New Designers 2011: as the value of copper increases, product design graduate Oscar Medley-Whitfield has minted a range of copper-bullion bowls so investors can display their assets at home.
His Worth the Weight project involved finding a suitable low-tech way to cast copper in the teaching workshops at Kingston University.
The material tends to absorb oxygen when molten then become aerated and brittle when cooled - not very useful for making ingots.
He settled on a traditional Japanese technique, shown in the movie above, where molten copper is poured into a cloth inside a pan of boiling water.
This slows the cooling process and reduces the amount of oxygen incorporated, resulting in a pure and dense casting.
Medley-Whitfield developed the project in his final year and presented it at graduate show New Designers, which took place in London from 6 to 9 July. He also showed a series of benches that rely on each other for support. See all our stories about New Designers 2011 here.
The details below are from Oscar Medley-Whitfield:
Worth the Weight
The un-Final Collection
Worth The Weight is a project driven by an insight into the worth and projected worth of the commodity, copper.
It is an experimental, material and process lead project that is focused around developing a method of casting which is suitable for copper.
Copper is a difficult metal to cast with as it has a tendency to absorb up to 100% of is own volume in oxygen when in its molten state.
This makes it extremely hard to get refined results from the casting processes as the additional oxygen creates air pockets leaving the finished object with an aerated texture and brittle composite. For these reasons copper is little cast within industry.
The cloth mould water casting process tackles the issues surrounding copper casting in a number of ways. The lack of oxygen in water ensures a more refined surface finish then conventional moulds. It also supplies a slower cooling process, which gives the metal a dense concentration.
Although the bowls are presented and finished as a final collection they are in no way demonstrations of cloth mould water castings full potential. Each bowl is a show of slight variation on the process and with each variation comes new opportunity for process refinement.