A friend, Max, called and asked if I could make a magic ancient Egyptian mirror that when you looked into it you would see the future rather than your reflection. It was to be for a film he was working on, in other words a prop. Of course I said I could, not realizing I was setting myself up for a month and a half of round the clock work. The first two attempts ended in giant ten pound puddles of molten bronze, the third was sent off as the prop and the fourth I kept. Here is the wax original (luckily I made a mould!)
For the first one, the clay crucible held up fine, the clay mould however….
…is not looking so good.
The results are somewhat less than magic.
Now it pains me to admit this but this next one was cast by a professional caster, he is very good at what he does and it is thanks to him that the prop appeared in the film.
Here it is, The Magic Mirror, in Maniac, about to be picked up by Emma Stone.
Now, I knew I could do this, so I tried a third time. The mould was built better and it was going to be buried in the ground before pouring the metal in and a lid was made for the crucible to help hold the heat in. I started the fire around noon and it took eight and a half hours to melt the bronze.
Finally I’ve run out of charcoal and it’s now or never, but the intensity of the fire has fused the lid to the crucible so a hole has to be knocked into it to get the metal out.
And the result was this, pretty good with some defects where cinders and ash got into the mould.
So in some ways, this is the first Magic Mirror, a single large piece, 17 inches high by 10 inches wide that weighs about ten pounds. It has been exhibited in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the Capitol Art Foundation East Rotunda Gallery.
The Second Mirror
Max, who started the first Magic Mirror, got me to make the next mirror as well by forwarding an article about Indian bronze mirrors. Here is a link to the wikipedia entry and if I’d just read the part “It is polished for several days…” and believed it, I might not have started this project. But the clincher was that I’d recently found, ordered and obtained a book that contains the secret recipe for the alloy that makes the bronze mirror. I had to try! This mirror was cast in two pieces: a disk, and a frame. The disk was given a high polish and it did take two days, and the frame that holds it was given a patina. Both cast perfectly the first time.
Here is the grinding set up to make the mirror blank smooth.
Getting the mirror to look like this took one full day.
Next I had to cast the frame. The wind in New Mexico in the Spring is particularly bad and every day by about nine in the morning the wind was blowing strong and it didn’t subside until around nine or ten at night. The only way to cast the frame and not set the entire state on fire was to start the fire at 3am when the wind was calm and hope I got it cast before the wind picked up. Here’s what the fire looked like at 3am.
By eight am the metal is melted, the mould is hot and the wind is picking up.
Here’s the frame as it came out of the mould. I may have over done it on the sprues, but hey it worked. The frame is complete with no defects.
After a day of polishing the mirror and most of another day working on the frame, I finally put the two together.
I took it outside, set it on a table under a tree and walked away to get my camera. When I came back I saw this and for a moment couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Although this mirror appears to not meet the criteria for magic, the bronze mirror has a truly amazing reflective quality and that is something to contemplate.