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  #1  
Old 08-06-2003, 02:00 AM
Mickley Mickley is offline
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Bronze Casting costs?

Hi to all people in this forum.
I'm new to casting and probably somebody can clarify some things for me. If I have a model made of plastelina 12"-18" tall. What price range I would have to consider. To get it processed and casted in bronze?
Is that like tens? hundereds? thousands of dollars?

Also what obstacles could arise on the way?

Sorry if this is to much of a question...

Last edited by Mickley : 08-06-2003 at 02:03 AM.
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  #2  
Old 08-06-2003, 08:37 PM
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Bronze costs

Mickley - Many variables come into this, obviously - region of the country, complexity of the piece, so on. There also is the question of whether this is to be a unique, one-of-a-kind piece, or a small or large multiple. I would say that making the initial mold from your clay might be 50 - 60% as much as a single bronze cast itself. That is, if making a bronze cast from a mold costs, say $1000, then making the mold from the clay could be about $600. Clearly, one-of-a-kind pieces will be much more expensive, because the cost of the initial mold can’t be spread over several casts.

Overall, I think you should expect a ballpark figure of about $2000. It might be more and it might be less. Bear in mind that NY is an expensive area. The cost will be high there, but I wouldn’t think over $3000. Because there are many foundries in the area, you could get a lower cost.

Also, people have said here that it is advisable to get several quotes. You might find a good foundry in need of work and willing to give you a bargain.
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  #3  
Old 08-07-2003, 01:58 AM
Mickley Mickley is offline
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Hey Fritchie!
Thank you for your answer and your time.
The price really scares me. I hoped that it would be something little bit less

Interesting link: this guy assures that its possible to build a floundry for under $5000.
check out the article on his site The Pocket Floundry
http://www.danielbutler.com
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  #4  
Old 08-08-2003, 09:26 PM
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More on bronze casting

Mickley - I should have said last night that the best thing to do is look for a school or co-op group in your area that has a foundry. Most of the cost of bronze casting is labor, maybe up to 80 %.

For instance, making a polyurethane mold for your piece should take no more than about 1 gallon of mix, or possibly a little more. Typically you will have to buy a 3-gallon kit (3, 1-gal. cans) or a 5-gal. kit, at about $120 to $140 for 3 gallons. Plaster of Paris to reinforce the polyurethane “rubber” is cheap, maybe $15. You also need burlap or a heavy cloth such as denim for reinforcement of the plaster. This will get you to the stage of making your own wax.

Wax is about $2 -$3/pound, but you may need to buy 60 pounds or more from a wholesaler. When you get the wax cast, you need somewhat more expensive materials for the mold used to cast the final bronze. Silica flour - literally silica or sand, ground to flour consistency - is the expensive item. I have never bought any, so don’t know the cost, but it’s not outrageous. You need more plaster, and a bulking agent such as Vermiculite (heat-expanded mica). Also wire net for reinforcing. Most people use regular fence wire, the kind with 4 inch x 6 inch openings.

So the items are cheap, and in a group situation, you can share purchases. But, by all means, get good advice at each stage if you do this yourself. A single mistake can be ruinous to the cast, and also very dangerous or even fatal.
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  #5  
Old 08-11-2003, 12:38 PM
jwebb jwebb is offline
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In my region a piece the size you describe can be cast for $800 to a thousand, all inclusive, at one of a number of bronze casters who specialize in art casting. (One more good reason to flee the East Coast?) All of what fritchie says is true. In the Art School I went to we had a foundry and did all of the above just about exactly as described. That's been many years. I know sculptors who have built their own small bronze foundries. Very few do it for long, though. The actual melting of bronze is easy enough, but the prep and post work is tedious and unpleasant . Good luck!
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Old 08-11-2003, 02:03 PM
YueLiang YueLiang is offline
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Hey Mickley, if it is possable, i would suggest making some friends in say, the mold making department and the metal department, at least. In the foundry i worked at it was a common occurance for people to just pay the employees of the foundry directly to do the work on their spare time. i'm not sure this was legal, but it cut costs for the artist and gave the workers some extra cash. i wouldn't advise doing this without the boss's permission though. If you do decide to do the mold yourself, i echo those who said make sure you get good advise, I worked in the mold department, and i have seen artists do it themselves and almost destroy their peice.

Yue Liang
ps. make sure you read the msds forms, there is some scary stuff used in molds.
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  #7  
Old 08-15-2003, 09:23 AM
Jean Jean is offline
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THE NUDE

AS A SCULPTOR I HAVE TAUGHT THE NUDE. IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME THAT THE NUDE WAS UNACCEPTABLE IN THE PAST OR IN THE PRESENT. I AM WORKING, AT PRESENT, ON A NUDE WITH AN ATTITUDE....SASSY AND ASSURED. IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE HOW THE PUBLIC REACTS .
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  #8  
Old 08-15-2003, 08:33 PM
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Other discussion group

Jean - I suspect you posted this in the wrong area by accident - we have a large section on Figurative Sculpture, with much discussion on - what else - nudes. I suspect one of the moderators of this section will move your thread there. Check it out - you’ll find much of interest.

Last edited by fritchie : 08-15-2003 at 08:42 PM.
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  #9  
Old 08-24-2003, 11:01 PM
Mickley Mickley is offline
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Hey guys!
Sorry I didnt reply for so long.

Thank you everybody for sharing your knowledge and experience.
Fritchie your knowlege looks enciclopedious to me. jwebb and YueLiang thank you for your insight. I'm considering all the options now. Including art school foundries, and having some part of the job done on my own.

It's always scarry for the first time. Will try.
It's great that such forum, where artists get to help each other, exists.
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  #10  
Old 08-25-2003, 08:20 PM
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First casting

Mickley - Glad to see you back. You're right, this group has great experience and is very willing to share. Try some of those options, and let us know how things turn out.
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  #11  
Old 09-19-2003, 11:27 PM
icreate icreate is offline
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great advice!

everyone has given such great advice I don't know how much more I can share.

I got this from Deep in the Heart art Foundry in Bastrop Texas. I'll post it for others to look at. hotart@bastrop.com. I must say I also asked another foundry and there prices were very different, so before you go and quote client talk with the foundry that you will be working with.

I will also add that I make my own molds and pour my own waxes. Mostly because my foundry is so far away and I like to work my waxes. It is a lot of work, and each time I say I won't do it, but I just do. Recently I let one of my students sit in on a mold making session as a class, and her reply is "I never want to do this again!"

in the chart below the first price is mold the second is casting.
I also have a book were I put all my quotes divided up into life size portrait busts, figurines etc. That way if I come upon a job that is similar I just look it up in my book and can pretty much come up with an estimate. My foundry won't give me mold costs anymore, unless I let them do them. they will charge for mold estimates and put the cost toward the mold. New policy.

Here is a chart for getting approximate costs on your pieces. Obviously,
these are estimates, and production of an actual piece will vary. Also,
these estimates include a basic brown patina, any special requests will be
extra.

Subject--Mold Cost--Casting Cost

Bust (ending at neck)--450--800

Bust (including shoulders)--760--1300

4" or smaller (solid)--100--150

12" figure (hollow)--250--400

24" figure (simple)--700--1000

36" figure (simple)--1700--2400

36" figure (complex)--2500--3200

6 ft. man (simple)--8000--12000

5 ft. female (simple)--7000--10000

6 ft. man (complex)--10000--17000

5 ft. female (complex--i.e., lg. skirt/ lots of surface area)--9000--15000

Hope this helps.
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  #12  
Old 09-21-2003, 10:14 PM
Mickley Mickley is offline
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Hey Bridgette!
Wow! By far this is the most detailed breakdown I've ever got!
Thank you very much for such percise information. It was a real eye opener to me.
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
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  #13  
Old 09-22-2003, 01:17 PM
icreate icreate is offline
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I'm so glad I can help t has been very helpful for me to have this list as well. I can't say they will stand by these prices because every piece is so different, and tey may be different from place to place. And with patina, well I have a tendency to want to do not so simple stuff, so that costs more.

I'll go one step further and say that I just did a bust "head and shoulders" the rubber cost me about 100.00. Of course I needed rubber gloves brushes, spray etc. So lets say another 30.00. Oh yes and the mother mold of plaster and hemp. That is another 30 or so. My total is 160. I probably would have enough materials with these supplies to do two different busts.

As I work in my studio I put the layers of rubber on. Off and on throughout the day a good days work.
The next day I'll do the mother mold it probably will take 4 hours or so.

Now I know my time is worth a bunch of money so sometimes I'll train an apprentice to do this while I work on "real" work.

When I am done I have a mold that costs me about 80.00 ( remember I got two molds out of my materials) Now lets look at the list for the mold cost for a head and shoulders bust. That is 760. Two would be 1,500. And it only cost me 160 for two. NOT INCUDING MY TIME TO PUT RUBBER ON.

I also have to look at my time in another way. My foundry is 2 1/2 hours from my studio. I would have to bring the sculpture there and come home again. That is 5 hours of travel, at least, Then I have to go back to get the wax ( because remember I like to work my wax) Another 5 hours. Then go back again after the wax is worked.

You can see how much time it saves me to either do the mold and pour the waxes myself, or have an apprentice do them.

I know that is not the same circumstance for everyone, and I wish I didn't like having my hands in every part of the process. I just can not find a way to create in clay, and finish. I must do things in the wax.

Here is something else. IF the foundry makes the mold and gives you the wax to work, without doing any work in it at all, be sure you ask for a discount for cleaning the wax. I mean they would have to clean up seams etc. if they did it.
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  #14  
Old 10-09-2003, 05:03 PM
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I must say that the prices are intimidating. Absolutely intimidating.

Pardon my ignorance on the issue but is the bulk of the cost due totthe type of alloy used, (bronze), or the labor involved..?


What are some other alloys that any of you have had success casting?
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Old 10-09-2003, 09:18 PM
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bronze casting costs

obseq - Most of the cost of bronze casing is related to labor - skilled labor. Read through a couple of the posts above, and you will see ways to reduce the cost greatly - by making your own molds and waxes, for instance; by getting the foundry just to make the cast, and then finishing it yourself; and so on.

Of course, all these options require that you develop similar skills, and that can be done through a university or art school, through an artist’s co-op, or by assisting in a foundry.

As for the alloy, I think aluminum is in the same price range as raw bronze, so an aluminum cast probably would cost about the same. My founder told me once that he had made aluminum casts long ago for someone who especially wanted aluminum, but he had to charge about the same. Aluminum would require separate crucibles and melts lower, but otherwise the process is similar.
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Old 10-09-2003, 09:49 PM
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If you're a foundry, 90% + of your "cost" is probably in materials and overhead, and only 5 - 10% in "labor". (Studies say that's true of all manufacturing businesses, though they're all obsessed with reducing and complaining about that 5-10%.) As a sculptor or other customer of a foundry, though, the "price" you pay is mostly for "labor", or "labor avoidance". Because if you elect to do your own casting it requires an awful lot of your time, doing mundane and unpleasant work; time which could otherwise be spent CREATING NEW ART. Not to mention that it takes special and expensive equipment. I have a real love/hate relationship with casting metal. Aluminum is much cheaper than bronze, and it melts at only 1100 degrees F, so you can melt it on a stove. But it's a nasty process. Iron can be cast into green-sand molds, which are cheaper and less technology-dependent than Investment shells; and iron alloys are cheaper than bronze. But it's still grunt work. And all alloys put off dangerous fumes when molten; and there's the chance of pouring it in your shoe and/or burning your house down; and at best you still end up with all that waste sand or investment material dispose of. So the foundry's "price" starts looking better and better. Bottom line though, is I can't afford to do many bronze pieces unless they're commissioned. And I like to make my own molds and waxes, and finish the casting afterwards. So that reduces the costs some, (but requires labor).
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Old 10-10-2003, 02:50 AM
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flat cash fee at a university?

I might have some contacts at my old school where I can probably pay some grad's out of the pocket for the work, thereby avoiding the tremendous costs of a professional foundry.

What would be a fair amount to offer for a medium-large piece?
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Old 10-10-2003, 10:11 AM
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I think Fair is in the eye of the beholder. You'll have to put some offer on the table and negotiate. All of the info given above should get you into the right $ neighborhood.

The foundryman quoting the same price for aluminum castings as for bronze reminds me of a story. In ancient Europe, Church bells were a leading product for bronze foundries. The foundrymen traditionally told the wealthy clergymen and nobles who were their customers that the finest bell-tone was produced by adding gold to the bronze. The more gold the finer the bell. This was metallurgical nonsense, and whatever gold was offered them for this purpose went in their pockets rather than into the melt.
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Old 10-10-2003, 07:53 PM
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casting costs

jwebb - I don't want to dispute your analysis of costs, but my experience is that I can reduce costs by something like 50% by doing most of my own work - essentially everything but the casting itself.

As for metal costs, I haven’t looked at ingot costs in about 6 - 8 years or more, but the last I remember is about $2.50 - $3 for silicon bronze, the preferred sculptural alloy, and something like $2 - $2.50 for aluminum. Scrap in both metals is available, of course, and in the 1960's when I took my first sculpture courses at my teaching university, all sculpture students were required to get their own metal at scrapyards. The ‘bronze” mostly was brass faucets, and the “aluminum” probably was magnesium - aluminum alloy in the form of lawnmower and motorcycle engine heads and pistons.

That’s the basis for my saying metal costs are similar. Of course, overhead includes the foundry building with molding, wax, and finishing space as well as casting room, plus tools and energy costs. Of these, only energy would be less with aluminum, and a foundry which specializes in bronze would need extra investment not only in one or more crucibles, but in grinders and other finishing tools for the aluminum. Not to mention special attention to whatever patina is desired.

Most aluminum probably is allowed to finish in a natural color, as the natural aluminum oxide is clear and very tough. If colors are desired, those must be added with an electrolytic bath, and I doubt any foundry not specializing in aluminum would agree to do that.

I welcome any comment. It would be educational for all.

Last edited by fritchie : 10-10-2003 at 07:55 PM.
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Old 10-11-2003, 09:50 PM
jwebb jwebb is offline
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Comparing the price of bronze vs aluminum lb. for lb. doesn't really tell the story. Aluminum weighs ~ .098 lb. / cu. inch, or 170 lbs/cu foot. Bronze (being mainly copper) weighs ~ .323 lb. / cu. inch, or 560 lbs /cu. foot. So to make a given sculpture, with a given wall-thickness, volume, and surface area, requires more than three times as much bronze as it would aluminum, in lbs.

My point to the asker of the initial question here was just that "costs" and "price" are not necessarily the same thing when it comes to metal casting. I agree with you about doing much of it oneself being the way to go, not just for the economics, but to keep direct control of the piece as it evolves. But you pay for that with time invested.
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Old 10-12-2003, 07:11 AM
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more on bronze costs

I stand corrected about the quantity of metal involved, and you are quite right about one's personal time. I often forget that myself, but do feel the serious limits on what I can do because of various time commitments. And, again, you are right in that the main reason for doing the work yourself is the creative involvement. I find my work far better when I do the final wax and bronze work myself.

It would be great to have a clone or a great assistant with our own ideas and abilities who would finish the work, but that is most commonly not available.
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Old 05-02-2004, 09:19 PM
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Re: Bronze Casting costs?

Bronze casting costs
are prohibitive- I lost one job because I bid it by just doubling the price the foundry quoted $18,000 for a lifesize(6ft) figure--I would do the lifesize clay and make the mold, then they would cast the wax, and I would retouch, then they would cut it up and cast the pieces and clean up sprues and weld together- this didn't include patination. I lost the job to a "foundry sculptor" whose bid was just over 20,000-----

Maybe that's why I developed the resin approach----see my latest post "patination"

Now I'm bidding more bronze pieces, and finding the same dilemma. Three foundries I called were within 5% of the above.

I found a foundry in China who says they will blow-up the lifesize clay from my macquette, make the mold, cast the wax, cast the bronze, clean it up, and deliver it (to the nearest deepwater port)for less than 1/2 of the aforementioned 18,000----only trouble is that the anglo faces which they have done look a tad goofy-----so I'd have to go there to rework the clay, and retouch the wax-and probably return to rework the patination--a tad more'n the 5 hr trip, but puts me in a reasonably compeditive position---I dont mean to be niggardly, but if I'm gonna work on something for months, and bear the financial risks, I think I've earned at least as much as the foundry folk-------

I'm conflicted, part of me is agast at the thought of taking work from local workers, and another part of me wants to make a decent living.

What is the downside here?
Am I missing something important?

rod
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Old 05-03-2004, 10:06 AM
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Re: Bronze Casting costs?

Eighteen grand seems very high to me. I'd say to try more foundries. You're in the midwest, and I don't know the midwest, but it seems like a full figure should be had for around ten. Cleveland and Cincinatti and Milwaukee certainly have a lot of bronze foundries. I know there are very good ones in Santa Fe and Sedonia (they're midwest to me). But I'd also say stick to your guns on the pricing of the sculpture. I know a lot of contractors who employ the same principle - estimate the cost of materials and double it. I think it's more than fair. Those who undercut that price are earning what they get by a lot of hard work, and the consolation is that their work is not as good as yours. The company I work for has tried some of those cheap Chinese foundries for such things as grates and tundishes, not bronzes, and it's been a bit of an adventure. Their techniques are at least 50 yrs behind the West, though that is changing quickly. And shipping costs and delays can eat up a lot of the savings. Just for the heck of it, try getting a quotation from Valley Bronze in Joseph, Oregon; and Maiden Bronze in Sandy, Oregon. Even with shipping it might be worth it, and they both do excellent figurative work.
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Old 05-03-2004, 10:35 AM
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Re: Bronze Casting costs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by jwebb
......... getting a quotation from Valley Bronze in Joseph, Oregon; and Maiden Bronze in Sandy, Oregon. Even with shipping it might be worth it, and they both do excellent figurative work.
Ok: followup question:

when the foundry is done' I'm assuming the piece is cleaned of sprues and welds and grinder marks------about patination

¿Does one work with the founder to develope the patina? And/or, is it usually done at the foundry or studio?

¿Anything more?
There are huge gaps in my knowledge base in this area of the art.

rod
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Old 05-03-2004, 01:40 PM
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Re: Bronze Casting costs?

The price I ask for is for the finished piece, fully welded and blended, with all gates, sprues and flashing removed and blended to contour, and with a clean sandblasted surface. My experience is not all that great - in fact it is limited, but I've found that foundries all want to do all the finishing, especially the patination. They sell patination as if it were the most important part of sculpture, which most of the "buying public" happily goes along with. But they are not sculptors. Their taste usually runs to multi-hued very "painterly" patinas, some of which don't look like bronze at all. Many people like that; and of course they pay for it. Personally I prefer more traditional "naturally weathered" bronze patina, and like putting it on and buffing it out to my own taste, back at my place. Fritchie knows a lot about patinas, and has expounded about them elsewhere on this site. From what I've seen of your work, you seem to achieve the special coloration you like very nicely with the fibre-glass type materials you usually use. I'm not sure a foundry could match that in bronze, or if you'd want them to.
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