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Home > Blog > We create an inkwell with the “LOST-WAX CASTING”


Friday, September 22, 2017

We create an inkwell with the “LOST-WAX CASTING”

Have you ever asked yourself how a product is created?
Many will answer this question saying to themselves that everything, even a precious inkwell, derives from a “sketch”, a drawing on which to think and reason. This is actually the case: drawings are indeed the first “concrete” things from which all the Bortoletti products take shape, including our pens and inkwells.
But how do we move on from a sketch, an idea for a product, to a real inkwell?
Follow us on this short trip to discover the main phases of making an inkwell, using one of the oldest techniques still used today in making valuable, precision products. Let’s begin!
The ideas for products always stem from careful reflection of the ink-well's desired shape, style, original decoration, and the pen that will go with it.
To do this, first we meet up to go through all aspects. Yes, every single aspect because we pride ourselves that our products are all about the details.
We then look among all the many designs that Elio Martella and Agostino Venturini have created for us, to find the one that is closest to what we have in mind. So far, we don't have physical models - only refined drawings.
What’s next? Taking it from a two-dimensional design concept to a physical three-dimensional item
We use “lost-wax casting”, a process that lets us create highly precise models. It is one of the most common processes also (but not only) in the production of precious items, typically in the best jewelery workshops.
As mentioned, we start from a drawing and Massimo Bortoletti is responsible for this key phase. He is the one who uses a special software to “transform” the 2-D drawing into a virtual 3-D model (with related dimensions and volumes). Imagine how much sensitivity and experience is required to imagine the depths and volumes of an object that you only see drawn in two dimensions!

This "virtual model" (it is 3-D only in the software) is used by a special milling machine to create the real item by boring and chiselling away a metal cube piece by piece (like a modern sculptor). The item then goes back into the hands of Elio Martella who, at the goldsmith's bench, completes it to obtain the desired shape. This is the first phase of the process. Thus, we have made the first fundamental inkwell “model”.

At this point the inkwell model will be secured into a container, where silicone-based liquid rubber will be poured and left to harden. After carefully cutting away the rubber (care must be taken over this tricky operation) we will have the “mold” of the inkwell, which is the original and true starting mold. We have completed the second phase.

What about the wax? When does the was come into play?

After checking that the two parts making up the inkwell mold are well closed and perfectly aligned, we will inject liquid wax into the empty space. Liquid wax reaches and fills all the spaces in the mold. After allowing it to cool and extracting it from the mold, we will have made a second mold that is identical to the original. We have completed the third phase.

Now we are at the stage that gives its name to this particular process: “lost-wax casting”.
The waxes obtained are hot welded to a wax tree to make a "cluster" with the desired number of waxes. The cluster is then placed in a special metal-resistant container (that can withstand high temperatures) which is filled with plaster. As the plaster hardens, the container is placed in a kiln and brought to about 800 degrees. At that temperature, the wax (of which our models are made) will melt and flow along the melt and other holes (it will be "lost") leaving its perfect shape and imprint inside the plaster. We have obtained the plaster die of the inkwell, completing the fourth phase.

At this point the plaster will be used as a negative mold and, by using the same holes of the casting, we will pour molten metal inside, and then allow it to cool in a controlled-temperature environment We will then complete the process by breaking the outer plaster casing and extracting the new "cluster" which this time will be made up of real bronze objects instead of waxes. We have completed the “lost-wax casting” production process.

Now we will cut all the pieces one at a time, to put them to the next processing and surface-finishing phases which to make them fit to be placed in one of our products and be used by our customers all over the world.

​​​​​​The end result is a revised reproduction of antique inkwells in glass with friezes and bronze caps, which add elegance and character to the product.


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