I started the journey of opening this business without even having touched my tools in awhile. So one day while in the midst of writing my business plan I decided to get in my shop and prototype the sterling silver horse shoe nail ring.
I could have fabricated this jewelry by soldering different thicknesses together and sanding down to shape. But not much fire is involved so where is the fun in that?
The first thing I needed was green sand, a mixture of sand and a binder to hold the detail of the object to be cast. I had made green sand in the past for other castings of non precious metals. That particular kind required play sand and kitty litter. While it worked, I wanted something even better.
I decided to go with the finest aquarium sand I could buy which cost me close to $30. I then purchased bentonite clay from the cosmetics section for another $10. Making the sand mixture required a table surface or large bin. I started by adding the sand I needed to fill the flask plus some extra. More on the flask in a moment. Next I added a small amount of bentonite clay at the ratio of 1/10 or less, and started wetting the sand and clay with water in a mister spray bottle.
I was aiming for a consistency that when a handful is grabbed and squeezed, it holds together, is not dripping wet and when broken breaks cleanly and doesn’t crumble. If it was too sticky I had to add more sand and if it was not sticking enough more clay was needed. It is about adjusting the proportion of water also. A little trial and error was required. Once I had the right mix, I stored it in an airtight container.
I made two flasks, one aluminum and one out of wood. Essentially you need two box frames but they need to align and lock together in a consistent manner. On my aluminum boxes I used hinges and the door pin for the hinge locked the halves together. For the wooden one I made two strips on one side extending past the other frame and one on the other frame that glided together and aligned the two frames. For the horse shoe nail I used the wooden frame.
For the next step I poured sand into the wooden frame and hammered the sand in until it was very compact. Then I pressed the horse shoe nail halfway into the sand, sprinkling it with talcum powder on that layer so it would separate from the next. The second part of the wooden frame is then aligned with the first wooden frame and again packed in the sand and compressed with a hammer. I then carefully lifted away the top half. I had to gently pull out the nail, and then I had to carve a funnel and path to the mold for the metal to pour in along with some faint lines carved out near the thicker or bottom parts of where the mold was to release air and steam.
Lastly, I put the halves of both frames together, and I melted the silver pouring it into the frame. This is how I got my silver replica. It took me three tries to get the results I wanted but it was so much fun!!!