Saturday, June 26, 2010

Beating the Heat

It has become unseasonably hot, with heat indexes over 100 degrees.

I was eager to use the water-cooled polishing tool for shining up portions of the granite bench "Felicity".

After I finished polishing the bottom and the "B" side of the sculpture, I stood it up and moved it onto a work table. I have to polish the "A" side (shown) and portions of the top. That's not OSHA approved footwear for this kind of work. But, I'd let the water spray soak me, as I'd polished the stone. It was a real comfortable way to spend afternoons with temperatures in the mid 90's.

This is what the "B" side looks like. Portions of the side and bottom have been polished to 3000 grit, which has brought out a dark grey-blue color. The leaves have a matte finish of 200 grit, which brings out a light blue-grey color. The chisel texture on the vines is a sparkly peppered white. Meg composed this picture to frame her bear sculpture inside the curve of the bench.

This is the view of that same side, that was posted on the June 6th "Felicity" post.

A week ago Friday, my task was to install the rails leading into the new stone studio. It seemed like that should have been an easy job, but it was a long, hot day's work.

Monday, we had Breck County Ready Mix send over their monorail truck to lift Meg's grizzly bear onto the cart.

Bear on Wheels. Randall, the driver of the monorail truck, was nice enough to help me push the bear inside.

Our neighbor, Steve McMillen, mowed some of our lower field, but left this great patch of Lizardtail. He also left us a big patch of Blackberries.

Kilroy was driving. (all photos on this post by Meg White)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

St. Mary's Cathedral

June 16th was Tom Mitt's birthday ( a day after mine). His choice for a daytime activity was a trip to St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky.

The exterior of the building was based on the cathedral at Notre Dame.

The entire stone exterior is a masterful example of stone work. The numerous gargoyles and embellishments represent thousands of skilled man-hours of intense labor. I would love to have the chance of examining these pieces close up.

The interior is gothic, modeled after the Abbey Church of St. Denis. There's a mix of domestic materials, such as the Tennessee marble floors, and materials brought over from 'the old world' (Italian marble and German wood, etc.)

Wood carving was my first love, before stone. There is a profusion of fantastic wood work - all in excellent condition.

Around the walls are 14 mosaics in porcelain and mother-of-pearl with imported marble frames. Pictures cannot capture the subtlety and masterful rendering in these mosaics. It's about this time that I'm going into sensory overload. It can't all be grasped in one short visit.

Looking up, there are hundreds of square feet of intense stained glass works. The whole experience is overwhelming! Good call, Tom - much better than my choice for Ft. Ancient the day before.

As a way of clearing our 'mental palate', Tom took us down to the waterfront. He pointed out that they are installing a Christo wrapping of an old Cincinnati bridge (just kidding).

We were mobbed by the resident flock of Canadian Geese and Mallard Ducks, who relieved us of our extra pringles. That reminded us that it was time for our first snack of the day (it being 2 p.m.). Our 'breakfast of champions' was 3 pounds of hickory smoked beef brisket and a bunch of sides. You can do that kind of thing at least once a year. Happy Birthday, Tom. (all photos by Meg White)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ft. Ancient

Tom Mitts invited us up to his house in Newport to celebrate our birthdays, which are 1 day apart. As a day time activity, we decided to visit Ft. Ancient, which is a complex indian earthworks located a few miles north east of Cincinnati. (most photos on this posting by Meg White).

Upon arrival, everyone's attention was caught by feathered shafts sticking up out of a trash can out in front of the museum.

Instantly, I realized that they were atl-atls. There was a stream of visitors who were giving it a try - once it was explained how it worked.

Meg (in her White stripes T shirt) knew how to handle an atl-atl. We have a friend, George Nall, who makes them and had brought some out to our studio for us to try. (photo Tom Mitts)

It was all new to my friend Tom. "Like this?"

" this."

There was a sign next to the museum that said "Stone Circle trail". That appealed to my celtic nature, so we set off to see the stone circles. We had trouble finding them. The sign to the right of the picture said that there were 3 stone circles a few feet to the south east. We're not looking for the stone circles in the tree tops. We're trying to figure out from the sun which way was south east.

" a stone circle?" I was expecting...I dunno...maybe a circle...of stones. Not a thin rock pile almost completely obscured by forest debris.

Equally underwhelming, was my visit inside the Ft. Ancient Museum. As weird as this sounds, there were no Ft. Ancient culture artifacts in the Ft. Ancient museum (none that I saw, anyway). I would have guessed that they would have found all sorts of cool stuff at Ft. Ancient over the years, but if they did, it wasn't very well represented in the museum. I thought that I might see 'museum-quality' artifacts inside the museum (silly me). What I saw was mostly empty walls. There was a lot of signage and 'interpretive' displays with a smattering of low-end (common) artifacts with major condition problems (and poorly labeled). Anything that was cool was a replica, but that doesn't bother me, as you can get a lot of information looking at a good casting.

Besides a lack of Ft. Ancient Culture items, there were no Glacial Kame items, no mention of Flint Ridge, no cones, discoidals, Birdstones etc etc. I would have expected to see representations of all the major point types and slate artifact forms that are found in Ohio. Ohio has a richness in prehistoric heritage that goes beyond science - there is an incredible variety of ancient art pieces in pottery, flint and stone. The museum was curated in such a way as if to say ..."isn't archaeology boring - we never find anything of signifigance. So, just leave it to the professionals. Move along, move along."

On the way back to Tom's place, he pointed out that they are putting the finishing touches on what will be the tallest building in Cincinnati.

Tom is an incredible cook. He had the best tomatillo-based salsa that I've ever tasted in my life. Steaks, ribs, Cornish game hens, etc. etc. The idea was to have too much good food.

Mission Accomplished! Happy birthday to me.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I've been working on a granite bench called "Felicity", which means 'fruitful happiness'.

The first step involved transferring the design onto the preform.

After that, I cleaned up the inside radius.

I used a carbide tipped drill to help remove stone from hard to reach areas.

Even though I was a long way from finished with the first side, I stood the piece up so that I could work on the other side.

This was the progress on the back side at the end of this week.

Carving granite is very different from carving limestone. One of the best techniques involves using this big carbide-tipped chisel to decisively drive off pieces of stone. The air hammer is almost ineffective - the chisels just bounce off. Silicon carbide sandpaper is worthless. You have to use diamond for shaping and finishing - although you can get a lot of stone moved with carbide, such as drilling or pitching off corners.

These are the diamond blades that I've already gone through on this project so far - and I'm a long way from finished!

...and speaking of 'fruitful happiness'...Happiness Is...but a morsel away. (photo Meg White)