According to the International Sculpture Center, custom and pre-designed sculpture awards are produced using the “lost wax” casting process. This historic sculpture award production process has been in use for thousands of years and has undergone minimal alterations.
Whereas there exist several firms that produce bronze sculpture awards, creating high-quality sculpture castings isn’t a walk in the park. It’s an extremely lengthy and labor-intensive procedure requiring extraordinary talent and skill sets.
The following are the key steps involved in the production process of sculpture awards:
The first step in producing sculpture awards involves creating a model that will serve as a base design form for the award. Often, sculpture artisans can create models using different materials, but the most popular ones are wax and clay.
The design, size, and complexity of the sculpture award are the factors that dictate the ideal material to use when creating a model. Whereas most sculpture award models are hand-crafted, nowadays, artisans can leverage 3D printing to create models.
If you’re aiming at revamping your employee rewards program with various gifts, including an employee of the month plaques, giving out sculpture gifts can take the initiative a step higher.
After a sculpture artisan has finished creating a model of the sculpture award, a mold is produced by sequentially applying a coating layer. Often, the coating material used for this purpose is silicon rubber.
Your sculpture artisan can apply several coating layers until the right thickness is achieved before allowing the rubber to harden. Later, your artisan can apply a more robust plaster-like shell to the exterior of the mold to protect it.
During this phase of producing sculpture awards, your artisan will heat the wax until it attains a liquid-like consistency before draining it into the hollow section of the mold.
After the wax cools and hardens, your artisan will remove the wax replica from the mold and the mold kept for future use. Before proceeding, your sculpture artisan will correct any defects in the wax replica, including divots or bumps.
To prepare for casting, your artisan will attach a “pouring cup” on one end of the wax replica with the help of wax “spue lines.” The spue lines will act as ducts for your artisan to pour molten bronze into the sculpture.
Besides, they’ll ensure the bronze is spread uniformly throughout the wax replica. Furthermore, the sprue lines play a key role in releasing trapped air, reducing defects and bubbles resulting from the air pockets in the final sculpture award.
Your artisan will dip the prepared wax replica in step 4 in heat-resistant fluid referred to as “slurry” and then in heat-resistant sand referred to as “stucco.” Often, your artisan will have to repeat this process several times, progressively adding new coating layers. After drying fully, it becomes a rigid ceramic shell, commonly referred to as an “investment.”
At this point, your sculpture artisan will invert the setup upside down before placing it in a kiln set at approximately 1,800 degrees celsius. Here, the heat will harden the investment shell further while melting away the wax material in the shell.
Consequently, this leaves a cavity in the exact shape as the original model, which is why this method is referred to as the “lost wax” casting process.
In this step, your sculpture artisan will place the ceramic shell in a sand pit while the pouring cup is upright. Then, they will melt bronze to achieve a liquid-like consistency before draining it into the hollow space to cool and harden. Then, the artisan will break the ceramic shell from the bronze sculpture award.
Here, the artisan will cut the sprue lines off the main body of the sculpture award before sand-blasting to eliminate any bronze particles. Often, this step is referred to as “chasing,” is labor-intensive, and requires attention to fine details.
In this step, your sculpture artisan can color the award by applying different chemicals that oxidize it or polish it to give it a shiny look.
The last involves mounting the final bronze sculpture award onto a base to give it stability when placed on a flat surface. And at this point, your sculpture award is ready, and you can gift your top performer.
Understanding the steps involved in designing and producing sculpture awards for your employee rewards program is vital. These ten steps will help you better understand the entire process.