Bronze is one of the most popular materials used when making statues and sculptures. Bronze is durable and ductile, which are properties that make it ideal for sculpture. This alloy, composed of 90% copper and 10% tin, can usually last the test of time, and ancient bronze works have been found and restored. These include statues of ancient Greek sculptures, Indian deities, Roman emperors, and the like.
There are basically three ways of a bronze statue. These methods vary in the degree of difficulty, the amount of work involved, and the practical purposes that they serve.
Hammering. Hammering is the easiest way to form a bronze sculpture. This involves pounding a sheet of bronze into shape until the desired shape is attained. The details can then be etched or filed later on. This form of sculpting is possible because of the malleability of bronze. However, the pounding technique might not exactly work if you intend to have very fine details on the sculpture. Hammered bronze statues can be both hollow or solid.
Casting. Casting is done by pouring molten bronze onto a mold. This is done by first constructing a model using clay. A cast is then done over the clay mold, and then when the cast is dry, you can pour bronze into the gap through a small hole on the top. Casting is often useful for solid bronze statues. However, when the intended size is large, such as for outdoor statues, then this might prove to be expensive because of the volume of metal required. Also, casting might not be ideal for when fine details are needed.
Lost wax. The lost wax technique, also called investment casting, is ideally used when fine details are needed. This is also the most labor-intensive way of producing bronze sculptures. As with casting, a mold is first created using oil-based clay or other plasticine substance. A layer of wax is then applied over the mold. Then another layer of clay is plastered over the wax. This mold is then heated, in order to melt the clay and harden the mold. The space that the melted wax leaves will then be the actual mold that the bronze will fill in. The second layer is supported by bronze pins, to retain the shape of the mold. Molten bronze is then poured into the mold, which fills in the space vacated by the wax that was melted, and therefore “lost.”
Alternatively, plaster molds can be used if an artist intends to wait for a patron to finance or commission a sculpture. Plaster can be stored longer than clay, so this is more ideal when storage is required. Another modification of the lost wax technique is a direct wax method, in which the mold is created by directly sculpting the wax into the desired shape over a core, and then adding a layer of clay, similar to the lost wax method.
These three methods would be able to produce the base sculpture, but if fine details are needed, these can be created separately, and additional fine details can be welded onto the base structure. Any protrusions or imperfections can be sawed off, filed or polished for a smooth result.