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What is cire perdue?

"Cire perdue" is a French term that translates to "lost wax" in English. It refers to the lost-wax casting method, a process used for centuries in sculpture and metalwork to create detailed forms. This technique allows for the production of a metal sculpture that is an exact duplicate of the original wax model.

Here's a simplified outline of the traditional cire perdue or lost-wax casting process:

  • Model Creation: An artist creates an original model out of a material like wax, which is easy to work with and shape.
  • Spruing: Wax rods and gates may be added to the wax model to serve as channels for molten metal to flow through later.
  • Investment: The wax model is coated in a ceramic shell, usually through a series of dips into a slurry of ceramic material, allowing it to dry between each coat.
  • Shell Hardening: The ceramic shell is hardened, sometimes through a heat process, to prepare it for molten metal.
  • Wax Removal: The wax inside the hardened ceramic shell is melted out, usually by heating. This leaves a hollow ceramic mold—the term "lost-wax" comes from this step, as the wax is "lost" in the process.
  • Casting: Molten metal is poured into the hollow ceramic mold through the channels created by the wax rods and gates.
  • Shell Removal: Once the metal has cooled and solidified, the ceramic shell is broken away to reveal the metal sculpture.
  • Finishing: The sprues and gates are removed, and the final piece is polished or otherwise finished.

The lost-wax casting technique is often used for intricate works where high levels of detail or complex forms are desired. It has been used in various cultures and times, from ancient civilizations to modern-day artists and industries. Read our article on the lost-wax casting method for more information.

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