Cast-Wax-Seal-art - 1/10/10
"Pewter Casting for a Wax Seal" by HL Hucbald ap Urp, JdL.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
You can find more articles by this author on his website at: http://www.hucbald.ramst.ca
Pewter Casting for a Wax Seal
by HL Hucbald ap Urp
July 3, 2006 (A.S. XLI)
One of the earliest wax seals comes from the Babylonian era. These wax seals were made as cylinders and would roll out a scene. These seals date to 3200 B.C. In the early middle ages, pre 1000, wax seals were used mainly by royalty and religious figure heads. Later, these were used by towns and nobility. Medieval signet rings were made of carved gemstones and larger seals were cast of silver, gold, brass or steel.
The use of wax seals was to create a method of authenticity for documents. When a wax seal would be made, several wax seals would be included. The extra wax seals would be distributed to family and notables so that when a document arrived, the seal on the document and the pre-cast seal could be compared. This would ensure that the document was from an authentic source. When the owner of the seal died, the seal would be marred or cracked to render it useless.
The wax was stamped separately and then affixed to the document. It was not stamped directly onto the document.
Pewter is an alloy of tin and lead. Being made from mostly tin, pewter with higher tin contents (90%-95%) creates a finer quality of pewter. With the awareness of health hazards caused by lead, modern pewter is leadless. This is created by substituting copper for the lead and may contain antimony and/or bismuth and sometimes zinc. An easy source of the same material is solder. The mixture is the same as pewter but may vary in the amount of tin and does come in flux-less versions.
Having tremendous versatility that comes from a low melting point and a high boiling point along with the ability to be carved or pressed, pewter makes for easy casting. Pewter has a long history dating back well before the middle Ages and enjoys wide spread use during the Middle Ages until the 18th and 19th centuries where glass becomes more common.
Casting pewter was performed in a variety of methods. Casting into soapstone carved molds, lost wax in plaster molds and even casting into carved cuttlefish bones was used.
In the case of lost wax casting a wax figure would be made in the exact likeness of the intended casting. This was then coated in successive layers of plaster. Once dry and hard the molten metal would be poured into the mold, melting the wax and allowed to harden into the shape left behind by the wax. The plaster was then broken off to reveal the cast item. This process was used to make statues and is still used today. This method was documented around 1100 by a monk named Theophilus Presbyter in Schedula Diversarum Artium, the earliest text on foundry methods.
First a block of plaster of paris was cast. This was left to dry and solidify. It then was carved to the diameter of a quarter and about 1/8th inch depth. This was then subsequently carved to allow the mermaid to show by removing material around the mermaid. Detail was then added to the mould through a scratching method.
Common flux-less solder was used to melt pewter into the mould. This was then allowed to cool and harden. The casting was then removed and the detail was cleaned carefully using a needle.
Using glue, the casting was then affixed to a wooden handle. Normally this might have had a stem on the casting that would have been inserted into the wooden spindle. The glue method was chosen to aid in speed of assembly.
"Cuttlefish Bone Casting", PENNABILLI Artigianato tecnica e cultura.
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://www.pennabilli.org/tecniche/CUTTLEBONE.htm
"Investment Casting History", Protocast, John List Corporation
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://www.protocastjlc.com/investment_castings.htm
"The Legacy of Investment Casting", Hitchiner Manufacturing Co., Inc.
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://www.hitchiner.com/HIMCO/History.html
"Pewter", Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pewter
"Pewter and its History", Fellowship Foundry Pewtersmiths
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://www.fellowshipfoundry.com/history.html
"Pewter History", The Rams Horn Studio
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://www.ramshornstudio.com/pewter.htm
"Reflections of the Viking Age - Artisans and Skalds", Dark Ages Re-creation Company
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://www.darkcompany.ca/fullcirc/fulcirc3.htm
"Seals" Sir Clisto Seversword's Tome of Adventure & Knowledge.
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://www.sirclisto.com/85.html
"Seal History", Linda Clifford, Scottish & Irish Merchant
July 3, 2006, July 3, 2006 http://www.lindaclifford.com/NeilOliverSealHistory.html
Copyright 2006 by Ron Sharcott, 1879 Kings Road, Victoria BC, Canada V8R 2P2. <hucbald at ramst.ca>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.