Yes, with a lot of help, and God’s protection, I finally did it!
I have successfully bronze-cast the hilt and pommel for my Excalibur, and here are the pictures. Zondervan is going to photograph this blade for the cover of my novel, MERLIN’S BLADE, which will come out February of 2013.
I will begin with a photo of the finished blade, and then start at the beginning and show the casting part of the process.
This is the completed blade. The bronze came out more golden than I expected, but I don’t mind! Also, the handle is longer than I had originally designed, but it fits the length of the blade better and makes it a proper hand-and-a-half sword.
This is the “flower-pot” furnace I used to melt the bronze.
This is the molten bronze cooling in the pommel mold.
Here is the pommel once the mold has been broken open. There is a LOT of cleanup needed here.
Here is the hilt fresh from the mold. EVEN MORE cleanup needed!
This is the finished pommel ready to put on the blade. I wanted to use real glass inlay, but the cleanup process required filling some voids with steel epoxy putty, and this putty could not handle the high temps to do glass enamel. As it is, I used red plastic resin instead. Not as authentic, but still, it looks really cool.
Here is the hand-carved, hand-painted, finished cherry-wood handle, which I antiqued.
And here a closeup of the hilt!
This photo shows just how beautiful and shiny this bronze can get!
At the beginning I mentioned God’s protection, and this is true. The first time that I prepared to pour the molds I was using a thick cast-iron pot as my crucible, and it melted through before I could get the molds out of the oven and bring them outside.
This meant the bronze was ruined with melted iron, charcoal, and angle-iron in a huge, expensive mess, but this was grace upon grace. I spoke with a middle-ages expert on bronze casting the next day, and he said, in effect …
You weren’t using pure plaster molds were you? If you’d poured into those molds then the bronze would have exploded from the molds like a volcano!
It turns out I had stupidly prepared pure plaster molds. Why? Because I thought bronze casting was the same as pewter casting, just with a harder to melt metal. Boy was I wrong.
The bronze is so hot at 1800+ degrees that it breaks the chemical bond between the plaster and the “hidden” water, releasing it. The water turns instantly to steam and explodes the bronze outward.
If the cast iron crucible hadn’t melted through, I probably would have ended up in the hospital with very serious burns.
So, for the next cast I mixed the plaster with fine-grain silica sand, and with a newly purchased used kiln, burned the chemical/hidden water from the molds at 900 degrees. This cast ended in failure, however, because I had sprued and vented wrong.
The final cast saw the bronze bubble in the molds, something I had seen the first time with the pommel mold. This meant a lot of pitting and holes, but I was able to fill these small spots in with JB Weld Steelstik, a steel reinforced epoxy putty.
So now the blade is complete and has been mailed off to Zondervan for them to photograph for the book cover, as well as to use in a book trailer.
I’ll try to post more photos later of the “design” process that occurred just prior to the bronze-casting.
AND REMEMBER ALL YOU FANS OUT THERE:
I will be making a duplicate of this blade (except with a dull edge) to GIVE AWAY to the fan who promotes the novel the most. Yes, YOU could be the proud owner of EXCALIBUR with a hilt, handle, and pommel made by the author himself!