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armatures that burn out

updated mon 9 feb 98


Dan Saultman on sun 8 feb 98

Hi Jane,
Read your question about armatures. I've been giving it some thought.
Here is my odd idea.
What would be ideal would be something strong enough to hold the clay up
and yet would burn out in the firing. But there is a second problem. You
are using an electric kiln and a ton of smokey waste in there could
jeopardize the kiln elements. Also would cause a slight reduction
atmosphere which might change your glazes. If you had a gas kiln you
could probably use anything that would burn as long as you had some
venting holes in your piece so that the gasses and smoke could escape,
keeping in mind that clay contracts when fired and could crack when
contracting agains a piece of wood for example...but that's not the
issue here for you.
Some years back I did some work in "lost wax" for jewelry. Lost wax is a
method whereby you sculpt in wax and then the wax is encased in a
plastery like compound (like a little square block) with a hole in it.
The idea is to heat the block to melt the wax out and then pour silver
or gold into the cavity. It's a one time deal but yields a very fine
detail...Ok..what I found was that this wax came in various hardnesses
to the point of being hard enough to even machine with a metal lathe
etc. yet could be connected to each other (welded?) by simply using a
little spatula heated over an alcohol burner and used to melt the wax
where join points were required. (The alcohol burner, creates a flame
that doesn't create a lot of soot like a candle flame would) This wax
comes in rods, square bars and solid blocks. It might be possible to
make an armature out of this wax and then melt it out before firing. I
would think I would heat the clay piece slowly enough in your kiln with
a pan under it to catch the liquid wax. Take the pan out and then fire
regularly. Of course you would need a hole in the bottom of your
sculpture that allowed the wax drain out.
It's an idea and maybe one ahead of it's time. I've never heard of
anyone doing it. The wax is available in various hardnesses from a
company in New York called "Allcraft". If you are interested, use your
search engine to find out if they have a web site or I can send you
their mailing address to get a product catalog. (I don't have it handy
right now.)
Think about it. Getting it all together would take some effort but once
you got the materials you might find that it did what you wanted.
Good luck
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