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..... .... ....make a resin Sculpture or figure models?

I have a passion for Chess, and have wanted both an Isle of Lewis Chess set and a garden Chess set for sometime now. Lois and I will be moving house again in a few weeks time, and I will have access to a garden for the first time in almost 6 years, as you can possibly imagine I am looking forward to the additional space: Beehive on the garage roof, BBQs on the lawn, home brewing in the shed, the opportunity of having the space for a pair of Huskies, and to move Paddy my Red Tail Hawk from Mews at a friend's of mine, along with half a dozen POL or rescued chucks for Lois and a Veg patch.

However, I really want a garden Chess set, and an Isle of Lewis garden Chess set would be a dream come true for me. Alas, these are very few and far between and excessively expensive to purchase.

I have a plan ..... almost a cunning plan, but I need a little help and guidance from those in the know.

I have found three hand made pieces from a Lewis garden Chess set on ebay, albeit made from cast concrete. At 40 cm/16 inches tall they are of about the size that I want, but being made from concrete I would estimate that they would be too heavy to play with.

The Capital pieces from a standard size, cold cast resin made, Isle of Lewis Chess set:

The Pawns for the same Isle of Lewis chess set:

The three, 40 cm/16 inches tall, concrete Isle of Lewis Chess pieces that I have found on ebay:

My plan is to sculpt the pieces myself from wax over a plywood framework, and make a latex rubber model from the wax model, which I will then use to make hollow, cold cast resin Chess pieces from.

Does any one have any experience of these processes: The sculpting in Wax, laying up latex to make a mould, and the resin cold casting to make the actual pieces?

some experiance yes but it can be very costly, price up the cost of the resin you will need for a start as it will probably be enormous......

I have made latex moulds and cast candles and plaster in them and have also, strangely enough,  made the concrete garden chess sets so with a combination of that i should be able to help you out, the only thing I havent done is the carveing of the first model but have done a fair bit of wax casting and th like as well.
one thing to remember is you will definatly need a jacket for the mould, most likely a 2 peice fiberglass one made to fit the latex mould.

I just had a quick google and couldnt find the place I was looking for but it might be worth trying to find somewhere that will sell the moulds ready made, The place I know of 18 years ago was in hastings but I cant find them at the moment but try google, failing that I can probably tell you enough to get you started on the mould making and casting bit.

Have already thought very deeply about the costs, time and the effort involved.

I am planning to take about 12 months to complete this project. The majority of the time will spent on making the wax models as there will need to be at least 1 King, 1 Queen, 1 Bishop, 1 Knight, 1 Rook, and 4 Pawn moulds. If I choose to make the black pieces a different style from the White pieces, then I will have to double the amount of models and moulds.

I have decided to make the models from wax, and the moulds from RTV rather than latex, and have budgeted 100 for that section of the project.

I haven't yet figured out how much cold cast resin, or crushed Marble powder I will need, but CFS fibreglass can do the casting resin for 70+vat per 20 kg, so an estimate of 300 for all the materials for the whole project is a realistic ball park figure ..... obviously at this point I will not count in the cost of my labour.

However, if I managed to successfully cast this large Lewis style Chess set, the RTV moulds should be good for casting at least 10 more sets. This would make them a very limited addition collectors item, which could command a price of around 1500 or more per set.... ... ... but that is not really the main objective of this project; me having a large set of Lewis chessmen to play with in the garden is.

Lois & I, have Pilsbury and his wife; Jo staying with us this weekend, so I am looking forward to obtaining some first hand knowledge of resin casting.

My friend Nick popped around for coffee and a chat the other evening, Nick and Lois ganged up on me regarding this rather ambitious project of mine, and between them they have managed to get me to lower my sights a little (considerably), and to start by making just one piece only, so that I may gain some of the required experience before I embark upon making the whole chess set.

I have made a decision, and will start by making an Isle of Lewis Knight, this will be a 12 inch high model, and not the 16 inch size that I had originally chosen: Lois has reminded me that a Chess set made of 16 inch tall pieces is going to consume a lot of materials, weigh a fair bit, and take up an awful lot of room. So through negotiation I have agreed to the concession of reducing the size of the Chess pieces by 25%.

I am going to begin modelling the Knight master during July, and hope to be in a position to make an RTV silicone mould from this master, and pour cold cast resin in August. Hopefully, I will end up with a 12 inch high Knight looking something like these:


Today, I spent about an hour sketching out a basic profile, and marking up the first of the corrugated cardboard profiles for the Knight. I have now chosen which style of pieces from the original 4 Isle of Lewis sets that were found, and I will be mixing and matching to make up a unique set for me: The black pieces will have the hexagon tower for the rooks, the white pieces will have the square type tower for the rooks: I'll also hopefully be sculpting the reliefs of archers and culdrons of boiling oil into the rook profile:

The order that I shall be working in will be as follows.

1) Make up a full size Knight's piece in layers of corrugated cardboard dowel pinned together, I have more more less given up on the idea of sculpting in wax, as this would be far too vunerable around me, and I have in the past successfully sculpted in cardboard, then transfered the profiles to plywood and made a laminated up sculpture. This I will sculpt with a modellers knife, a Dremel and various abrasive formers made by gluing Aluminum Oxide paper to things such as biro tubes, old toothbrush handles, etc.

2) Remove the dowel pins from the cardboard model, and separate the cardboard layers, using each of these as templates to mark out 3 mm birch plywood, then cut these out with my scroll saw, and use a Dremel and the abrasive formers to finish this. This will become the first positive master blank to make the RTV silicone moulds from and will be kept in case I experience problems when making the silicone mould.

3) Cold cast in resin the first Knight piece, and rectify any problems that have possibly arisen (if successful this will be given away or more likely sold on ebay as a garden ornament to help cover the costs of the materials).

4) Cold cast the first pieces for my large Isle of Lewis garden Chess set. I shall be using ground Marble dust to colour the pieces, this will also give a stone type texture to the surface of the completed pieces.

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