This is post 1 out of 3. Here are links to youtube video part 2 then blog post 2 -the casting and then post 3 the finished coin, and it’s video. Video not done yet)
Nenana Alaska is a crossroads, of road, rail, air, and river travel. We are also mixture of cultures. ‘Nenana’ in the old local Athabascan Native language translates into “A good place to camp between two rivers.” The coin should have a tripod for our well known ‘Ice Classic,’ betting on when the ice will go out. Nenana is well known for this famous raffle, winners getting in the $300,000 range. The river and barge line should be represented. We want a dog team for our network of winter trails used for mail, and our Native influence. The train of course, that changed Nenana. Room for a road and plane?
We have two levels of overlapping governments that work together to form a single community of tribe, and city. We consider ourselves unique in the world.
I was given an early city seal to use as a design by Kat, but had to leave the airplane out, and the detail in the train was not working in early trials. I have to work with what will show up on a coin by my primitive lost wax casting methods. I did not want the project at first, and declined. Both Kat and I are known for ‘not playing well in the sandbox with others.’ A tad ‘out there.’ Artistically I cannot have tons of restrictions imposed, requiring approvals for changes, permits, insurance, bla bla. Kat understands.
Produced by artists, not engineers. “Looking like coins might have been made 100 years ago!” I joke, “They might look more like pirate treasure pieces of 8, then coins produced by the Franklin Mint!” Kat’s plan is to give the coins away, as treasures. This is phase one of the project, the designing and creating a mold stage. I joke again about the two of us,
“Born in fire, dealing in the red hot, and joy if seeing things melt! To be reborn again of magic!” She has a passion for melting glass. I’m known as a dog and pony show, who loves to sell, or turn garbage into gold, wearing many hats. Am I a writer? I do have 10 books written. “Step right this way folks and be amazed!” Clark Kent by day…..
I’ll be using the lost wax process for reproduction from a mold I create. I need to create one original to make the mold from. Exciting is, I can use local metals!
I have had an idea in the back of my mind for years, of how to get a coin design to use for a mold. My plan A is to create a black and white picture from a drawing I make, or any photo with good contrast. I send this image off to a custom rubber stamp company. One design offered, is a round 2 inches across, the size – shape of a coin. In the original plan I had thought to stamp slices I cut of round wax tube, with the surface made soft with a flame. Perhaps with a bronze heated stamp I cast? But difficult to stamp both sides! Create a one sided medallion ? See the video of how this works. I was not sure what the rubber stamp would look like, and if I might need to make a reverse image of the stamp! If so, how much detail will get lost? See pictures below.
I order one rubber stamp and think this will work, but do not like loss of detail in the tiny writing! Dang! I rework the design with bigger letters. I get another stamp made. No. I need two stamps, one for each side. A one sided coin would not be cool. Kat envisions a coin, and is covering all the costs. I have to create a 3-D mold. I am letting the design work itself out. Creativity can be like this. We move along, and discover what is possible, simply begin, and take it one step at a time. I get two stamps and plan to peel the rubber part of each stamp from the wood block, then glue them back to back as a single 2 sided finished rubber coin to create a mold from.
I frown. No matter how I work the stamp I can not create a correct reverse. I have done this with scenery and never noticed, in the reverse, the animals face the other direction. Not a big deal. However, with writing it is a big deal, as the writing now is the mirror image! I have to have another set of stamps made, for the 3rd time. I have never done writing before, because my specialty is wildlife, and I have a rule not to do anything civilized. I’m proud to be… a savage.
How am I going to get a reverse mirror image? I thought of holding the original up to mirror and getting a photo in the mirror! No, not going to work. I recalled seeing in one of my computer photo programs the ability to create a mirror image. I forgot what old program I had that does this. I hunted around and found an option to create a ‘reflection,’ using one of my free outdated programs.
I am in the program and able to tweak the stretched reflection, and later crop it for my mirror image in another free program. I download a workable train drawing, and search for barge related designs, deciding on a border rope. I do not know how to fit all this together in a picture edit program. I have no program capable of this. So I print all the designs, use scissors and paper, tape them all together and take a picture. This worked creating the cover of one of my books, so not totally experimental. Creating workable rubber stamps based on the picture is more of a guess. I do know I have to create high black and white contrast.
Finally a mirror image of both sides in the form of two rubber stamps are glued together as a coin to create a rubber mold from. This process, how and why is best understood by watching the video.
A lot going on, just a matter of what anyone might like to know, how much time you have.
I could write a book, would you still be here, 100, 000 words from now?
The project has a life of it’s own. I was always sure this will not look like a silver dollar from a mint. More like that pirate piece of 8 doubloon made one at a time with a hammer. I eagerly made silicone molds and cast the first wax. For some reason the wax lacks fine detail. I traced the issue, after several hours, to the mold itself. It’s not a stamp problem. I’m using a new kind of untried silicone. Looked similar to my usual, but might be to thick to pick up detail, or is reacting with the rubber in the stamp. I never made an image from rubber before. Due to COVID, my usually material is not able to be ordered. I’ll use something else.
I have another silicone product I meant to play with one day, and now is a good time. Plan B- or C or D or whatever plan now. More of a liquid, harder to use. Appears it picks up more stamp detail. Once I have a good detailed wax I feel confident I can reproduce it exactly in bronze. Even more cool, copper. You’ll understand in the next blog post.
This morning, I could not sleep. I have an idea for the coin mold I think will work. I’m up to play around. I’ll spend all day on it. I try spraying mold release on the rubber stamp before the silicone. Hmmm. I think I have a bubble problem. It’s like playing with silly putty. I read someplace long ago, some silicone products need to be vacuumed. I’m not big on following instructions. I vacuum the air out, hmmm. I put dye in one layer and let it get hard and put the next layer so I know where to create the seam. Hmmm. Nothing is a cure all, but may things help a little. I learn as I go. Nothing I have is perfect, not my rubber coin, the mold material. The wax, the outdated equipment. About 12 molds later I have what I feel will do the job. Given another month or more, I could learn even more. I decide no matter how crude this ends up, we must be able to read the writing, see the dates, read the city name. That’s a minimum goal to meet. And produce at least 50. I already have 100 hours into this, and not one finished coin yet. We will not discuss my various negative nicknames here. It’s not, “Man of magic.”
The casting should be the easy part! I have about a month to fill the order. I’ll keep you posted.
More posts to follow. Part 2, the casting. Part 2 video Part 3, the finish work and distribution. Part 3 video.
The pictures below show the first designs and rubber stamps
Continued with post part 2 'the casting.'