How It's Made: Lost Wax Casting Part 1 - Carving

Photography by Ryan Leggett

Humans are curious by nature.

We love to know how things work. We like solving problems and we’re fascinated watching others create things from scratch. Just flip through your cable programming; It’s a chock full of folks building cars, dream homes, and the perfect cupcake.

The same fascination applies when clients step into my studio.

“What does this do?” They’ll ask as they point to my tools. “What are you working on now?”
I catch them sneaking a peek at the treasures on my messy bench top.

There are many methods to use when making jewelry, but my favorite method always gets the most questions: Lost Wax Casting. It’s the process where I take a hand-carved wax model and turn it into a finished piece in precious metal. The transformation is incredible. It’s no wonder folks are curious!

I’d love to walk you through this process in a 3-part series about How It's Made. Today, I’ll introduce you to how we design and carve the ring in wax. For Part 2, we’ll pick up a torch and work with molten gold. In Part 3, we set the diamond and refine our finished ring.

Carving a Wax Model of a Ring

Sketching the Design - How a Ring is Made - Corey Egan

Each design begins as a series of sketches to flesh out the design and measurements for the final piece. The carving sometimes changes along the way, but a good sketch gives us a road map to follow at the start.

Sawing off a section of wax - How a Ring is Made - Corey Egan
Filing a block of wax - How a Ring is Made - Corey Egan

We begin the carving process by sawing off a slice of wax in the right thickness. We take care to make sure the sides are flat and parallel since we'll be using them to mark and measure.

Enlarging the hole to the desired finger size - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganNext, we'll enlarge the hole to the appropriate finger size.

Mark Measurements onto the wax - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganUsing we use a set of calipers to mark measurements around the wax for the profile of the ring.

Trim off excess wax using a bur - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganUsing the markings as a guide, we'll use a cylinder bur to quickly trim away the excess wax. This process takes just a few minutes to remove a good deal of material.

Trim off excess wax using a bur - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganThe wax begins to take on a more ring-like shape. Now we can switch to hand tools to carve into it from all sides.

Using burs to carve the ring design - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganThe band is still quite wide, so we’ll use a bur to remove a few millimeters on either side. The top of the ring is trimmed down into a rough hexagon shape.

Using Hand Tools to Carve the Wax - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganWe switch to finer hand tools and carve much slower to refine the final shape. These wax carving tools come in a variety of shapes to fit into different spaces. They are very sharp. We can use them to dig into the surface or to remove tiny shavings of wax.

We'll smooth out the surface of the wax model, round the edges on the band, and chip away at the design until it’s just right. It’s important that the ring looks proportional from all angles.

Using Burs to Carve the Wax - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganEven the inside of our ring gets special attention. A round bur fits nicely to contour the underside.

Using hand tools to carve wax under a microscope - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganThe top of our ring needs a few chiseled facets around the stone. Each one is carved out under the microscope to ensure they’re perfectly straight.

Adding beads in wax - How a Ring is Made - Corey EganFinally, beads are added to our wax model that will eventually hold the diamond into place. We melt these into place using a warm wax tool. Our model is now ready for casting!

The Finished Wax Carving- How a Ring is Made - Corey EganReady to see us cast this beauty in yellow gold? Head over to Part 2 in our How It’s Made series


Continue Reading: How It's Made Lost Wax Casting Part 2


About the Author

As a long-time jewelry designer, I love the process of sculpting, engraving, and setting everything by hand. Through my exploration of texture-driven techniques and organic shapes, I hope you can feel my passionate energy and intention behind every piece.

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Inspired by organic silhouettes, textures, light, and shadows for the collector with an eye for natural beauty.

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Every piece is dreamed up and brought to life in my sunny Berkeley, California studio! You’re welcome to make an appointment to do a little in-person shopping and try things on.

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