Artistic Foundry: What You Didn’t Know

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Foundry products have become part of human life for a long time. Now it is difficult to imagine that, in any area of his activity, a person would not come across, would not use foundry products or parts. In everyday life and at a factory, in travel and space, in construction and art – everywhere a person can find foundry products.

Through, it would seem, soulless metal, a person conveys his vision of the world, shows his fears and experiences, sorrows and joys. When he creates, he is free, free from the world around him, casting becomes his meaning of life. A man, as it were, animates metal, a master caster puts it into his soul, a small child surprises with the strength and elegance of products, a young girl decorates her image with the uniqueness of a cast product.

Artistic foundry is an axiological characteristic of civilizational development. It is beautiful in itself, it creates beauty. This means that artistic foundry gives us the “spirituality” of the subject. It reveals to us because it demonstrates to us all the versatility of freedom – freedom in comprehending the world and, most importantly, freedom in mastery.

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What is artistic foundry

Artistic foundry is the casting of artwork from metals, polymers (vulcanized or chemically cured). Of the metals, most often these are gold, silver, bronze, tin, copper, cast iron, and aluminum alloys. The polymers used are rubbers, silicones, PVC plastisol, various types of plastic.

In general, the artistic foundry is an embodied beauty that distinguishes human history from all other types of development. Artistic metalworking is the art of small forms. Thanks to the beauty of the material, the talent and technical skill of the performer made it possible to add sophistication, high artistic value, and special expressiveness to the products. At first, people used only gold for artistic processing, then gradually they began to use silver and other metals and alloys. Products created by craftsmen are intended to serve not only as decorations and household items; they can carry in themselves an educational principle: to satisfy the aesthetic needs of a person, to shape his artistic taste, culture, to awaken interest in creativity.

History

World history of the development of artistic foundry

The history of the development of civilization is inextricably linked with the development of materials. In this regard, it is difficult to overestimate the role of metal. American ethnologist Henry Lewis Morgan wrote that when the barbarian learned to use metal, then “nine-tenths of the struggle for civilization was won.”

The appearance of metal tools of labor contributed not only to technological but also to social development: the formation of the first states coincides with the beginning of the Bronze Age.

The primitive man got acquainted with metal several millennia ago. There is evidence that approximately 9 thousand years BC. the peoples who inhabited the territory of Anatolia (the Asian part of modern Turkey) used copper found in its native form. Gold items appeared for about 6 thousand rubles. years BC, items made of meteorite iron – about 3 thousand years BC.

But to receive foundries, a person had to learn how to melt metal. This took several thousand years. The oldest casts discovered by archaeologists on the territory of Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Iran date back to the 14th century BC. Several centuries later, the casting technology was mastered by the peoples inhabiting the Caucasus, North Africa, and Europe.

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Three periods can be distinguished in the history of the development of foundry technology:

  • The first (from the appearance of the first castings to the 14th century AD) is the period of primitive technology. At this stage, exclusively individual production of mainly household items, cults, weapons, and jewelry took place.
  • The second (from the 14th century to the middle of the 19th century) is the period of handicraft technology. Foundry has become an independent craft. Hand molding has reached perfection.
  • The third (from the middle of the 19th century to the end of the 20th century) is the period of industrial technology. Organized mechanized mass production of a wide variety of foundries.

This division is arbitrary since during each stage the art of casting used ups and downs. Even in antiquity, unique cast products were created. Thus, the technology of investment casting was known in Ancient Sumer (XXVI century BC), Ancient India (XXX century BC), Ancient Greece, and Etruria (VI century BC). ancient tribes inhabiting equatorial Africa (IV – XII century AD). The Scythians used chill casting about two and a half millennia ago. Greek cast bronze jewelry is still considered a model of excellence and imitation.

However, with the disappearance of cultures, the art of casting faded. In addition, in the ancient world, artisans tried to keep secret the peculiarities of the mastered technology, it was passed, as a rule, by inheritance. And often the last in the dynasty took the secrets of the craft with him to the grave.

Damask steel is a typical example. Ancient Indian masters smelted it as early as 13 centuries BC, but then the secret was lost. Later, damask blades were made in Persia, Syria, Egypt, and in the middle of the century – in Damascus, but again over time, the technology was lost. And only in the middle of the last century, the Russian metallurgist P.P. Anosov revealed this secret, which made it possible to reproduce unique products from damask steel.

The art of artistic foundry in antiquity

Initially, wet clay molds were used for casting. The impression of the model in these forms was obtained by indentation. Somewhat later, stone forms appeared, at first – open, and then closed.

The first foundry material was bronze. The technology of obtaining bronze by fusing copper and tin was known in Ancient Egypt and Babylon in the 3rd millennium BC. The ancient Sumerian spell of fire contains the following words: “You are the melter of copper and tin …”

The Egyptians designated copper and bronze with one hieroglyph, but in the first case they added an icon to it, which translates as “real”, and in the second – “artificially prepared”. In ancient Egyptian papyri and Babylonian clay tablets of the 2nd and 3rd millennium BC. bronze is referred to as a run-of-the-mill material. The number of ancient items of pure copper and pure tin discovered by archaeologists is extremely small in comparison with the number of bronze items.

Ancient craftsmen mainly cast weapons and tools: spears, fish hooks. Nevertheless, the cast jewelry found during the excavations testifies to the fact that the people who made them were not only skilled artisans but also artists. An example is a golden head of a bull from Ur (Ancient Sumer), cast in the 8th century BC.

Cast swords were closer to artistic castings, both in design and in casting techniques. It is unlikely that you can find at least one people who owned the art of casting and would not have made bronze swords. Ancient swords found in excavations, as a rule, are richly inlaid with gold and silver. Their handles are decorated with intricate patterns depicting animals.

Foundry workers of Ancient India already in the 3rd millennium BC. used rods to make hollow castings. The appearance of the technology of casting on the wax lost wax model, which gave impetus to the development of artistic casting, also belongs to this time.

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Ancient Chinese craftsmen first of all mastered cast iron casting around the 6th century BC. By adding iron phosphate to the charge, the Chinese have learned to make extremely thin castings. A phosphate eutectic was obtained, the melting point of which was about 100 ° C lower than that of bronze.

The largest cast-iron artistic casting is considered to be the Lion in Jian-Zhou (974 AD). Its height is about 6.1 m, length 5.5 m.

Bronze appeared in Ancient China later than in many other countries – only in the 2nd millennium BC. The technology of bronze casting reaches its peak during the VIII century BC, as evidenced by the magnificent bronze vessels used in everyday life and during religious ceremonies. Since the middle of the 1st millennium, the art of casting has declined. Only coins are made by casting.

In the camps of the Ancient East, the casting of sculptures reached high perfection.

Scythian foundry workers (VII-VIII centuries BC) were distinguished by their high skill. This can be confirmed by bronze cauldrons for cooking food, which is indispensable for a nomadic lifestyle. The cauldrons were decorated with cast patterns, figures of goats, plants, and cult signs. The Scythians used arrows with faceted bronze tips, which were cast in metal molds – chill molds. The technology of chill casting was lost and revived only in the 17th century A.D.

An interesting page in the history of the development of foundry technology is the development of casting by the ancient tribes of Central Africa. The origin of metallurgy here had its characteristics. There are almost no copper deposits in the jungles and savannas of equatorial Africa. The age of metal here began with iron.

Smelting furnaces and slag have been found during archaeological excavations in Central Africa. This gave reason to assume that the primitive iron smelting was carried out here already at the very beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.

At a time when bronze products were produced in ancient Egypt, the peoples inhabiting the territory of modern Nigeria skillfully made tools, weapons, and even folding chairs from iron. African casters used special molds to cast nails, beads, and other items.

The sculptures by African craftsmen were made by investment casting. Moreover, the wall thickness did not exceed 2-3 mm. This is a testament to the high skill of the foundry workers.

Ancient Greek craftsmen skillfully used the technology of casting on wax models. For example, in the manufacture of swords, wax models were used to apply a pattern or obtain bimetallic castings. Ancient Greek cast bronze jewelry, weapons, lamps are masterpieces of decorative and applied art, but cast bronze sculptures should be recognized as the true pinnacle.

Western European sculptural casting owes much to the classical works of Hellenic and Etruscan masters.

In Russia, cast iron production began in the 16th century; in the future, it continuously expanded, and under Peter I, Russia surpassed all countries in the production of pig iron, but after a century it lagged behind Western European countries. Appearance on the 2nd floor. XVIII century cupolas allowed foundries to separate from blast furnaces, that is, it laid the foundation for the independent existence of iron foundries (at machine-building plants). At the beginning of the XIX century. the production of malleable iron was born. In the 2nd quarter of the XX century. they begin to use alloying of cast iron (alloyed cast iron), which made it possible to significantly increase its properties and obtain special cast iron (wear-resistant, corrosion-resistant, heat-resistant, etc.). The development of methods for modifying cast iron also belongs to the same period.

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The Technology of artistic foundry

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Artistic casting technology involves the use of mostly alloys and not pure metals. Heavy metals are used in their pure form: tin, lead, zinc. And alloys – copper (most often bronze and brass) and aluminum.

Alloys are compounds by melting metals and chemical elements and must have the following basic properties: fluidity, shrinkage, and liquation.

Bronze is an alloy of copper with tin or other metals – lead, nickel.

If the alloy contains 4-6% tin, bronze is ductile, it can be forged, if 27% – the alloy is hard and brittle. At 33% tin, the alloy becomes similar to silver, it is called white bronze. The melting point of copper is 1083 ° C, in an alloy with tin it decreases to 800 ° C (25% tin, yellow-white color).

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc (up to 45%). It is easy to cut, soldered with both soft and hard solders, and electroplated coatings are durable on it. Melting point 980-1000 ° C.

Silumin is an aluminum-silicon alloy with high casting qualities.

Zinc (alloy). For casting precision products from zinc, an alloy is used, which contains 94% zinc, 4% aluminum, and 2% copper.

Pig iron is iron smelted from ore with an admixture of carbon, more brittle and less malleable than steel. But, despite these qualities, highly artistic sculptures are smelted from cast iron.

Methods of making art castings are diverse, the most common is the method of the art casting on investment models, known from ancient times (wax).

Methods

Traditional technologies have not lost their relevance in our time. As the main craftsmen, they use casting either in earthen molds or by investment casting. The 19th century saw the heat of the rivalry between these two methods. The first became widespread, mainly among industrialists, giving up leadership in the art to more accurate and expensive casting on wax models.

Casting into the ground

This method combines casting into earth, sand, or clay. The main difference between the two lies in the material of the mold. The essence of the technology consists in obtaining an imprint from a template on a mixture with a further change in its quality (tamping, adding a binder) and the subsequent formation of a gating system in it – channels through which molten metal will flow and be removed.

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Lost wax casting

This method was popular in Ancient Egypt and China was used in Greece and Rome and has not undergone major changes over the millennia. The main evolutions took place in auxiliary materials: the craftsmen changed the wax to synthetic mixtures, they began to actively use elastic rubber molds, etc. The classical method of casting with melted wax looks like this:

  1. Creation of a wax model by a sculptor – an exact copy of the future casting.
  2. Making a mold – a paste-like gypsum-clay mixture is applied to the wax surface in several stages.
  3. Baking the form in the oven. During heating, the wax leaves the mold, flowing out through the pre-provided channels.
  4. Pouring molten metal into the voids left by the wax.
  5. Releasing the finished sculpture from the clay mold.
  6. Removal of excess metal from casting, grinding, polishing, artistic chemical treatment.

By itself, the method of forming according to the investment patterns allows you to create extremely high-quality and thin products from all types of metals. Technological difficulties can arise only in the manufacture of large elements: such tasks can only be done by highly skilled craftsmen.

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What is artistic foundry for

The main feature of artistic casting is the individuality of the casting, limited edition, as well as detailed elaboration and uniqueness.

You can get such things as coasters, skewers, decorations, decorative items, glasses and coasters, and much more.

Artistic casting souvenirs are presented as expensive gifts. They are ideal for collectors or connoisseurs of original items.

For example, a cognac glass made using this technology will always look original on the table and attract attention. It also fits comfortably in the hand and brings aesthetic pleasure.

A set of skewers will show that you are not only a lover of picnics and delicious meat, but also love original things.

Such products will decorate any table, ideally fit into any design. Such a gift will never go unnoticed, and will always remind you of the gifter.