Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stone Bench Commission

I have now begun work on a new commission. This has turned out to be a mild winter, so work should proceed without any problems.

The functional sculpture will be carved from this 5 foot long block of Indiana Limestone.

Derrick Sheroan from JBB inc. of Hardinsburg uses their 23 ton crane to lift the 5,000 lb. block onto our rail cart.

It had extra width, so I drilled a series of holes to split off the extra stone.

We place 'feathers and wedges into the 1" holes.

Then, we hammered them to apply tension and set a crack.

The stone that came off the block is usable, and will become other sculptures.

Next, we got out the "secret weapon"; a water-cooled hydraulic chain saw with a diamond chain. I used this to cut out the notch for the seat of the bench.

The preformed bench was then rolled into the studio, where it can be worked on, rain or shine. At this point, the weight is already down to about 1,500 lbs.

This is the clay model for the bench. It is on a stand next to the stone, so that it can be used as reference at a glance.

These are the tools that I use to lay out the design onto the preform. I have printed out a scale drawing. The model and drawing are on an 8:1 scale. There is a round proportion wheel that I use to scale up measurements. For example: if something on the model is 1-3/16 inch, then multplying by 8 isn't a problem. You set the wheel at 8:1 and find the small measurement on the inside wheel and it gives you the larger measurement on the outside wheel.

I use a 4" grinder with a diamond blade to incise the design onto the stone. I have also made parallel cuts where there is a lot of stone to come off.

I break off the parallel cuts with an air hammer. The project is on its way!

Monday, January 23, 2012

mold work finished and trip to Carmel

All the work on the Tree of Life commission is basically finished, and the molds are now ready to ship to the foundry.

I wanted to add reinforcing to the large plaster mother mold for the tree branches. I used some aluminum driveway marker stakes (after using a bolt cutter to remove the reflector). They bend to the contours of the mold and the twists give something for the plaster to grab. We embedded them into the plaster mold with another layer of plaster.

Then, I trimmed the edges of the plaster mother mold with a chisel and carefully removed the plaster mother molds.

We had to cut out branches as we divided the rubber molds from the clay pattern. It was the only way to cut apart the rubber in the negative spaces between the intertwining branches.

We finally got the rubber molds separated, and placed them back into the mother mold.

These are the molds for the root sections.

Then, I built a crate...

...and gathered padding to cushion the molds for the ride across the Great Plains inside a freight truck.

I had a template made from 3/16" steel plate for the granite company to use in cutting the notch that the bronze tree will fit into. I wish that I had taken a camera with me to Ward Forging of New Albany, Indiana. They used these huge steel rollers to precision bend the steel plate (would have made a great photo...).

Now...on a personal note...
Saturday, we went to the residence of Lindsay and Will Arvin for a family gathering. This is Lindsay's mom, Emily, who is Meg's niece.

Will recommended that we try out Bazbeaux Pizza in downtown Carmel, Indiana. In my opinion, that's the best pizza that I've ever had - good call, Will!

Then, he led the way down the street to Evan Lurie Art Gallery. Check out these cast stainless steel door handles.

The work in the gallery (and the space) was top quality. I was particularly impressed with the paintings of Alexi Torres. Carmel, Indiana has a lot going for itself - check it out if you get the chance. (all photos copyright 2012 Meg White).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Demolding, and a New Year in Newport

After you make plaster mother molds over flexible rubber inner molds, it is time to de-mold.

We use a thin, flat chisel to gently pry apart the 2 halves of the plaster mother mold. Don't get in a hurry, just slowly work the blade in different points around the mold and...

...if you didn't leave any undercuts when making the rubber mold, it should come apart without too much trouble.

I use the chisel to clean up the edges of the plaster mold. This is not really necessary, but it makes for better craftmanship.

Before I put on the plaster molds, I used a heavy pair of scissors to cut the edges of the rubber mold. This gave me a strong edge and it makes it easy to pull apart at the shim. I gently work my way around the whole piece, pulling the two halves of the rubber apart.

There are still the first 2 coats of the rubber mold to cut through. I gently pull the mold apart with one hand and use and exacto to cut the thin layer of rubber that is left. You can see the green clay emerging.

When you've cut all the way around, the two halves will completely separate. You can then remove the clay sculpture part. Meg has already started reprocessing the clay into her Heron sculpture.

We clean the little remnants of modeling clay from the rubber mold.

Here is one half of a rubber leaf cluster mold, ready to go to the foundry. They will pour wax into these molds and turn the wax patterns into bronze.

On a more personal note...Meg and I spent New Year's Eve with my old college Room mate, Tom Mitts, who lives in Newport, KY (across the river from Cincinnati). We ate (and ate)...
...and drank...

...and played chess. One of the most enjoyable New Year's Eves that I've ever had. Thanks Tom! (all photos copyright Meg White).

plaster mother molds

After we finished the rubber molds on the Tree of Life commission, it was time to apply the plaster mother molds.

Actually, we use hydrocal which is much harder than molding plaster ( also more expensive). We sprinkle it into rubber bowls of water until no more plaster will dissolve. It will float on the top when it has reached the point of saturation. We gently use our hands to make sure that there are no lumps of undissolved plaster. We don't actually stir it, which would introduce air into the mix.

We soak hemp fibers in a bucket of water. We use these fibers for reinforcing the plaster mother molds. You can also use burlap or fiberglas mesh for reinforcing plaster.

Next, we apply a first coat of plaster over the rubber. If you can lay the molds flat, it's much easier to make the plaster molds.

Then, we take the wet hemp, soak it in freshly mixed plaster and spread it over the first plaster coat. We aren't waiting for the first coat to dry, we move right along with getting each piece done as fast as possible.

We then build up the mold to about 1 inch thick, more or less.

I use my hands to build up a strong edge for the mold. At a certain point, plaster will work beautifully and you can shape it nicely. That brief time between too runny and too thick is short-lived, and you have to move fast.

It took quite some time for Meg and I to finish both sides of 23 leaf cluster molds (days).

Then, it was time to put the mother mold on the Tree trunk. Since it was vertical, we applied the first coat with brushes.

We did the bottom sections first, to give support to the weight of the top portion.

I still want to add reinforcing metal rods and another layer of plaster to the top portions of the Tree. Otherwise, we're almost through with the mother mold portion of this commission.

The White Hand of Saru(wo)man! (all photos copyright Meg White.)