Lost Wax Casting - Casting Set up Supply List
Over the years I've had many people ask about what to get for a simple casting set up, so I worked up a pretty detailed list.
Rio Grande has some nice kits, but I personally think you'll over spend and get things you don't need, but they are definitely great to look at and for some, might be just the thing to get you started. This is their least expensive.
Below is a comprehensive list of things you will need and possible places to purchase them. In most case, I will link to the items I have and items I use. I started out with a very low budget and made do with the most minimal set up, under $2000! Of course, that was almost 10 years ago. There are different ways of doing most things, so experiment if you see something you want to try! In many cases, these are simply the things I learned to use and have kept using because they work for me.
I also read Tim McCreight's Practical Casting - cover to cover! A great resource.
The most logical way for me to outline everything is by process. Starting right after you have your finished wax all sprued up, you'll be attaching the pieces to sprue bases and investing.
*All of this is laid in in terms for someone who has somewhat of a background in metalsmithing - as with everything, do at your own risk, take care of your safety and health.
Sprue bases and Flasks - Your flask size will determine what size sprue base to get. I use a lot of the small 2 x 2 1/2" flask - the smaller the flask you can get away with using, the less investment you'll use, thereby, saving you money.
Timer with seconds - I prefer this over just watching a clock with a second hand. I like to see the count down.
Scale - this is the scale I have now, it's pretty cheap, but I had an even cheaper scale to begin with. I already had a feel for what the investment should be like mixed, so I could adjust to feel. If you haven't done it before, I would recommend getting a good scale and a good graduated cylinder. Amazon has some good scales for decent prices.
Measuring cup/graduated cylinder - if you have a measuring cup with oz, you can use that (I had an extra in my kitchen) But this graduated cylinder is great.
Investment - good basic investment I started out using (and still use most of the time) - Kerr Satin Cast 20 - check the pricing with shipping - if you aren't going to be casting a lot, the 33lb box is a much better deal. Shipping the 100lb is expensive.
Some sort of scoop (I used a plastic cup for a long time - cheap start up I tell ya)
Mixing bowl - you can use any bowl that will fit under the vacuum dome, but really... the black rubber bowls are the best. I have the pint and the 1 1/2 qt and use that one almost exclusively.
Flask extender or tape - really, just use tape. painter's tape works really well or masking tape. I've used packing tape and that is fine too. The extenders cost more money than a roll of tape. I've never actually used the extenders, but I like the idea of them I suppose... I like that they're reusable.
Vacuum Table - this little guy from Rio. I would still recommend it - such a space saver!
After investing, the flasks go in the kiln!
Kiln - my kiln is this one - manual. It was a lot of work, but it was the most affordable at the time. After a couple years I got a kiln controller that is no longer made. If you can, go for one that has a controller! And after looking at kilns to find the right link - so much more is available now, and for less with a controller than I paid for my kiln without! This is a pretty great looking little kiln. I got a 220v and have a dedicated outlet. It might mean paying an electrician to come out set up an outlet for you.
Some people use melting furnaces - I never have. You should check it out though! If you don't have a torch, it could be a great solution for you. I already had a torch and that was who I knew how to cast. So the supplies I'm listing are for that method.
Torch - I use an air/acetylene most of the time. Like this Smith set up. If you don't already have a torch, you'll need some sort of striker - I like this no-hands version electronic torch lighter - it is amazing! And leak check solution, which you can make with soap and water (you can google it or just buy some), tank key. Safety first - maybe have someone help you with all that...
Torch tip - I find #3 to be the best.
Crucible - I used to use the larger heavier crucibles and then I found the whip. Love. it. I generally do 2oz and under. Mostly under 1oz and in gold, it's like 1/2 oz... There are two different sizes for The WHIP, I use the smaller most of the time and the 2 1/4" size crucibles. It is best to use a different one for each type of metal. This is the larger, which I don't use much at all. If you're doing larger castings, these heavier crucibles really are better because they retain heat more.
Flux - for prepping crucible and casting - Matt's casting flux - go for the 1lb, no need for the 2 1/2lb.
Stirring rod - I use these carbon stirring rods. I've read there are better ones, but have yet to use any other ones.
Hot mitts! - let me know if you find any better fitting ones - these large bulky ones will work just fine. I have tiny child hands and I use only the right when when grabbing the flask out of the kiln. It's a pretty basic task, so you don't really need dexterity anyway.
Tongs - these tongs have really horrible reviews. They are the "economy" ones but I've been using the same pair for 8 - 10 years and I'm still using them. Pro-tip! I use the little ends - not the big ol' rounded surfaces like in the photo - the little ends that are more like 90 degree brackets - and I really choke up on them and... I don't think I have ever dropped a flask. I think for larger flasks I do use as shown, but that is rare.
Eye Protection - wear it, and don't wear flip flops.
Quench Bucket - I use big 5 gallon buckets. You want to have enough water in there that you can completely submerge the flask. So, to start, probably 10" deep at least.
After quenching is my least favorite part... clean up.
Gloves - You might have to dig through the goopy mess of investment at the bottom of the bucket to find your piece. For this, I suggest gloves -particularly in the winter time. The investment will really dry out your hands as if jewelry making doesn't already do a job on them. Investment is the worst. And the water is usually freezing cold unless you've quenched a whole bunch of flasks before sticking your hands in there. I use these because they come in a size small for my tiny hands. But you know, whatever works for you. In the summer, sometimes I don't bother at all.
Toothbrushes - good old toothbrushes - I use them all the time. I have several different ones in different shapes and sizes. They're kind of the best for cleaning off investment. These little tiny ones are awesome too. They usually come in a couple different sizes - if you look for them at the grocery store, you'll have a better idea of the size.
Brass brush - This can knock off big chunks, but then also it is needed for cleaning the flasks. These with the wooden handles are fine, but you may be able to find ones at a local hardware store (for cheaper) that have a plastic handle that are better for constant use with water. Make sure you have a separate one for investment than using on your nice jewelry.
Ultrasonic cleaner - this is in no way a need at all. Just that it is a way to help clean up your castings. Since we're talking about a minimalist set up, I'm not even going to give you a link.
Pickle - I don't know where the term actually comes from - but it's the acid you may be already using to clean your metal. If you don't have something already, you can use citric acid, pool pH decreaser, sparex or vinegar. The amount of "chemical" you want to use is totally up to you, just be good to the environment and be careful of disposing things. For awhile I just used vinegar in a jar and would soak the castings overnight. Made them super easy to clean up!
From here, your metal should be clean! Everything after this falls a little outside of the "casting". Most likely if you are already a jeweler or metalsmith you'll have tools for cleaning up the castings, removing sprues etc. Depending on how you attached your sprues you can saw them off with a jewelers saw or clip with something like these sprue cutters that cut up to 8g. You can file or grind depending on what works best for you. For grinding I like these carbide burs. They're probably in my top 5 tool list - I have two, I think the medium and the extra fine. And then I use rubber wheels after that! For what I do most of the time, I like the control I get from the different abrasive rubber wheels. These kits are good if you've never used them - AdvantEdge or AdvantEdge Plus. Oddly, I use a mix of both of those, I tend to go with the course white, medium black, then the red (or they call it brown) and then the green if I wanting more shine. Sometimes a light file and sand paper might be all you need.
My Usual Suppliers (I usually price check, sometimes one will be drastically different)