I took a workshop from Tom Madden, head of the Metals Department at the College for Creative Studies. It was entitled “Pewter, the Other White Metal.” We learned a bit of history and properties of pewter. We learned about the low melt temperature of this metal, and ended the sessions experimenting with carving and open casting in cuttlefish and another Kaiser Lee board. None of mine turned out great that day, but it was a good experience. I would be more interested in fabricating larger pewter items if I had the studio space and budget to dedi
cate tools to work with pewter so I don’t risk contaminating my expensive silver.
During this workshop several years back, we saw a sample of what Tom called the bologna sandwich casting method. I was intrigued and saw lots of possibilities for narrow medallion type castings with handwritten engravings, but we didn’t actually see him do one. Still, I sketched the set up for future brave experimentation. I also mentioned it to my metalsmithing friends and metors, Mary Kernahan and Lesley DiPiazza as a future workshop subject. Lesley said she’d look into it through Tom Madden.
Fast forward to summer 2011 during the Ann Arbor Art Fair, where I was exhibiting some of my wares with the Michigan Silversmiths Guild. Lesley DiPiazza was doing a demo (something I did the previous year before being talked into exhibiting) of the bologna sandwich. Next to her was Paul Mergen, an expert in metals, who was demonstrating forging. As her demo progressed, it came out that Paul was the actual person who showed the method to Tom, and that he had learned it from Fred Fenster.
Playing around with the method at casting bootcamp was fun, and I plan to play around some more. While I still want to mess around with handwritten logos on a charm (trial and error to find right depth, and must be drawn in reverse), my basic outline shape turned out pretty good. They say it gets a smoother finish after the first few uses, so this has potential.
What you need is 2 thicker pieces of wood or MDF, then 2 thick layers of hardboard. The inner thickness of our medallion will have the cut out shape of your object and a sprue cut out to pour into.