Lost Wax


The “lost wax” (cire perdue) process has been used for millenia to produce cast metal sculptures, usually  bronze, that are hollow. Making them hollow is essential, because otherwise, the piece would be enormously heavy, even if small, and too expensive to produce.  The clever technique for producing a thin-shell casting can also, with a few additional steps, produce a master that can be reproduced at will.

Considering how important this process is in the history of art, I am amazed at how difficult it is to find a decent explanation of it. Without clear diagrams, the lengthy narratives of the process are impossible to follow, and among the many illustrations I found, all seem to leave out one crucial step or the other!

Just to keep my own thinking on the subject straight, I created my own diagrams.  Click to enlarge them.

Direct Lost Wax Process:  no multiples

Indirect Lost Wax Process:  multiples

2 Responses to Lost Wax

  1. ericjbaker says:

    Cool topic. I became fascinated by the Lost Wax method when studying classical art in college (academically, not as a practitioner. I wish). Conceptually, it’s brilliant, yet uncomplicated once understood. The execution is another story. My sculptural skills extend to sticking toys in play-dough and observing the impression, so I can’t imagine the refined skill required to render a large-scale piece.

  2. Lichanos says:

    Yeah, there are many fine points in the process!

    Leonardo’s monumental Sforza statue is the object lesson on problems with scaling up the process…

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