I have always want to make a custom iPhone case, the plastic ones are too easy to break, there are other wooden, laser etched case but there were not impressive. So i decided to make an over-the-top sometimes impractical cast aluminum iphone case.
the Lion head case was inspired by door knockers that I saw in many old classic Chinese doors. I also found that it bear a resemblance to early Nike Lebron Lion logo.
the original form is created with foam sheets, then I made a one time mold with ceramic shell investment technique. aluminium is melted at furnace at 1220 F then poured at once. the result captured most of the detail and only required minor sanding/polishing.
Step 1: Design and Create the Original Form
At first I found some lion head image on the web. one strong reference is the Nike Lebron Lion logo, which i found pretty stylish and it has a simple lion mane design which makes the separation easier.
One I have a solid concept. I began to trace the out most mane contour it must be larger than the size of the iPhone. and remember to mark the camera hole. the cut out can be done at the very end to ensure a clean cut. I was aiming for a symmetric shape but not identical on both left and right.
Once i have the out most piece cut out from foam sheet ,trace a smaller one onto a different color foam sheet. when I cut it I made some adjustment so the shape of mane on the smaller piece is a bit different.
repeat this step till I reached the desire thickness and where the head is proportion to the mane. the head is stacked up the same way, though make less adjustment on each layer. I used Elmer glue for the entire head. and hot glue to secure the teeth.
Tip. I use dull e-acto blade as clamps to hold pieces while glue dries. it pierce though and leaves almost no mark. pins are just as good.
Do it with patient. make sure each layer fits good. glue together at the end. foam sheets are very easy to cut and cheap. so discard layers that isn't neat.
Step 2: Ceramic Shell Investment.
Once the head is complete and glue is dried. cut the camera slot so camera is not blocked when using with the phone.
attach a wax pour channel at the back. because the back is flat one channel is good enough. use a Styrofoam cup as the base. chill in the freezer till the wax is harden.
procedure for the Ceramic Shell investment
3 coats of slurry ( yellow tank) -- drying -- 3 coats of slurry with fine stucco( white sand) --drying --8 coats of slurry with coarse stucco -- drying -- last coat of slurry
The shell has at least 1 1/4 inch thickness. and I could barely see the shape of a lion head.
Step 3: Casting
Once Shell is dried. it has a pale yellow color. Fire the shell in an electric kiln at 1500F for 1 hour to burn off the foam sheet and wax support. Dip one last coat of slurry once dried. fire at 1500 F again slowing over night. The next morning. pour the melted aluminium while the shell is still glowing hot. I didnt have photos of this process because I was wearing protection gears and heat proof gloves. the furnace will get so hot that sneaker sole can be melted while working.
After a few hours break the shell with a hammer. grind off the pour channel, and lightly sand the surface the ceramic shell captured the texture of the foamsheet which gives it a forged like surface.. I used Mag &Aluminium Polish by Mothers to polish . attach a chain to hang, then its done!
Of course, it is not for everyday use and it certainly does not fit inside my pocket. but if one day I want to pimp out and just hang it on my neck like an OG. it sure makes a cool iphone chain.