It all started with heart. “My friend Michael Husted sent us a heart made with the 3Doodler and asked me ‘David, do you think this will cast?’ The result of that piece is what launched us into the exploration of using the 3Doodler for designing more jewelry,” says David Cunningham.
David owns New York-based DGC Jewellers, and has had incredible success using the 3Doodler in an unexpected way: casting Doodles and turning them into pieces of fine jewelry.
After experimenting with his friend’s Doodled heart, David found it was not only possible to make casts of Doodles, but the results were organic forms that opened up a new realm of possibilities.
"The challenge wasn’t in how we were going to make it, but rather what we were going to design with it."
“There was a relatively short learning curve in learning how to control the pen,” says David. “But the challenge wasn’t in how we were going to make it, but rather what we were going to design with it.”
For his first piece, David decided to try a pendant design. “It was a kind of work in progress,” he says. “I used the triangle tip and printed almost like I was decorating a cake with frosting. This gave me a shape that I really liked, but I didn’t know what to do with it.”
As David experimented with the shapes and forms, the end result began to take shape. “I printed the swirl wire around it and cast it, but it wasn’t until I was looking at the cast piece that I decided to antique the pattern, and set an onyx bead at the bottom that completed the look,” he says.
"We tried to focus on what we could make with the 3Doodler that would be difficult or impossible using traditional methods."
Working with brightly colored plastic made it challenging to visualize how the final piece would look once cast with metal. “We were surprised on several occasions how different the pieces looked after they were cast, compared to how they looked in green, yellow, pink, and blue plastic!” David says.
What David was really looking for when using the 3Doodler was innovation. “We really tried to focus on what we could make with the 3Doodler that would be difficult or impossible to make using traditional methods of jewelry manufacturing,” he explains.
Of course creating the actual jewelry relies on traditional methods of casting. “When we have the piece ready for casting we invest it [surround it in plaster], then burn it out overnight, and then cast it the next day,” David says. “So this is a two-day process.”
Investment casting is a process all on its own, and David works with jeweler Rob Oakley to bring it all together. “We attach wax sticks (called sprues) to the pieces and attach the sprue to a large wax base called a button,” David explains. “The button is attached to a rubber base that a steel cylinder (called a flask) will fit into.”
Once everything is set into place, plaster is poured into the flask around the Doodled piece. Then when the plaster is set, it can go into the burnout oven, where it’s heated overnight up to 1550° Fahrenheit.
“When the burnout schedule is complete there is a negative cavity in the plaster in the shape of the Doodled piece, and the flask is held at 1000°F for casting,” says David. A special casting machine is used to inject molten metal into the space left in the plaster mold, taking the form left from the Doodle. “The cast piece then has to have the sprues cut off and cleaned up, sandblasted, tumbled, polished, and stones set if the design requires it.”
How long the finishing touches take depends on the complexity of the piece. “With most of these pieces we cast several of them at once and spent three to four days from start to finish to complete a group of them,” David says.
While David was using a blend of old techniques and new technology, using a new tool meant it was important to find a distinct look that made the pieces unique. “We made a few pieces that we liked, but we decided that they could be easily made with metal wire or wax wire,” says David. “So we went back to the drawing board with them.”
What ended up making distinguishing the Doodled pieces ended up being the flaws in the process. “The organic look and variation of thick and thin, and even some of the little mistakes add to the interest and appeal of what we make with the 3Doodler.”