Those of you who cast glass know that one thing casting ISN’T, is good for your hands. Between plaster, investments, clay, coldworking, etc., casting is just about the worst thing you can do to a good set of digits. I’ve spent a small fortune on lotions and emolliments designed to bring my chapped, cracked, and generally gruddley hands back to life.

Now, thanks to an underfired pate de verre piece and Hugh McKay of fame (glassburl), I’ve actually found a casting process that helps my hands instead of hurts them. (Doesn’t this sound like a commercial?)

I forgot to take the insulating talc core into account and miscalculated the heatwork needed by my pate de verre self-portrait (part of Cynthia Oliver’s virtual exhibition April 2008), so that it came out looking more like sandstone than alabaster.

Here was the dilemma:

My molds are one-time use only, so that divesting and finding a problem in the glass means you’re pretty much hosed, at least for that mold. Normally I’d pour a new model and re-invest.. but since this was a fast, simple project I naturally hadn’t made a mother mold. (several dirty words here).

So…it’s possible to reinvest the cast glass itself, take it back up to temperature and remelt the whole thing. Trouble was, if I simply poured the plaster mix over my existing glass, the mold would take exactly the same shape, sandstone texture and all, so exactly the same piece I had now would come out of the kiln. I needed the equivalent of automotive bondo to bring the surface back to smoothness…and then have the bondo magically vaporize early in the firing without residue, so that the glass could melt down and smoothly fill in the new mold.

Thought of all kinds of substances to do this, rejected each, then Hugh suggested trying his correction formula: a 50-50 mix of beeswax and lard. Since it’s entirely organic, he said, it would vanish without a trace and give me exactly the effect I wanted. Grabbed the Crisco from the kitchen, dug out a block of beeswax and gave it a go.

It quickly formed a waxen paste that softened easily, filled in the cracks beautifully, and allowed itself to be polished. Re-invested the waxed glass, and the firing came out well-nigh perfect although stinky–the house will smell like wax burnout for the next month–with an absolutely GORGEOUS surface. I’m sold.

But here’s the thing: In the 3-4 hours I spent filling in and polishing the surface, the paste made my hands smooth as a baby’s cheek. Not only did the lard/wax soften my skin, but the polishing action–rubbing my fingers against a sandy surface–wore off all the rough spots and dead skin. Thanks, Hugh!

Hmmmm. I’m reminded that it costs an extra 20 bucks to get a “beeswax treatment” during a pedicure at the spa. Maybe I should start underfiring a piece at least once each month, and then wax it…with my feet?