Casting pewter pendants (Triangle pendant)

Tapping the design into the triangle pendant

Tapping the design into the triangle pendant

For a project I’m working on for the SCA, I wanted to make a necklace, and as a stretch goal, decided that I’d like to make the pendants to go along with the necklace as well. This meant I needed to learn more about metal work!

I contacted an acquaintance from the SCA who does pewter work, and he offered to teach me!

First pendant

The first pendant I wanted to make was the one I figured would be the most simple. It’s a triangle shape, with a tapped in design.

The first step was to carve the mould.

Carving the mould

Sawing the soapstone with a coping saw

Sawing the soapstone with a coping saw (photo by Craig)

Step one for carving the mould involved sawing one piece of soapstone into two pieces. This soapstone was provided by my teacher, Craig (SCA name Caiaphas) so I don’t know the origin of the soapstone.

I used a coping saw to do this, and the stone was held in a table vice. This took a very, very long time, and a dust mask was necessary to avoid breathing in any dust (talc) from the soapstone.

The sandstone already had alignment holes drilled into it in advance.

Once the stone was cut into two pieces, the edges where the design would be carved had to be sanded smooth.

Carving the design into the soapstone

Carving the design into the soapstone (photo by Craig)

The next step was carving the design into the stone. My teacher told me that I needed to make my design:

  • 1/4″ from each edge at minimum
  • 3/4″ from the edge with the channel for pouring at minimum
  • The channel should flow into the largest area so it doesn’t solidify too quickly

To make the design, I first drew it onto the soapstone with a sharpie, then scratched in the edge with a dental pick. I could have used an awl for this as well. From there I began carving out the design with a variety of chisels, and smoothed the flat side with scraps of sandpaper.

Casting my first pewter pendant

Casting my first pewter pendant

Casting the pewter

When the design was complete, Craig poured molten pewter through the alignment holes, and from there we poured the pewter into the channel to create the pendant.

Unfortunately, there was some seepage, and the alignment holes fused the mould closed. Craig used a hand-drill to break up the pewter and open the mould. That is why the mould has two figure-eight alignment holes.

filing the edges of the triangle pendant to smooth them.

filing the edges of the triangle pendant to smooth them.

From there, we broke off the sprue, using clippers, and I took the piece home to continue work.

This involved a lot of filing to make the sprue edge smooth, and a small amount of filing on the other edges to make the pendant smooth. I used a small triangular file to do this.

From there I also used some sandpaper to smooth out the pendant.

The design

Drawing the design onto the pendant with a Sharpie

Drawing the design onto the pendant with a Sharpie

After the pendant was smooth, I used the original extant piece as reference to roughly draw the design onto the pendant. I did not try to copy it exactly.

Once the design was drawn onto the pendant, I knew where I could put my hole for suspending the pendant. I started making my hole with a hole-punch intended for metal, however the pendant was far too thick for this. Still, it gave me a nice divet, and I finished the hole with a nail and hammer to punch through the metal.

I used a Sharpie to transfer the design, and then used the leftover pewter from the sprue to test out how I could make the design.

I asked to take the spru of the triangle pendant home, to test how I would do the design on the 'scrap'.

I asked to take the sprue of the triangle pendant home, to test how I would do the design on the ‘scrap’.

In the original extant piece, the design was “punched” into the metal, rather than being “scratched” into it with lines.  I tested this out the “punching” by using an awl, and tested the marking on the leftover pewter. Once I was happy with the markings, I moved onto the actual pendant.

I also tried a few different nails as well, but ultimately liked the shape and size of the awl-created dots/holes better.

Tapping the design into the triangle pendant

Tapping the design into the triangle pendant

Finishing

To finish the pendant, I created a bail from silver (bezel setting silver) and a purchased rivet. I’ll discuss this more with another pendant as part of this project – stay tuned!

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