Failing as part of the process

Failing as part of the process

After reading a chapter on cuttlefish casting from Anastasia Young’s Workbench Guide to Jewelry Techniques, I felt instantly motivated to give it a try.

I was lucky to have met Anastasia in person a couple of years ago, when I attended her resin classes at Central St Martins, London. So I knew that she’s an excellent teacher and the written instructions were very clear and straightforward. I was certain that it would work…. but it didn’t.

Despite that, I will describe the process, in case you’d like to give it a shot too.

First, I sanded two pieces of cuttlefish bones, until they were flat:

cuttlefish casting
cuttlefish casting

I decided to use one of my shells for casting and pushed it halfway onto the surface of the bone:

cuttlefish casting

I also pushed three small pieces of toothpick around the shell, which would help in aligning the two bones:

cuttlefish casting

I gently pushed the two bones so that they would meet, while the shell was still inside. Cuttlefish bones are fragile and inevitably I broke a few before I figure out how much pressure they could take.

cuttlefish casting

Next, I removed the shell from the mold and brought the two bones back together. I also curved a pouring channel using a sharp knife. The picture below was taken before carving the channel so you can’t see it in this photo:

cuttlefish casting

I melted some silver into a crucible and added a small quantity of borax. I held the bones in place using cross-locking tweezers. I should have also used binding wire but I forgot it.

cuttlefish casting

When the metal was molten, I tried to pour it inside the channel and this is the stage where I encountered the main problems. I couldn’t get the metal inside the mold, it had already cooled and stayed in the pouring channel.

cuttlefish casting

I ended up burning the top part of the bones as I was trying to direct the flame towards the metal but also stay as close as possible to the mold. I tried several more times and once I managed to get some of the silver inside the mold but the casting wasn’t any good:

cuttlefish casting

My first cuttlefish casting experiments didn’t go as I anticipated but I wasn’t disappointed. I still learned a lot from this process. It seemed that either my torch couldn’t sustain the heat for too long or I needed practice with my pouring skills.

If you happen to have done cuttlefish casting before, I would love to hear any tips that you might have. And if you’d like to try it for the first time like I did, let me know how it went. I love to hear such stories!

Thanks for visiting!

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what an idea!!! it is terrific! i can believe it won’t burn!!!
Bravo Maria! sure you will manage to get the metal hot enough longer…
do i write english? not sure!
i’m still °8°!!!!

Thank you Eva! It’s a very old technique and you can have great results with minimal supplies. Just need to practice a bit more until I get it right grin

have you added borax? this is very good video about casting into delft clay which should be quite similar…
Great things you are making btw!

Thank you for your comments and also for the link Metka! I’ll watch it right now grin
If I remember correctly I must have added borax when I was melting the silver.

hello maria,  i just stumbled upon your site while looking at Lorena Angulo’s work.  i have done a little bit of cuttlefish casting….it is definitely a trial and error process.  make sure that your sprue channel and opening are big enough to handle the amount of metal you want to pour and you must do it quickly but not too quickly….there is a balance there that you have to learn. please keep at it….you do such lovely work!

Thank you so much Pamela! Your help is so valuable. Next time I try this I will definitely make the sprue channel bigger. I also need to work on how I’m pouring the molten metal.

Hello, Maria.

Just found your blog via RAW on Flickr and browsed for the better part of the last two days. I just started my metalsmithing journey and I also gave a try to cuttlefish casting. I think it would go a lot easier if the pouring channel would be a bit wider.
Good luck and I’ll be back!

Hi Anka,
I’m glad that you enjoyed reading my blog! Thank you for the tip about cuttlefish casting. I plan to try it again this summer and the pouring channel is definitely going to be wider this time grin
Btw, you have a great blog, can’t wait to find the time to read it in depth!
Good luck with your metalsmithing journey and please let me know if you need any help.

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