Clockwork Trilobite – Part 1

Here’s the start of a commission for an engraved and carved silver trilobite, with copper gears.

Above, I’m weighing out scrap sterling silver (looking for about an ounce).  The scrap needs to be clean, and free of any solder.  If it has been melted a couple of times, you probably shouldn’t use it without deoxidizers in the melt.

Above is my setup for melting the silver, and casting a small ingot.  The steel ingot mold needs  to be heavily smoked so the molten silver doesn’t solder itself to the mold – I use the smoky acetylene-only (no oxygen) flame for the smoke – you can see the heavy black smoke in the image.  Don’t do this inside the studio – the fluffy and filthy black carbon from the smoke will settle on and in everything!

Here’s the cast ingot, shown inside the mold.  Don’t touch, it’s still really hot!

Here’s the final weight for the ingot.  There’s always loss in the melting and casting process.  There’s even more in the engraving and carving afterwards – lots ends up as fine dust that really can’t be recovered, and the other little recovered bits must go back to a refiner before it is really useful again.  Bummer, because silver is becoming pretty expensive!  After this, there are a fair number of trips through the rolling mill, along with multiple annealings and picklings to   s   t   r   e   t   c   h   and thin the metal.

Above is the completed (and pretty thick!) silver plate.  As well as rolling, I’ve forged this plate on the  anvil a bit to make sure it is flat.  I’ll rubber cement the pattern to the ingot and begin sawing it to shape with a jeweler’s saw.

And here are both sterling silver plates I’ll be using – the one we just made is for the top highly carved part, and the thinner plate will be the bottom.  Now to get sawing……

Thanks for looking!


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