The Art of Molding- The first step in the production of ceramics.

Ceramic molds

We’re now starting a new series of blog posts in which we’ll go over every step on the ceramics production. Today, we start with ceramic molds and the art of molding.

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The models

The first step is the creation of the models that we want to start producing. We work with skilled artisans that have been making ceramic molds for a long time, so when we want to develop something new, we tell them exactly what we want, and they start crafting various models until they achieve the desired shapes. These can either be in clay or made in a 3D printer, depending on the design of each model.

A 3D printer model
A clay model

These models are the first representation of our future pieces. Then, we either approve or decline these results. If they are approved, these artisans start making the first mold using the shape’s model.

The first mold

After the models are approved, the artisans start making the first mold. These molds are made in plaster and can have many parts, it all depends on the shape and complexity of the desired piece.

Check out this video by clicking here, If you are curious on how these molds are made.

They are used for the slipcasting method, a process used for ceramics manufacturing in which the liquid slip is poured into the plaster mold. When the plaster absorbs the water in the slip, it leaves the clay behind. After that, you just need to pour out the extra slip that is inside and that wasn’t absorbed by the plaster and you are left with a dry clay shell.

Normally, after the first mold is done, we make a few ceramic samples using the mold to check if the results are as desired. If they are, then we proceed to making the mother mold.

A 4-piece plaster mold
A pile of molds used in our production of ceramics

The mother mold

The mother mold will allow us to make more molds so we can produce a lot of pieces without stopping. As the molds absorb the water in the slip, they need to dry from time and time, but we can’t stop our production, so we need to have a lot of available ceramic molds.

A mold of a simple non-textured piece is able to produce 100 pieces, on average. Obviously, it depends on a lot of factors, such as the quality and hardness of the plaster that was used when making it.

These mother molds are made in the same way as the first mold, but they are its negative part. For each individual part of the first mold, a mother mold needs to be made.

As you saw in the picture above, the mold I posted is made of 4 individual parts, so we need to have a mother mold for each one of them.

In the video below, you can see all the parts of the mother mold required just to make the final mold (seen at the ending).

All the pieces of the mother mold

These mother molds can be made in plaster, but also in silicone. For some shapes that are very textured, we usually make the centre of the mother molds in silicone. This way it’s easier to “unstuck” the molds from the mother mold when they are dry and without damaging the mother mold.

A silicone mother mold

After this mother mold is built, then we can start making lots of molds for our slipcasting production. We always keep the first mold and the mother mold, because we never know when we might need them again. (Just imagine our warehouses with hundreds of these!)

Conclusion

As you can see, producing ceramics is not as easy as it seems. So far, we haven’t even started making ceramic pieces and a lot has been done already.

We have to come up with the design of the pieces, make the model, build strategic molds that may require lots of parts and build a mother mold that will provide us with lots of molds for our production.

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See you on the next step: the slipcasting method.

If you have any doubt or want to ask us something, feel free to…

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3 thoughts on “The Art of Molding- The first step in the production of ceramics.”

  1. Pingback: Slip casting of ceramics | Handmade | Ceramics Production | Sporvil

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