Ceiling Tile Casting

A recent message sent from Carol Bartraw:

“Would love to try the ceiling tile casting. Have you written any more info on it?”

Ceiling Tile Casting is a process which was developed at Northern Michigan University by Dale Wedig and students who were in his casting class at the time. They were experimenting with different materials which could be cast into. I would not suggest this procedure to anyone if they do not have some knowledge in metal casting. This process was once called dalesofficeceilingtile casting (Dales-office-ceiling-tile casting). The new streamlined name is Ceiling Tile Casting. This process is closely related to cuddle bone casting.

Supplies Needed:

1. Old Ceiling Tiles, the older the better.

The older tiles are of higher quality and less porous. If you can’t find any old tiles, I would suggest buying one really high quality tile. A good way to see if it is going to work is by holding it up to the light. If you can see through it, it wont work. Well, it may work, but it is more dangerous. The reason you can pour molten metal into a ceiling tile mold is because the tiles have a flame retardant, fiberglass and sometimes asbestos if they are really old.

Ceiling Tile

2. Four Medium sized C-Clamps

C-Clamp

3. Two pieces of steel plate.

These do not need to be thicker than 1/16″ but it is fine if they are thick. These are going to be the size of the piece of ceiling tile tile you are casting into. The size used in class is about 8″X5″, this does not really have to be specific, you will basically have to cut the ceiling tile to be about the same size as the metal pieces. They act as a barrier so if the molten metal comes through the side, it wont spill all over, it will hit the side plate and freeze. If you are familiar with casting techniques, it is like the flask that holds the investment.

4. Hand held crucible

Crucible

5. Oxyacetylene Torch with a #5 tip or a Rosebud tip.

The #5 tip works fine, the Rosebud tip works faster.

6. Metal

I have done this process with different alloys of bronze and it is also possible with any metal used in typical casting procedures (sterling, gold, copper etc.)

7. Flux

I am not sure of the brand that we are using, but it is the same flux used in regular casting. The flux we have is a blue powder. You can probably get by without flux if your metal isn’t really filthy. If you are casting copper, you would need a special flux made for copper. You probably would find this item from any jewelry supply company such as Rio Grande.

8. Stir Rod

This can be made from any piece of steel rod.

9. 5-gallon bucket of water for quenching

10. Exacto knife or scalpel for making design in the ceiling tile. Or you can use a Dremel tool or a flex shaft to carve the tile.

Instructions:

  • You will want to carve a design into the back of the ceiling tile, don’t carve very deep, no more than 1/2 the width of the tile. Carve your design approximately 2 inches from the top of the tile, in order to leave room for the sprue and a cup to pour into. Be cautious, this process works, because there is fiberglass in the ceiling tile material, which will make you itchy (I would suggest wearing latex gloves). Make sure to carve your design with the thickest part facing upwards. Also try not to have undercuts (areas where the metal must defy gravity and move upwards).
  • Cut a U-shaped cup at the top of the tile, cut this into both halves of the mold. Make the cut about 1 1/2″-2″ wide and about 1″ deep in the middle and make it 1/4″ thick on both sides of the mold.
  • Cut a channel about 1/2 inch wide from your carving to to the bottom of the cup.
  • Sandwich the two pieces of tile together and put one piece of steel plate on each side. Put the C-clamps on, be careful not to over tighten them (stop tightening once you feel the clamp start to have resistance against the tiles, but so they aren’t wiggling all around).
  • Heat up your metal in the crucible and pour it in the cup.
  • Quench in the bucket of water once the red color is out of the metal.

Please do not try this process if you are unsure of any of the steps. Feel free to post any questions you may have!

Ce

Ceiling Tile Casting NecklaceCopper, Bronze, and Sterling Silver,
with a hand fabricated chain.

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3 Comments

Filed under College, Hand Crafted Jewelry, Jewelry Making, Metalsmithing, My Environment, Tutorials, Workshops

3 responses to “Ceiling Tile Casting

  1. Really nice blog. Thanks for giving such a information on casting metals. Conversion of metals make such a beautiful things.

  2. Carol Bartraw

    Hi Beth, I was searching for something and ended up googling my name and just found you had written this lovely tutorial in answer to my question. Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry I didn’t see it earlier and thank you! A very nice clear explanation, thank you so much!!! There are just so many exciting things to try in the world of jewelry design.

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