Ok, I’ve told you that we’re expanding to glass casting products. One thing that is important to making a good glass casting is using a good investment. And, since I’ve told you that we test (and use) the products we sell, I’m currently running some tests on casting investments. After all, if I want to sell investment, I want to sell the ‘best’ investment I can.
There are a number of popular investments out there, and I wanted to put as many of them as I could to some head-to-head testing. Now mind you, I’m just starting my testing. More will come.
So, I’ve gathered six different investments, and I’m mixing them per the manufacturer’s directions. One investment is asking for a water to investment ratio as low as 28:100, and another is asking for a ratio as high as 65:100! Hey, wait a minute. This means that some investments require 2-3 times as much water as others!
< But, I've always mixed my investment by the 'island' method ... as I add my investment to my water, when an island forms, I've got it right. Right?>
Well, not really.
Some investments are designed to be a “top coat”, or just a thin layer of investment applied directly to the model. These products will often need more water, and may have a mixed consistency of buttermilk.
Other investments are designed to be an “outer shell”, and may have a lot of fiber material in them. As such, these products won’t be able to capture the fine detail on your model surface. In fact, with all that fiber, you don’t want them to touch your model! These may have a mixed consistency of cold oatmeal.
Oh, and another thing. After weighing out the same weight of investment, I measured the resulting finished mold. The differences ranged from 19.8 cubic inches to 31.8 cubic inches of finished mold, per pound of investment.
Oh, and did I mention cost? Some investments may cost only 40 cents per pound, while others may cost over four dollars per pound.
< Agggg! Stop with the numbers already! I'm getting a headache! Just tell me, which investment is best?>
The short answer is, it all depends.
The long answer is, well, a bit longer. So bare with me for a little longer.
When we were in St. Louis for the Glass Art Society conference, we attended as many of the glass casting demos that we could. Each demonstrator would explain their process, and the materials they used. People in the audience were frantically writing down all this information. I am sure some people were thinking, “Wow! If I just use the same materials that this famous artist uses, than I can produce the same type of work.”
Ah, Madison Avenue has you brainwashed. We’ve all been taught (through advertising) that if we just buy the same clothes, sporting gear, tools, etc. that the celebrities are trying to sell us, we too can be just like them. Just ask any musician. They will be able to tell you all the details of all the bits and pieces of the instrument *their* favorite musician uses. “If I just use the same guitar, saxophone, strings, reeds, etc, I can play just like him.”
Alas, we all know, deep inside, that it doesn’t work that way.
It’s the same thing with the tools and materials we artists use. Most artists use those materials that are readily available to them. Most of us don’t have the resources to have ’special’ materials shipped in from around the world. We make do with what we can get. And, with that in mind, through trial and error, we develop techniques that (hopefully) work for us, based on the materials available to us.
< Ok, enough already! When are you going to tell me which investment to use? After all, if ARTCO is going to sell them, getting them isn't going to be a problem, right?>
I’m getting there. Let’s say that you’ve been using investment ‘X’, and you are getting ok results. You’ve learned how much water to use, and how much investment you need to make a specific mold, etc. Now, if I tell you that investment ‘Y’ is better, you might buy some to try. Hey, you’ve also got this big commission that’s running late, so why not try this new investment on it.
(You can see where I’m going with this, right?)
You don’t read the instructions that come with the investment (they come with instructions?). You use the same investment-to-water ratio you’ve developed for investment ‘X’, and you mix the same quantity that you would have, if you were using investment ‘X’.
It’s too thick. It’s too thin. You don’t have enough. You have too much. The surface texture came out all wrong. What’s wrong? ARTCO said that this stuff is the best!
See what I mean?
< Uh, kinda.>
Some investments are more of a GP (general purpose) kind, while others are more specialized. The GP investments work ok for most things, while the more specialized ones may only do one thing, but they do it better than the GP investments. When your works starts requiring an investment to do more than a GP investment can handle, you’ll need to move up to a specialized investment. Maybe even several different investments. And, when you do, you’ll have to learn how to properly use the new investment (water/investment ratios, quantities, etc.). You’ll have to do your testing. You’ll have to make your mistakes, and your “happy accidents”.
So, which is the best investment? The answer is: The one that works for you.
< You mean I read all of this, just for that? Grumble. >