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casting a ring from a pre-existing model

 
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Apologies if this isn't the correct place for this- I'm extremely new to this forum.

I have a ring with a lot of sentimental value to me that happens to be made of lead. I used to wear it around my neck (it was a gift; I wasn't aware of the content). Obviously I can't do that anymore. I want to make a duplicate, as close as I possibly can, which matches the shape of the ring (kind of strange; it's slightly chunky and has a setting, though I can easily replace the setting) and hopefully the weight. My only issue is that I'm an eighteen year old with a budget of 200 dollars, which is a pretty small budget when you get into professional lost-wax casting. I'm also a total novice. Does anybody have tips for me? Ideally I'd be doing it myself but I'm willing to consider other options. Thank you :)
 
pollinator
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Not knowing just what the ring looks like or anything I can't say for sure, but a route you might take is sending it out to a casting house.  I know many jewelers do this for production work.  They make one master copy and then send it out to have a mold made from which multiples can be cast.  This doesn't have to be massive runs and I'm pretty sure such places would do a one off as well.  I don't know the costs, obviously it depends on the metal you want it cast in and the level of finishing you want it after the basic cast.  $200 certainly won't get you a gold ring, but it might get you silver.  These days I also wonder if rather than making a mold you could get a 3-D scan of the piece from which a wax could be printed to be cast, or it might even be able to be 3-d printed directly in metal.
 
Grantaire Emm
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Thank you! I've started looking into casting houses; my problem again as you've mentioned is the low budget. I did ask a few local artisans what they thought could be done; none of them were able to do it. I briefly considered trying to make it myself before I came to my senses and realized this is a project I'm nowhere near the skill level to attempt. I guess I'll just have to reach out to a few places and hopefully find an answer to my solution. Again, thank you :)
 
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It is possible to reconstruct an 3D model from photos (the trial version of 3DFlow could work and there are a bunch of others).
The resulting model probably needs some cleanup with a 3D software and after that you can send it to a 3D metal printing service. Definitely doable below $200.

EDIT: I forgot to mention: The reconstruction requires that the object has a recognizable texture. Metallic will definitely not work. Painting it with a non-glossy paint (many small dots with different colors or getting a bit creative with layers of water colors). The algorithm needs to identify unique points that it can find again in the different images. If everything looks "gray" it will have hard time finding usable points and the reconstruction will not work.
 
pollinator
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I got into ring making because of the mineralization that I have found, and it is not that difficult. I am not even sure I would go that route however.

It is in the consumption of lead that things can get tricky for the human body, so I would first look at ways of containing the lead. I built a wooden cook book holder for my wife, and to keep the pages laid flat upon the book, cast fairly lead blocks. To keep the lead safe, I encapsulated the lead in clear liquid plastic. I know plastic is not great, but in this case it works well, and is a protectant...a good use of plastic if there ever was one. You could easily do something similar for your ring...use a polyurethane to allow the ring to show through, but protect yourself from actually touching the lead within.

If that is not to your liking, and you want to make a duplicate of the ring, then you could just cast another ring yourself. I would use sand. They make special casting mold sand, but you probably have plenty around your house, or can pick up a bag of playground sand at Home Depot or Lowes. Since you are just using your original ring to make the mold, if you mess up, you can just redo your mold making efforts. In other words, your ring will always be safe, so you can do this yourself for $3 instead of $200. There are TONS of videos on YouTube on how to do this, step by step.

A ring consists of about 10 grams of metal, but keep in mind, it does not have to be pure metal. To make a 14 carat gold ring, you would only need 5 grams of gold, and then mix in other metals to make it the right amount. Myself, as cheap as Silver is, (about $17 an ounce) I would just make it out of silver. Silver is antibacterial, and is quite striking, and I mean...YOU MADE IT YOURSELF! The cool factor is like 900% even if it is just made out of silver. But you could also use copper, that melts pretty easily. I have a few cooper rings kicking around, just because I have a ton (literally) of chalcopyrite...copper ore.

 
Travis Johnson
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Fun Fact: Did you know that the region where Home Depot gets their playground sand is known to have gold? If you buy their sand, then pan it out like you would any gold, you will find flakes of it. There is not much there, but it is there!

It does not work at Lowes because their play sand comes from a different supplier.
 
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Is it possible that the ring could be played?  The lead would still be there, but it would be quarantined so to speak.

Eric
 
Grantaire Emm
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Hi- thank you all for the responses!

Putting the ring in a sealing device wouldn't work; I would like to be able to wear it. I've tried painting it with black nail polish and with clear coat; they've both rubbed off pretty quickly. I did find a link detailing how the author used to cast things as a kid- I think I'm going to try that. (I can post the link allthough I'm not sure how to insert it.) I'm just not sure what the best metal to use would be. I don't really have the resources to make a crucible or anything; I've been offered the use of a beer brewing camp stove type thing by a relative, which seems promising, but I'm just concerned about melting the pan we use to melt the metal, so it can't be too hot. Gold would be nice and durable, but maybe a bit overkill for what originated as a crappy costume ring. Zinc is what the link suggested, so that might work, but I'm leaaaning towards sterling silver. Any tips for this are appreciated. I probably won't go casting house unless they can do it under 200 (doubtful) but I'm a little worried about this method.
 
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One of my favorite channels on YouTube for casting and replicating is Brick in the Yard Mold Supply. If it were me, I would do two things. The first would be to make a silicone mold that could be used for lost wax or resin casting. Something along these lines:


They use the proper tools to make the molds and such, but it can be done with standard silicone caulk from the hardware store.

The other is as Travis said and do a green sand mold and cast. Brian Oltrogge has some excellent videos of how to do this high end DIY. While replicating his stuff is well beyond your, and my, budget, that concepts and principles are good and the videos are entertaining.
 
Travis Johnson
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Grantaire Emm wrote:Hi- thank you all for the responses!

Putting the ring in a sealing device wouldn't work; I would like to be able to wear it. I've tried painting it with black nail polish and with clear coat; they've both rubbed off pretty quickly. I did find a link detailing how the author used to cast things as a kid- I think I'm going to try that. (I can post the link allthough I'm not sure how to insert it.) I'm just not sure what the best metal to use would be. I don't really have the resources to make a crucible or anything; I've been offered the use of a beer brewing camp stove type thing by a relative, which seems promising, but I'm just concerned about melting the pan we use to melt the metal, so it can't be too hot. Gold would be nice and durable, but maybe a bit overkill for what originated as a crappy costume ring. Zinc is what the link suggested, so that might work, but I'm leaaaning towards sterling silver. Any tips for this are appreciated. I probably won't go casting house unless they can do it under 200 (doubtful) but I'm a little worried about this method.



I have found a ton of Blackjack in my prospecting. I am not sure how much you would need to make a ring though. I have not gone beyond the testing phase, so I am not sure what the purity level is, but it is Blackjack so it has to be pretty high. As an interesting side note, it looks like I have about 7 acres of minable zinc ore.

In the same mineral find I found an ultra rare palladium nugget. A NUGGET! Palladium is only found in about 20 places in the world, and Maine is one of them. That was my greatest mineral find so far. But even if I would part with my Palladium (it is worth about $280 a troy ounce more than Gold), you would never be able to smelt it down because the platinum metals group take an insane amount of heat.

Here is a picture of the BlackJack sitting in the vein. I had this assayed and it scored pretty high on everything. Unfortunately it has Cadmium in it as well though, so pulling it is going to be risky, but I could not believe it when I found it.. It took me six years of searching, and you have no idea how remote this location is, some 1-1/2 miles back. I was the discovery of legends, and so, oh yeah, I wrote a book about the adventure.



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BlackJack
 
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My son is doing his Ph.D. research in the area of artificial intelligence and 3D printing.  There are all kinds of breakthrough advances in scanning for 3D reproduction, and the technology to do this is becoming less and less expensive.  We are beginning to see the commercial application of this scanning technology in everything from video games to action figures.  In their lab, he's able to scan just about anything (as long as it's no bigger than 8 inches or so) and replicate a duplicate of it (albeit in plastic) on the 3D printer.

Perhaps there would be a local university where the engineering or physics majors might do you a favor and scan your ring, leaving you with a CAD file that is an exact representation.  Once you've got that, it's simple to print a plastic version of your ring.  From that, you might make a mold out of slip clay, and then melt (or burn) the 3D printed replica out of the mold to leave you with a mold to pour brass or some other softer metal.  

If you've ever seen people do lost-wax casting, it's not that hard to do.  Brass melts at a relatively low 1700 f.  Aluminum melts at 1200.  Either of those would be (relatively) easy to work with.

 
Travis Johnson
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Marco Banks wrote:My son is doing his Ph.D. research in the area of artificial intelligence and 3D printing.  There are all kinds of breakthrough advances in scanning for 3D reproduction, and the technology to do this is becoming less and less expensive.  We are beginning to see the commercial application of this scanning technology in everything from video games to action figures.  In their lab, he's able to scan just about anything (as long as it's no bigger than 8 inches or so) and replicate a duplicate of it (albeit in plastic) on the 3D printer.

Perhaps there would be a local university where the engineering or physics majors might do you a favor and scan your ring, leaving you with a CAD file that is an exact representation.  Once you've got that, it's simple to print a plastic version of your ring.  From that, you might make a mold out of slip clay, and then melt (or burn) the 3D printed replica out of the mold to leave you with a mold to pour brass or some other softer metal.  

If you've ever seen people do lost-wax casting, it's not that hard to do.  Brass melts at a relatively low 1700 f.  Aluminum melts at 1200.  Either of those would be (relatively) easy to work with.



I think Marco is right...aluminum would be perfect for this. What better way to recycle a few aluminum cans.
 
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I have been copying small items for table top gaming using this method.

 
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