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Cuttlebone Casting

I learned how to do this ancient casting technique while taking a metals jewelry class, and it's easy and safe enough to do in my garage with my kids as a craft project. The natural texture of the cuttlebone shell can be brought out to yield a really distinctive pattern, or you can press objects into the shell and make "copies" of things with impressive detail.

A while back, I had a great Misfit Psycles mountain bike, but it arrived with only a cut vinyl head badge. It was a small bike company that was just starting out, so this could be forgiven, but their cool flaming skull logo begged to be so much more, so I decided to make a more appropriate badge myself out of cuttlebone cast pewter.

Using a piece of wooden banister as a stand-in for the curve of the bike's head tube, I sculpted the skull logo into a concave piece of cuttlebone and managed to seal the two pieces together tight enough that I didn't have any leaks during the pour. The result was better than I imagined, and I gingerly managed to get a second pour out of the mold before it deteriorated. After clean up with a file and emory paper, and a little nitric acid petina to bring out the detail, I had two really bad-ass head badges.

Since I only needed one for my bike, I decided to send the second one to Peter at Misfit Psycles up in Canada as a little present for making such fine bicycles. He liked it so much that he had it duplicated by a fabricator and production run done in both aluminum and brass. The badge design became a premium option on all of his new bikes, and I almost ran off the trail the first time I saw another flaming pewter skull pass me on the trail.

commercially produced head badges
Aluminum and brass copies as sold by Misfit Psycles
Carving the cuttlebone
The carved mold and paper pattern. Air vents are cut to keep trapped air from keeping the pewter from reaching the bottom of the mold
The mold ready to pour
The mold and wooden stand in ready to be bound together for pouring
The finished head badge
The pewter badge after petina and finishing.