Bronze Whale Casting Process

Sand Casting and the Lost Wax Process

In 1981, a [brilliant!] idea came to mind to fashion a 24” plastiline clay model of a sperm whale and cast it in aluminum at my friend’s one-man sand casting foundry near Lambertville, New Jersey.


The purpose was to create a 3D metal “proof” that could either be used, 1. as a hard 3D image against which multiple sand molds could be “pounded” in order to cast duplicates in bronze or, 2. to make a rubber-lined, plaster “mother mold” in which melted microcrysatalline wax could be poured to make wax images for the “lost wax” method. Whichever system might prove economical, a limited edition of 50 bronze whales, titled “Cachalot” [French for “sperm whale”] was intended to be manufactured and sold at art galleries and by order from the Whale Gifts catalog.

Sand Casting

The first step of this laborious process was to create a three-part French sand mold around the clay whale and carefully remove it when the wet sand had cured. Once disassembled, “gates” and “risers” [channels in which the molten metal would flow] were incised into the sand mold. Then, in order for the aluminum “proof” to be hollow, a slightly smaller, cured sand“core” was formed and suspended inside the mold. Finally, the mold was bound together and molten aluminum was poured in. After everything cooled, this “waste mold” was cracked apart with hammer and chisel and the sculpture was extracted. The sand core was dug out from the inside through a hole left by the main gate. After that, the rough aluminum form was “chased’ with files and abrasives to achieve it’s final detail.

Lost Wax

In 1983, Tallix Foundry in Peekskill, NY was commissioned to strike a mother mold from the hand carved walnut and maple Humpback Whale Sculpture No. 13 before it was shipped to its home on the island of Maui. Following are images of that mold making process and a wax image extracted from the mold: