Process Blog

The Old and the New

Having been involved with both extremely traditional crafting and digital methods, it has been very interesting to compare the advantages and disadvantages of Rhino and 3D printing with the work I did over the summer: spin cast pewter.  The vulcanized rubber molds and low viscosity of the pewter can make for extremely high-fidelity, high detail castings for a pretty low cost, though they naturally lack the strength of bronze or silver (or even copper).  However, you can actually cast mountings/pinbacks in place, which is neat, though not magnets given their susceptibility to heat.  I worked for Perth Pewter in Chester, NY, which specializes in larger, more complex pieces for the gift market rather than hobby models.  To give you a sense of the attainable detail, here is a piece slightly more than about four inches high. If anything, the image doesn't do it justice.

Though this is not where I worked, and there are some substantial differences in the details of production (like the molds' levels of complexity and finishing procedures), this video gives you a taste of the process:

Given my deep and abiding love for a lot of traditional techniques like enameling, I'm particularly struck by the possibilities of integrating CAD processes to create armatures for physical sculpting and to make uniform, embeddable objects for casting.  To me, it is a way to automate the things that don't concern me as much and instead focus my limited energies on what really shines with hand crafting.  Of course, anyone who has ever struggled to make a computer do something knows that technology is often not a shortcut, but rather a tool with its own strengths and limitations.  The wheel was once cutting edge, too.