Before producing the 20” x 10’ panels that will make up our pavilion, we are testing our clay drying and aluminum casting process on a series of 20” x 40” prototypes. For the first prototype we built a tray out of recycled steel tubes and hardwood. On the inside of the tray we added wood spacers that can be removed right before casting to allow for an edge frame that’s deeper than the rest of the panel.
We poured wet clay into the tray and then tried out drying the clay with heating and fanning. We found that fanning the clay was more efficient than heating. We performed some additional cracking of the clay by hand to develop a more intricate crack network. In future iterations we think we can get additional cracking by rewetting the clay part of the way through drying
After allowing the clay to completely dry and crack we removed the perimeter wood spacers, placed a fire blanket above the clay, and topped the mold with fireproof sheetrock. In the meantime we melted 30 lb of aluminum at 1450° F! Our collaborators Scot W. Thompson (www.groundsforsculpture.org) and Bruce Lindsay (www.integralsculpture.com) then poured the crucible of molten aluminum into two openings cut into the sheetrock. Both pours sprung leaks through the bottom of the tray! The likely culprit is the initially swollen wood contracting under the heat of the aluminum. Despite the leak we had enough head-pressure for the aluminum to flow well through most of the cracks and along much of the frame. We are reengineering the trays to avoid future leaks and to allow for better control of the panel’s perimeter frame dimensions.
Check out our pictures and video below from the casting!
Bruce smelting the aluminum cans
Scot and Bruce prep crucible of molten aluminum. It’s ready to pour.
The aluminum is poured!
Scot removes the fire proof cap of the mold. We sprung a leak! The wooden mold warped a bit. This is why we prototype.
The panel revealed
Mold bottom, aluminum panel and cap
The full panel. You can clearly see where the mold leaked.
Beautiful details. When we solve the leakage problem we expect to fill every crack.