Silver Casting Made Simple
Casting silver for small pieces is rather easy, and not very expensive. First one must gather the necessary items:
Plaster of Paris:comes in powder form, mix with water and will harden quickly.
Soda can cut in half
Propane Torch: one from ACE for $10 will work fine.
Brick: red, of the variety that make up building and get tossed through windows.
Silver Ignots: a little trickier to get. RioGrande out of New Mexico sells it by the ounce for about $7. That would be for Sterling Silver, which is 92.5 percent silver and the rest zinc or other metals. Fine Silver is 99.9 percent silver, and looks great but is very soft. An ounce makes a good sized pendant. Or you can melt down some old silver spoons, but most of the ones out there are only silver plated, which won't work for rendering.
Something to Cast: with this method of silver casting, fine detail cannot be achieved. You can either use something small, about the size of a quarter, and make a silver copy, or carve something out of wax. If you use wax, it must be burned out of the press casting before melting any silver. Choose something small and not having any fine detail..if it does, don't expect that to show in your final piece.
Polishing Compound: can be as simple as your roomates toothbrush and toothpaste, or better yet, any silver polishing cotton, can usually be found at hardware store.
Misc Items: bowl of water, pack of matches, fire extingiusher, drill with small bit, small metal file
Now for the fun part. First step is making the mold. Following the directions for the Plaster of Paris, make up a small batch. Pour into the half of soda can, flush with top. Let it dry until it is still moist, but not firm. Press in either the piece you want to cast, or the wax carving. Assuming the piece has a flat surface on the back, don't press it in too deeply. Let dry, make sure there are no cracks from pressing in the piece.
Mold nice and dry? Good. Remove mold from can. At this point, carefully pry out the piece you stuck in the mold. Be careful, it's easy to ruin it at this point. Once it's out, clean out any detrius from the cavity, and you can also touch up the detail with a small dentists pick or pin. If you used wax, you would burn it completely out with your torch, instead of prying it out (using wax leaves less chance for damaging the mold, as you can now see).
Light your torch with the matches. Turning on the torch valve to about 1/2 way open would help. These things cannot blow up, so don't worry about blowing apart the trailer park. Your neighbor who builds pipebombs in his spare time will probally accomplish that sooner than you will. Starting with a few pellets of silver, drop them in the mold and melt them. They will form into one blob when melted. Always keep the flame on that blob. Add more pellets and keep melting. As the mold fills up, you will see it bulge up over the lip of the depression of whatever you stuck in there. Once it is, take off the flame, and quickly but firmly tamp down on the top of the mold with your brick. Pick up mold, put in the water bowl. It will probally crack apart, but may not-pry out your piece. It's almost done.
Turn off the torch, by the way. Good. Now you have a black little lump of metal in your hand. Using the polishing compound, remove all that black stuff. Nice and shiny? Great. Drill a hole in it if you wish, or melt it down and make something else.
There are a lot of resources on the web for casting silver and getting supplies, a simple query in Google will provide plenty of help.