This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
"Our last step was to wash the mould thoroughly with clear water, and we left it to drain for a while. Now, before proceeding to make the cast," said Mr. Cantoni, "we must prepare the surface of the mould with a solution of soft soap dissolved in boiling water. About a pint and a half to half a pound of soap," he added, as he brushed the interior of the mould with the mixture, which had the consistency of thin oil. "We will let the plaster soak in as much of it as it will absorb, leaving the solution on for about twenty minutes."
At the end of that time, remarking that some sediment of the soap remained on the surface, he brushed it out very carefully, calling special attention to the fact that he used no water for this purpose. He then clipped a bristle brush in sweet oil, and well lubricated each section of the mould so that the cast would not stick to the surface.
After the mould is prepared with the soap solution, and afterwards oiled, it must be soaked in water - the longer the better - so as to stop all porousness.
"Now for our armature, to strengthen and protect the legs," he said, and proceeded to bend suitable lengths of slender iron rod, as before. These he painted with Brunswick black; otherwise the iron would probably rust, and the colour, soaking through the plaster, make red blotches. He arranged them as indicated in our photograph, securing them with a little white plaster, which the assistant had been mixing in a small basin and handed to him. Mr. Cantoni next set in its place the separate mould of the hand, securing it, with plaster, to the mould of the upper part of the back of the statuette, having first strengthened the fingers by means of an armature of stout wire, in the same manner as he had strengthened the legs with rods. The appearance of the front of the mould now was as we see it in the illustration.
With the aid of an assistant, Mr. Cantoni then fitted the four pieces of the mould and tied them firmly together with stout cord, under which, afterwards, wherever possible, he inserted wedges of wood, so as to make assurance doubly sure; for of course the several pieces of the mould must fit exactly, and the least relaxing of the cords would mean disaster. Sometimes, if there is any apprehension in this respect, the joints are fastened together, from the outside, with plaster.
The exterior of the mould was again thoroughly saturated with water, until it would absorb no more, one assistant dashing it on repeatedly with the hand, from a basin, while another mixed fresh white plaster, ready for throwing into the mould. The time for this has arrived, and we come now to the actual operation of casting.
Casting in Plaster: A Demonstration.
Appearance of the Front Mould, now strengthened with an armature.
Mr. Cantoni, first steadying the heavy mass upon his knee, turned it over, bottom up, and supporting it upon a stool, proceeded to pour in the plaster, rocking the mould at one moment and agitating it another, so that every depression and crevice of the mould was reached by the liquid. With the help of an assistant, he poured the plaster in and out, again and again until it began to set.
"Of course this may be done only so long as the plaster is liquid," he remarked. "As soon as it shows signs of thickening, freshly prepared plaster must be used. Usually three or four successive supplies of fresh plaster are necessary. An experienced moulder will always err on the safe side in this matter and renew the supply more often than may be necessary rather than not often enough. The filling and emptying of the mould is repeated until the cast has reached a thickness sufficient for strength; but it will remain more or less hollow, unless an actually solid cast is required - which sometimes is the case, as for certain small work, and for hands, for example. You must know how to make the plaster run into the parts of the mould that particularly need strengthening. For instance, the arms must be solid as well as the legs. The plaster is now running into the hollows. Do you hear ? . . . .
Casting in Plaster: A Demonstration.
The parts of the Mould having been tied together, the plaster is poured into the hollow and rocked.
" 'How long will the plaster take to set ?' you ask. About twenty minutes after throwing in the last coat of plaster. You see I have left some of the plaster in the bowl, as a guide. It will tell me when it has set inside the mould - although, as a matter of fact, the plaster sets quicker inside than in the air."
At the end of the twenty minutes, Mr. Cantoni took chisel and mallet and began to chip away the white plaster. Presently he removed the armature and, proceeding more carefully, he came to the layer of tinted plaster. Most of this he easily removed with the chisel. The little that remained in the undercutting, he picked off with a pointed tool. Presently the head and the raised arm of the statuette were discovered, and gradually the whole of the figure was brought to view. The hole made by the supporting iron at the back had to be filled in with plaster and some slight abrasions of the surface had to be made good. But the cast now was finished, and an excellent cast it was.
Defects in modelling are often disclosed in the cast which were unnoticed by the sculptor in his model in the clay. These he works on and corrects by the application of wet plaster, with a brush, whever needed, and, when it is dry, he works upon it with the steel tool. But, of course, this is none of the business of the moulder, who has only to reproduce the model.
"Our cast," said Mr. Cantoni, in conclusion, " has been produced from what we call a waste mould - as we have to destroy the mould in getting the cast out - as you have seen. This is sufficient for the first purposes of the artist who is anxious to get a reproduction of his work before his original in the clay dries and cracks. If it is desired to reproduce a number of copies of the model, it will be necessary to make a different kind of mould. A piece mould it is called. Nowadays the gelatine mould is much used instead of the piece mould, especially for small work. But, as Mr. Kipling says, 'That's another story.' The whole art of the moulder is not to be taught in a single demonstration.
"What is that ? 'You would like to know how to cast from life and how to cast small objects from nature, and something more about making gelatine moulds.' No doubt, no doubt. Of course you would. Well, your editor and I will have to talk over the matter with a view to further demonstrations."
When you get tired, stop working, for your weariness will show itself in your work. Change your labour, and it will go more briskly. Always keep two pictures in hand, and when you tire of one go to the other. When weary of both, consider your day's work clone, and lay your palette aside.