapes good? Outline them on paper so when you do the next one you’ll have a template to follow from. Save a lot of time later, especially years or next week later, when you can’t remember anything.



Assemble these together. Not by trying to melt then together with a soldering iron or whatever, but by taking some of the warmed-up wax you have and really shaping a physical joint that makes them one piece. This is sculpture in itself. Isn’t everything?




Cool this assembled sprue system in water. It should be strong enough to stand on it own, and then some. Wrist, hand, fingers.



This super-strong thing will then be integrated with the sculpture. A hint: those connection points will always be weak points of attachment. I enhance them with small pegs I make by cutting a small wax rod to size and inserting it into a melted hole I made with a soldering iron. Later I will melt another such hole into the piece and the rod (it just happens to be red wax) will support the connection much better.




It’s not all precision and detail here at DG International Studio. I can do sloppy work too, when I want. I need some wax rods to use for sprues in getting these waxes ready to pour bronze into, so I’m going to make a plaster mold to pour my own instead of finding someplace to buy them. I fit a cardboard box with some brackets to hold some rods in a variety of sizes. Finding the parting line on a 1” rod isn’t too hard, but on a 1/4”, more so.




It turned out to be difficult to extract the rods from the mold cleanly, the parting lines weren’t good enough, and I broke off a lot of the detail around and between each of the smaller rods especially, so the wax casts aren’t very neat.


I use a knife and trim off each one neatly into a cylinder. Takes a few minutes each, but in a weekend I made a mold which gets me several sets of rods in assorted sizes, and if I’d done it properly, with a rubber mold, I still be working on the mold today, instead of sprueing the wax models already.


But typical of me, I just can’t leave it alone. Someday, I have a plan to make a rubber inner mold using these two plaster halves.


Confronting this morning, the dense-ist misunderstanding by peoples of my reasons for doing this.

In living as I think most people do, I arrive at situations as they are well underway, and all of what I can hope to do is fix whatever is already broken there, and do this over-and-over again. Art at least gives me the chance to create something from the beginning, under control, and if necessary, make my own mistakes, which I will fix, as best I can, and learn why.