The Digital Mine, Part 3: New Meets Old with Wax Carving and 3D Printing

As I learn more about technology, I find myself combining old and new, such as the cat I carved during a class in Maine with Kate Wolf. (See page 90 in the March/April issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist.) It’s wax carving meets 3D printing for jewelry.

Even though I’m not fluent in the language of 3D technology, I managed to have the cat (above) 3D scanned, printed and cast in sterling silver for a step-by-step pendant project that I soldered together. The project consists of a quartz cabochon with tourmaline inclusions, which reminds me of the game “cat’s cradle.” The stone is circled by sterling silver cats in graduated sizes, representing their nine lives.

Introducing: Me

Education: Masters in Journalism. No art degree.

Traditional Jewelry-Making Experience: amateur soldering, fabrication, casting, lapidary

Secret Sauce: love to learn and share ideas

Design elements: figurative, nature motifs, humor

Personal Drawbacks: I didn’t know the terminology to really discuss projects and move them forward with, one of the first and best to offer 3D printing services from computer files. Yet.

Hep Cat 3D Wax Carving by Betsy Lehndorff, from the March/April 2018 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Hep Cat 3D Wax Carving by Betsy Lehndorff, from the March/April 2018 issue of Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist

Method: During a four-day class with Kate Wolf, I learned how to carve a sitting cat using lots of hand tools. Ricky McRae and Taekyeom Lee use computer apps to do this. I had the cat 3D scanned and printed by in Ann Arbor. Another company on the East Coast printed different sizes of the cat in castable wax and shipped them as sterling silver castings.

Compared to work by McRae and Lee, this is a tedious, expensive and time-consuming process. But it is a start. It also keeps old wax carving traditions alive. The addition of 3D scanning and printing technology allows me to take this lost art to new, creative levels.

Inspiration: I love it when people say, “you can’t do that.” Sometimes they are right. Sometimes they say that because they are worried about losing a way of life in an ever-changing world.

3D Printing Resources:; emailed the scans to International Manufacturing Co. for printing and casting

What’s Next? I plan to carve a Grayling trout for a Michigan gallery, and reproduce it via 3D printing and casting for pendants, brooches, earrings, and other pieces.

Read parts one and two of Betsy’s 3D printing series!

Betsy Lehndorff has been writing for Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist since 2010. You can reach her at [email protected].

Learn more about metalsmithing and gemstones in Lapidary Journal Jewelry Artist magazine!


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