Our sourcing team’s recent trip to a brass foundry in Aligarh became a topic of much discussion at SouvNear last week. The team’s visit brought us some very exciting and worthy information and pictures regarding the art of creating brass into interesting elephant sculptures, owl figurines and frog statues and much much more…
Aligarh, a historical city in Uttar Pradesh (India) is best known for its brass handicrafts along with the famous foods and forts.
Sure to say, the process of casting brass into these shiny statues or utility articles such as door knockers is as intriguing as brass-ware is admirable to look at. These articles in brass are a result of toil, adhering to a strict procedure, by the men with expertise in this field using the process of ‘Sand Casting’.
So here, let us take you to a short trip to a brass foundry and share with you the process of crafting brass metal into shiny objects or antique-look decor items. We hope you enjoy reading these – series of steps – of melting metals, making molds, and creating casts into beautiful shiny artifacts.
Melting Metals – The Formation of Brass
The first step is the formation of brass. Brass, being an alloy is formed from melting and mixing of mainly two metals – copper and zinc in specific ratio. Copper and zinc are heated to high temperatures in a coal-fired furnace for about ten to twelve hours. Then the molten mixture of brass is cooled down on an iron base and left for solidification. After this the brass block is cut down into strips and sent for casting to the craftsmen.
An artisan holding brass strips
Mold Making – Creation of the Master Copy
In this step, a mold is created with wood or wax. This wooden or wax mold is the replica of the brass sculpture that the caster wants to cast. The mold is vertically divided into two halves. This mold is the master copy.
Sand Casting – Creating Cavities in Mold-Boxes
Sand casting is the most popular and economical method for casting brass. First, sand is mixed with clay and then treated with a binding agent obtained from sugarcane residue. This process makes the sand ready for casting and this treated sand is called ‘masala’.
The mold-box is horizontally divided into two halves. Both the parts of the mold-box are filled with sand and the master copies are placed in between them. Once the sand is tightly packed in the mold-box, the master copies are removed. The mold-box is joined and thus a cavity is created in the box in the place where the master copies were placed. A gate kept in the mold-box paves the way for the molten metal to reach the cavity.
The masala-filled mold boxes with the impressions of the master copies
Crafting Cast – Pouring Metal Into the Cavity
After the mold-box is all set, the brass alloy strips obtained from the melting of the metals are further heated in an earthen pot and the molten brass is poured from the gate kept in the mold-box. Once the mixture cools down the cast is taken out from the mold-box. Any extra metal attached is hammered off and the final brass piece is cleaned with a moist cloth to remove any masala stuck to it. The sand removed from the mold box can be further reused in the mold-boxes to cast new pieces.
Scraping – Imparting Shine to the Casts
Now, this newly cast piece is ready for polishing. The piece is first rubbed with a scrub and later it is attached to a lathe machine that spins the cast. This spinning cast is scraped with various files and chisels to bring the golden sheen on the brass artefact. In case of the sculptures cast in parts, first the parts are welded and then sent for scraping.
The final result of the caster’s efforts is a shiny new Brass Sculpture.
These beautiful Lord Buddha sculpture and Natraj statue are the creations of a team of diligent workers with immense potential and relentless dedication towards their work. It is an experience in itself to read and learn about such commendable handicrafts as that of Brass-ware.
We hope you enjoyed this short trip to a brass foundry, where temperatures, sounds, machines and tools harmonize to give us these beautiful brass creations.