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Davis, California

Sunday, April 14, 2024

UCD student discovers ‘lost art’

Apparently, you need more than a household oven to cook up an engagement ring.

That’s what Babak Sanii discovered when he decided to make – rather than purchase – an engagement ring for his girlfriend of four years, Claudia Chung. Sanii made the sterling platinum ring at the UC Davis Craft Center.

“I liked the idea of figuring out how to do it on your own,” said the senior biophysics graduate student.

The UC Davis Craft Center offered a class on the “Lost Art of Wax Casting,” which provided Sanii with the means to forge his own engagement ring. Although the class was canceled, instructor Stuart Dubois – who is also a professional jeweler – stayed on to help Sanii with his project.

The wax casting technique, in short, proceeds as follows: you shape the ring in wax and put long prongs on it, which are then attached to a long candle-shaped piece of wax. You then put these in a cylinder called an investment, which is left to harden for about three days. Once the investment is hardened, you have a mold for your ring.

This is where it gets a bit tricky; the mold is put into an oven called a crucible, a tiny box that you pour the melted metal into. The tiny box is attached to the molding of the ring. The crucible cooks and spins the tiny box, forcing it into the mold to create the ring. After several hours of polishing, the ring is ready to go.

Safety, of course, is a priority. The Craft Center provides those really big masks that you see welders wear, which, paired with an oxygen and acetylene torch, got Sanii excited.

“You get to play with the really big fire,” he joked.

Sanii made several practice rings before attempting to mount the diamond on the ring. Instead of mounting the diamond, Sanii practiced by putting Chung’s old braces in the setting where the diamond would go.

“Mounting the ring was harder than making the actual ring,” Sanii said.

Olga Barmine loaned Sanii materials and taught him how to mount a diamond. Sanii said that he could not have done it without Barmine.

“It really shouldn’t have worked, but Olga was so helpful,” he said.

The entire process took about seven months. Sanii would tell Chung that he was going to Davis to play intramural sports, as the two met on a volleyball court while they were working for Pixar in Southern California.

Sanii proposed to Chung when they were on their way to visiting Sanii’s family in Canada.

“We were going to spend the night in Oregon, and what Claudia didn’t know was that I had already booked rooms at the Kennedy School Brewery, so I pretended to be lost and she was getting mad at me,” Sanii said.

The Kennedy School Brewery is a school turned brewery. The rooms that guests stay in were former classrooms and even have chalkboards to write on.

“We were just writing random things on the chalkboard and I wrote, ‘Will you marry me?'” Sanii said. “Well, actually, no. I think I wrote, ‘We should get married.'”

Chung did not think that Sanii was serious until she saw the ring – a sterling platinum band with a twist in the top so it can sit upright on a necklace chain. The ring was set with a diamond from Sanii’s home country of Canada.

After proposing, Sanii showed her all of the practice rings that he had made. She thought that it was cool that he had used her old brackets to practice setting the ring.

Sanii and Chung are considering taking a “Lost Wax Technique” class at the Craft Center together so that they can make their wedding rings. Sanii enjoyed the experience so much and wishes to give a big thanks to “the Craft Center for being awesome, and a big thanks to Ian, Stuart and Olga for helping me.”

Sanii hopes that students utilize the Craft Center as much as possible.

“It’s wonderful having a craft center like this,” he said.

The UCD Craft Center, founded in 1968, started in the art basement and loaned tools out to art students. Now, it has classes that offer professional help in the fields of wood shopping, screen shots, photography, art, weaving, sewing, knitting/crocheting, welding and pottery.

Aaron Lee, a sophomore environmental and sciences major, has been working for the Craft Center since fall quarter and is willing to give those interested a guided tour of what the Craft Center has to offer.

“The people are very friendly and incredibly helpful,” he said. “We cater to students by providing good materials for cheaper prices.”

Many of the students using the Craft Center and Lee feel that people do not use this campus resource enough. Students can purchase quarter passes for the Craft Center for half prices now. The most expensive pass is $39; the cheapest is $12.

People can make everything from a bed frame to a bicycle at the Craft Center. Melissa Wong, a sophomore, took the screen shot class to make a T-shirt for the UC Davis crew team.

“It was really simple, after one class at the Craft Center, you’re set to go,” she said. “The Craft Center isn’t for making little-kid-popsicle-stick frames, it’s really useful.”

It’s safe to say that Sanii and his fiancée agree.

“Everyone was so nice and supportive at the Craft Center,” he said. “They took time out of their schedule just to work with and help me.”


MEGAN ELLIS can be reached at features@californiaaggie.com.


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