How to Safely Get Your Sculptures to American Fine Arts Foundry

One of the hottest topics of conversation for our two businesses – American Fine Arts Foundry and AFA Supplies, is the question of how to best ship a finished sculpture to the foundry for mold-making. There are several ways this can be successfully done depending on a number of factors including composition, size, distance, and sculpting medium. There is no one way to ship a clay or wax positive, as every sculpture is different, but here are some basic guidelines you can follow.

To address this question we need to break down the sculpting medium into two categories – soft surface and hard surface. If it’s a soft material, such as an oil based clay from Chavant, Monster, or J-Mac, then the problem needs to be approached by preventing the clay from being mashed by another material. This is best done by screwing the armature base board to the bottom of a hard sided crate. Mounted securely, the clay will not touch the sides of the crate and can be easily transported by car. During the hot summer months, be sure that the clay is not exposed to heat that can cause the clay to deform or slump inside the crate. You’d be surprised how quickly sunlight coming in a car window can destroy your hard work. Firmer clays and hi-melt clays are better choices when transportation is an issue for you. A modification to this technique is to cut a large piece of plywood that will fit in the back of your vehicle, then screw the armature base board to the plywood. If done properly, the large size of the plywood should distribute the stresses and prevent the sculpture from tipping over while going around corners. Just be sure to wedge the plywood securely so it doesn’t slide around.

If you have a hard-surface sculpting medium such as foundry or pattern wax, from companies like J-Mac or Westech, then you have a simpler task. Pattern wax typically melts at a higher temperature than clay and is less sensitive to being mashed by another material. While you need to be concerned with the heat, extreme cold is actually the larger issue. Wax gets very brittle as it approaches freezing temperature and if the wax gets cold enough it can shatter with very little impact. If the wax happens to break into a couple of pieces, we can usually repair it with little difficulty and get it ready for production. To get a wax positive of your sculpt, you can pull a wax hard copy from your mold and then ship the copy to the foundry for production. Alternately, you can ship an original sculpture carved in wax. A good mold maker can then make the master mold from the wax once received. To ship the wax we find it is best to wrap it in bubble wrap, place it in an oversized carton, and surround it with packing peanuts. You can provide an extra level of protection by using two boxes and pack one inside the other surrounded on all six sides with packing material. Of course if you have an original made of wood or another durable material, you just need to bubble wrap it and ship it in an appropriate box or crate.

If you decide to ship your sculpt, here are some tips to help you get your sculpt to the foundry safely:

  • Ship wax rather than clay whenever possible.
  • Check the weather prior to shipping and be sure to avoid shipping if extreme cold or extreme heat is forecast in the coming days.
  • Use an overnight delivery service
  • Use an oversize box that leaves at least 4-6 inches of extra space between the sculpture and the box.
  • Consider sculpting in a clay that can be baked hard before shipping. (for fine art sculpting, these clays may not have the sculpting properties you need.)
  • Save yourself some money and make the mold yourself, then ship us the mold.
  • If you are really concerned about the heat, firmly affix a packet of dry ice inside the crate to help keep the clay or wax cool.
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