Photography by Michael Walsh

Photography by Michael Walsh

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based artist Michael Walsh was recently seen in molten metal action at Maker Faire Pittsburgh doing several live metal casting demonstrations. Those that attended Maker Faire Pittsburgh enjoyed seeing and participating in the process.

Pouring Molten Metal

Walsh and crew showcased the process of sand casting, ceramic shell moulding and open-faced metal pouring. Walsh and crew gave the audience a special treat during the open-faced metal pour as they interacted with the molten metal to create one-of-a-kind abstract pieces as the metal cooled. Throughout the day they used a crucible furnace to melt and pour bronze and aluminum into the moulds.

Walsh first learned the process of metal sand casting in 2007 from fellow Pittsburgh artist Ed Parrish. Walsh has a background in both graffiti art and metal fabrication. “At one point the two organically came together” said Walsh. His background as a graffiti artist and his heritage growing up in Pittsburgh, a city built on the production of steel, was just the right mixture for fusing together both his love of craftsmanship and his first love, graffiti art, into a 3D process.

Here he takes us through his sand casting process:

Pattern Making for Sand Casting
The first step in the process is to create a pattern. Walsh uses a variety of methods to create his, but most often he creates a pattern either with foam or 3D printed parts.

Flask with Patterns for Sand Casting
The next step is to create a receptacle for the pattern. This is also known as a flask.

Ramming Sand into Flask
The flask with the pattern is now packed with sand in a process called ramming. The sand is usually a mixture of fine silica sand (what is found on most beaches) and a binder like water, oil, or resin.

Once the sand is packed the pattern is removed, leaving behind a cavity. This cavity will fill with molten metal to create the sculpture.

Moulds prepped for Molten Metal
The moulds are then prepared for the molten metal pour.

The molten metal is then poured from the crucible or ladled into the pouring cup of the mould. In this example aluminium is being poured
. Excess metal is poured off into a small cast iron receptacle. Cast iron baking trays work great. These will cool off and become ingots to melt for future metal casting.

Cast metal before finishing work.
The metal is allowed to cool and then taken out of the mould. Pictured above is the casted metal sculpture before Walsh does the finishing work.

Finished sculpture
Finally, the sculpture is finished after polishing and removing any excess aluminum.

Walsh is currently working on opening a new studio for metal sculpting and metal casting in Pittsburgh called Catalyst Metal Arts in partnership with artists Ed Parrish and Casey Westbrook.

For more information about Walsh’s work, check out his website, and his Instagram.