Friday, July 8, 2016

pewter casting in cuttlebone

in which our plucky heroine took a class last weekend, taught by Alail Horsefriend, at ATWW* about an accessible low-tech way to create cast metal objects...

we started by cutting a cuttlebone in half, smoothing the soft inner portion against itself to create matching halves, and cutting notches into the sides, to allow for wiring the two halves together...

The "gate" or sprue opening into the mold, at the top wider edge of the cuttlebone halves. This is where the molten pewter is poured. The nifty thing about pewter is that it melts at a fairly low temperature, which makes this a process a lot more accessible.

Here are the two halves of the mold I carved on site. I used a coin to get the basic shape of the disc, and then added some simple motifs to each side. Any lettering needs to be put in backwards, so as to come out correctly. The scratches that look like spider legs are vents, to allow the air in the mold to be displaced when molten metal is poured in at the top.

Here it the rough casting, showing how the vents allow the metal all the way into the mold, the bits of metal flashing (that went into the mold vents) is thin and easily cut away from the finished piece. I just left them there so I could take these photos prior to cleanup

The obverse of the casting. This really shows the texture of the cuttlebone, which is a unique characteristic. I also will need to cut away the sprue portion of the disc

A closer view of the casting. Once I cut away the sprue/gate portion, and clean up the edges, I intend to fill in the background around the Summits Grail with blue. Since pewter melts at such a low temperature, enameling is not an option. I will use a transparent lacquer or paint instead

The obverse came out equally clear... however, I ought to have checked the calendar...since I think it is actually Anno Societatis 51 (what can I say, it was hot at the event and my brain was fried, and I got confused)

Finish work on the tiny pewter casting - I cut away the sprue gate and the vent flashing, drilled a hole at the center top, and colored the background blue, to match my "friend of the Summits" award. Since pewter melts at such a low temperature, it was necessary to use fingernail enamel instead of vitreous enamel. I like that the texture of the cuttlebone casting is still visible through the overlaid color.

July SMART goals
1 pewter casting Thora cuff trim bag of hangers
2 charter #12 - yard waste bin
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*ATWW is one of my favorite SCA camping events, with many different types of activities, as well as a splendid location near Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast. My favorite parts of the shindig are the various classes available, visiting my friends at the "cooks playdate" encampment (where enthusiasts of medieval cookery gather to experiment in trying new recipes and techniques) and the amazing views of the night sky, as the site is at the end of the road in a valley surrounded by hills and trees, but almost no houses. This means that the night sky is intensely visible, and one man camped near us brought his large 13"? telescope and set it up; I saw the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter for the first time, and what a special treat that was!!


  1. What a good project!! I've done cuttle bone casting and it's a lot of fun, I agree!! And so smart of you to use nail enamel for the color. That camp out always sounds like a huge amount of fun! Yay for the rings of Saturn!!!

    1. Claire, it was a really fun weekend... my only regret is that I didn't get someone to take a photo of me wearing the hood I made from the fabric you gave me. I shall have to remedy that!

    2. I am looking forward to seeing it!!