Desert Carvin', Waxing Poetic With Kate Wolf on the Banks of the Rio Grande (Part I)

The art of lost wax-casting has always been a component in our jewelry, so Julie and I thought, why not get really, really, good at it by taking Kate Wolf's week long intensive crash course in wax-carving?   Like Cheech Marin once so eloquently sang:  "Mexican-Americans, love education, so they go to night school, and take Spanish and get a B." Julie, (who is half Mexican and loves education) signed us both up for the class and let me just say, it was such a cool experience!  Learning to carve wax from Kate Wolf is the equivalent of learning to box from Mike Tyson.  Kate spent much of her career wax carving for the jewelry division of The Franklin Mint.  Her creations are impossibly clean and detailed and they have so much soul.  She's created her own line of carving tools and she gives a few courses a year where she shares the secrets of her tiny universe to small groups of keen-eyed and quick witted jewelers.  It was an epic experience so I plan to break it up into a few blog posts.  Feel free to unsubscribe if you're not interested in reading about really cool stuff.   

A genuine Kate Wolf Carving

So here's a little background on the lost-wax process.  It's an ancient art form wherein tiny sculptures are carved with delicate tools out of wax.  This part of the process is maybe similar to molding clay or throwing it on the wheel in ceramics, but on a smaller scale.  The wax is molded in plaster and then burned away leaving a relief image of the sculpture.  The mold is then filled with  MOLTEN HOT METAL!! (gold, silver, or bronze... you don't get to write MOLTEN HOT METAL!! everyday) using lots of devices with cool sounding names like "crucible" and "centrifuge".  What emerges is a rough version of your tiny sculpture now made of gold which is much fancier than the original wax sculpture.  It just needs to be cleaned up using a hand-held polishing tool known to us jewelers as a flex-shaft and polished up in a tumbling machine.      

My wax carving course was to be held in Albuquerque, NM, down a lonely desert road at the training facilities of the Rio Grande Jewelry Supply Co....

Stayed tuned for Part 2 of our cliffhanger adventure in 2 weeks time:  wherein our hero Pete comes face to face with silver studded cowboys, brief case carrying mystery men, and grandmotherly metal smiths... not for the faint of heart!