RON LEEP - BRONZE ARTIST - BRONZE SCULPTOR
After Ron has sculpted his original piece out of clay and/or wax, it is ready for the "mold-maker"
Ron's works are structurally complicated, and therefore can not be cast in one mold. Because of this, the original clay/wax sculpture must be cut or shimmed into numerous smaller and less complex structures. These pieces of the original sculpture are now ready for the "mother mold process".
It is at this stage, that Ron declares the quantity of pieces that will eventually be cast, otherwise known as the edition size. The maximum number of the edition is scribed into the original and will be forever present in the mother mold.
The "mother mold" is a two-part mold. The first layer or portion touching the original consists of numerous coats of a pliable silicon. This layer, when extracted from the mold, will stretch and pull away from small indentations and show all of the detail in the original piece. The second layer or outer mold is made from plaster or fiberglass to insure the structural rigidity.
Now that the mother mold (which frequently consists of many smaller molds) is complete, hot wax is poured into the mold(s) and sloshed around slowly to fill all the voids. Special care is given to disperse any air bubbles that may have occurred. This is done numerous times, until the wax in the mold is built up to a thickness of approximately 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch. When the wax has cooled, this mold is stripped. Now, all the pieces are available to once again, reconstruct the original.
The wax replicas will be visually checked, and any seams or other blemishes from the mold will be corrected. This process is called "chasing the wax." These pieces will have rods of wax secured to them and placed on a wax tree. The tree(s) with all of the pieces of the original, will have wax rods connecting the pieces together. The wax tree, which in no way resembles the original piece, is now ready for the slurry room.
Numerous applications of silica sand are applied in the form of a slurry. To capture the detail in the wax, the first coat of slurry is extremely fine & thin in consistency. The next coat of slurry looks like 2% milk; the third coat, like cream; the fourth coat, like cream with sugar in it. Finally, the application looks like concrete when nearing the final coat of slurry. The wax tree or gated piece is then set aside to dry.
After air drying for approximately 7 days, the wax replica is placed in a furnace at 1200 degrees. This process serves 2 purposes: (1) to disintegrate all the wax in the mold and (2) to heat up the mold to prevent it from exploding or cracking when the molten bronze is poured in it.
After the molten bronze is poured into the mold, it is allowed to cool. When cooled sufficiently, the mold is broken away, revealing bronze replacing all the areas that were once wax.
The pieces of sculpture and gated tree will now be separated by use of large industrial saws. Sections of the mold will be removed by sledge hammers, air tools, and finally, by sandblasting.
Next the bronze sculpture is welded back together. After grinding down all the weld seams, the original detail will be put back into these areas using pneumatic tools.
The final step is to "patina" the bronze. The sculpture is heated by a gas torch, and combinations of chemicals are sprayed and/or brushed on the bronze. These varying solutions will cause the surface of the bronze to change color. Numerous solutions may be used on a sculpture to enhance the final appearance.
The finished bronze is now mounted on its pre-cut wooden base, or, if desired, marble is added. The life size pieces are secured to their heavy steel bases for ease of installation at their permanent home.
*Note: Each individual bronze statue must go through the process of pouring a new wax mold (using the mother mold) and through the stages as discussed thereafter. Ron participates in the foundry process during several critical stages to insure his sculptures meet the highest of standards.
Thank you for your interest!