Casting a paper wasp nest

Paper wasps build nests using fibers to form a paper like substance.
wasp nest
Inside, they look like this:
wasp nest pragments
wasp nest fragments
I made some foam and paper sprues
sprues
and attached them to the nest fragments with masking tape:
sprues taped to wasp nest fragments
These were packed in loose sand (shake gently while doing this).
wasp nests set in dry sand
The molten aluminum was poured in the sprues.
poured wasp nest mold
This is the resulting rough casting:
paper wasp nest cast

This is the back, with the sprue still attached>
back of cast, with sprue

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The evolution of Sekimori Ishi

This sculpture was inspired by a trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden, where I saw a sekimori ishi. I was intrigued by a symbol that meant “don’t go here”, which also included a convenient handle, that that could be used to move it out of the way.

Sekimori ishi at Chicago Botanic Garden

Sekimori ishi at Chicago Botanic Garden

The next step was to recreate the form. I had a nice, small piece of walnut, which I grooved and drilled.

carved walnut

carved walnut

I covered the grooves with masking tape and cardboard, and taped on a sprue, then buried this in loose sand, and poured in molten aluminum.

ready for sand and molten aluminum

ready for sand and molten aluminum

The result was this. Note that it did not quite fill completely.

DSCN0494

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The next step was to try it in granite. It was fairly difficult to cut the grooves with a carbide wheel.

grooved granite cobble

grooved granite cobble

This was also taped, and a sprue added.

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This also worked fairly well. It did fill, but had a hot tear.

hot tear

hot tear

The next step was to scale up the process. This a was done with a larger piece of honey locust wood, done the same way that the walnut piece. It was accepted in a local show, where it sold.

Package

Package

I didn’t want to spend hours cutting grooves in granite, so I decided to make a foam cage around a stone. The lifting ring is based on industrial lifting rings.

foam cage and sprue

foam cage and sprue

This was invested in masking tape, and the peice was placed upside down in loose sand, and cast in aluminum.

ready to cast the maquette

ready to cast the maquette

It filled, with no hot tears.

granite and aluminum maquette

granite and aluminum maquette

I really wanted to do one in cast iron. I had been planning to go to the 7th International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art, and I got a call for artists. I entered the piece above as a maquette. My proposal was accepted, but they wanted it bigger than I had planned, and it looked like it would be impossible to cast the iron in one piece around the stone. Before I went to the conference, I did one more in aluminum, with a lifting ring only. This was carved in foam, fitted to the boulder, cast, then glued in place.

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I finally did get to make the cast iron version for Pedvale.

Sekimori Ishi

Sekimori Ishi

I would like to continue with this theme. There are a few possibilities. I have heard of obsidian boulders in Iceland, and I may try to get one. In the meantime, I am looking for a bread loaf size lump of glass to experiment with. I may just cut a slot in the stone or glass, and expoxy a lifting ring in place. The ring does not have to be cast, but could be cut from steel or titanium using a plasma cutter or a water jet.

I have found other artistic depictions of sekimori ishi. This one was done in ceramic in France.

Sekimori Ishi Modern was an exhibit in the Netherlands.

The Making of Tunguska II

As part of ongoing experiments with expendable molds, I will be making another Tunguska sculpture. As you may know, the Tunguska event occurred about 100 years ago in Siberia.

First, I have brewed a batch of mint tea:

mint tea

mint tea

This is not for drinking. I will be making paper maché and pasting cardboard using wheatpaste. The recipe I have says to add peppermint oil. I don’t have any, but I do have lots of mint, so I am using freshly brewed mint tea, instead of water. One part flour to four parts mint tea, mix well and boil for 2 minutes.

mint wheat paste wheat paste

That gelled quite quickly, after enough heat was applied. It looks like mint pudding. Next I need a bag of sand to use as a base. Tunguska I used a granite cobble, but the sand bag can be removed after casting. This should leave a hollow aluminum shell, with holes in it.

DSCN1451 bag of sand

The next step is to surround the future hole with a cardboard skirt. Trapazoids work well, and they are glued to each other and to the plastic bag.

DSCN1457 bottom cardboard layer

I put my tin can mold over the hole, and cast a “cookie” using paper maché. This was made from wheat paste and paper sstrips that had been soaking for several days.

mold cookie

This process is repeated until the bag of sand is covered. The paper maché is allowed to dry thoroughly.
DSCN1461 multiple cookies where holes will be

The gaps between the paper mache cookies are bridged with cardboard, and taped. A hole is left to attach a foam sprue, made from packing foam and a toilet paper inner roll.
bridges top layer of cardboard

The whole assembly is packed in dry sand, and the sprue is filled with molten aluminum.
cast with sprue cast with sprue

After this cools, the sprue is removed, the sand emptied, and the piece is soaked in water to remove the cardboard. It is then power washed.
DSCN1498 sculpture, ready to mount

Finally, the sculpture is mounted on a cast iron base. This base was once the base of a sump pump. A new hole was drilled in the center, which as then tapped for a 3/8 inch threaded rod.Tunguska II, assembled

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Tunguska II The finished work

Tunguska II

Tunguska II