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  • For Kiwi John- current stone sculpture project

    Originally posted by Kiwi john View Post
    Good evening Cliffy. Thank you for joining us. I remember reading your website earlier this year and recall the way the old masters treated you! My initial reaction was to dismiss them as old and arrogant but perhaps that is how they had to be to sort the wheat from the chaff. How bad did you really want to be a sculptor? You are certainly blessed with an incredible gift and we are certainly grateful that you have stopped by. Please post as much as you can as everyone has a part to play and value to share. Cheers kiwi john
    Figured as long as Neil is anxious for me to post some metal pics and John asked about sculpture projects, I would post a few pics of why my metal work is on hold right now. This is a memorial project to be carved in granite. I was sent a horrible (couldn't see any detail) photo of a copy of a picture as a guideline. This manufacturer uses me as an invisible contractor- I have no idea who, where, etc. I am hired, paid and stone disappears into the ?? But they pay me top dollar, so no complaints from me. I cannot really promote these jobs or vigorously advertise these projects like ones that are more transparent.

    I took all but the first three pics this morning. It's been a busy week resolving the mold and finally casting the approved clay sketch model into the plaster working model.

  • #2
    Pics of unmolding the positive, all taken this morning. Plaster is a greedy partner with which to work. Once you begin, it requires 100% attention without breaks until the project is done. Waste molds- a single use mold process where a plaster mold is developed directly upon clay, then opened, cleaned, released, charged with new plaster & carved away to reveal the positive cast- are even more demanding. Small waste jobs can easily require 8-10 hr marathon sessions with only one chance to succeed. Lots of planning. Real old world stuff.

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    • #3
      Finally, a few more pics after casting was finished. I used hydrocal for this project, which is much higher psi than plain molding plaster or plaster of Paris for the same approx cost. I Bought 100lbs (2 X 50lb bags) this week for approx $75.00. I also use dental stone, which is several time greater psi than hydrocal for some projects. It costs approx $2/lb but can be a great option for weight reduction of the the final casting. Dental stone is great stuff, but has unique qualities that aren't always an asset. So this time I went with hydrocal. Hydrocal and dental stone are also easier to keep than regular plaster over extended periods of time without becoming contaminated with ambient humidity and being rendered useless.

      I plan to start carving Monday, if not over the weekend. This project is quoted by me to require just under 5 wks @ 40hrs/wk studio labor so It's a set price, whether I finish in 2 weeks or 3 months of labor hours. I'll try to post more pics as I carve for anyone interested.

      edit- meant to add. The top of this die was contour sawed to the approx shape of the carving. This helps lower the hours required to carve. More importantly on this job, the penetration on either side of Christ's head- going straight through from front to back with square sides 10" thick- is very unforgiving to cut by hand with such limited clearance. It's safer and more practical to saw a square cut with larger equipment than I have in studio.
      Last edited by cliffrod; 09-07-2019, 02:18 AM.

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      • #4
        Impressive work!

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        • #5
          cliffy, this is one of the reasons i added this general chit chat section. i feel in having this 'chit chat' part would help everyone get to know others a little better whether it be seeing funny things and sharing or sharing what we do day to day. post away


          looks like a lot of work, but good work though
          thanks neil

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          • #6
            Thanks, guys. The WildGuzzi site I'm on is all over the road. Some rules, but lots of bs topics to wade through to find a few worthwhile threads. AMS is nicely focused but... Hopefully this chit chat section doesn't end up being lots of crude, stupid guns-sex-politics-immature crap like some off-topic areas do.

            I'm not planning to post every stone project I do. Being able to share some is appreciated. This is a very solitary way of life for many reasons. I set up my small studio 100 miles away from the regional industry center on purpose, partly to be across the street from my parents for then-future eldercare (which is now our nearly full-time present reality, which makes a "normal" job & income impossible...) and partly to have legitimate autonomy from the pitfalls of the granite business.

            Most stone business at this level is done as 10% down, net due in 30 days. So everything ships for 10% to all parts of the USA. When a buyer develops enough debt, they are then refused service and move to another wholesaler. Companies regularly call wanting a job done by a last minute contrived schedule. "we've got a truck leaving Tues and would really like to have this job on it." Truck arrives just before closing time the day before but driver "forgot" to bring/pick up the check. "Swing by the office tomorrow & pick it up." Then for some reason it's not there, my stone is hundreds of miles away and there's no easy fix. SOP. It was a very important thing to learn during my apprenticeship. Not a directed actual lesson, but one learned by paying attention and observing EVERYTHING- not just the fun & obvious stuff.

            Maybe a bigger company can better tolerate such things and has a collections capacity on staff, but I don't. I'm the only one doing everything and too often big companies leverage small guys like us sculptors into financing their operations. More work is dangled, supposedly no more $$ games. so do you be an ass over past debts or trust that they'll do what they say? No easy answers. My sculptor was owed over $70k & bouncing checks like crazy when he laid me off. My uncle was reportedly owed $250k by a single retailer when he retired, with much more owed from other sources. I would have more business if I was "in town" with all the other granite companies, but probably even less actual income than I have now. I can't afford to finance deadbeat bums like that. So being here I have 100% control, because no one comes here casually. Work leaves when it's paid in full or it doesn't leave.

            I've told people I built an ark, sort of like Noah, even if it makes no sense to anyone else. I'm trying to keep this actual traditional craft alive, as I was trained, for another generation. Everything is captured here. the studio was quickly paid for in full with almost no overhead when work is thin. Our first studio Christmas card had a picture of the brand new studio I built. One of my Masters said, sort of dismissively but with no disrespect, "aside from that pointing machine hanging on the wall, it just looks like a plain old granite studio to me." That's the best compliment I've ever received about my studio.

            Maybe someone will show up to carry on. maybe not. God gave me this gift and opened doors for me to do it. If & when He wants me to have more stone work and money, I will have it. Until then, I'm glad to have what I have. More isn't necessarily better, but better can be more even when it is less.

            Having a few friends to share things with means very much to me. Thank you.
            Last edited by cliffrod; 09-07-2019, 03:51 PM. Reason: Typo/paragraph break

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            • #7
              Thank you Cliffy for sharing. If Neil gets upset then I guess he needs to start looking for another unpaid job in another city. !!!!! But if I understand Neil ( his accent is hilarious) then I am sure he will appreciate you telling a little bit about what you do behind the scenes The one thing I have figured about the guys who want to develop their metal shaping skills is that they have a heart for it. It’s more than a mechanical skill. Sorry to get philosophical but I’m starting to think that it is an art rather than a trade or acquired skill. Please explain a bit more about the processes you use to produce the beautiful pieces that you turn out. I have always assumed that you chisel away on a piece of granite till it turns into what you want !!! I am not being asinine, but just explaining how little of your process I understand. We have a rotational moulding business and I love taking a concept through its journey to a finished product. Unfortunately we have 6 axis CNC machines now doing the job of a pattern maker and foundry man and in some respect they are better but in other aspects they can’t replace the skills and experience. I’m grateful to you for all your contributions and I think you share our vision for what we want this forum to be. Johnny

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Kiwi john View Post
                Thank you Cliffy for sharing. If Neil gets upset then I guess he needs to start looking for another unpaid job in another city. !!!!! But if I understand Neil ( his accent is hilarious) then I am sure he will appreciate you telling a little bit about what you do behind the scenes The one thing I have figured about the guys who want to develop their metal shaping skills is that they have a heart for it. It’s more than a mechanical skill. Sorry to get philosophical but I’m starting to think that it is an art rather than a trade or acquired skill. Please explain a bit more about the processes you use to produce the beautiful pieces that you turn out. I have always assumed that you chisel away on a piece of granite till it turns into what you want !!! I am not being asinine, but just explaining how little of your process I understand. We have a rotational moulding business and I love taking a concept through its journey to a finished product. Unfortunately we have 6 axis CNC machines now doing the job of a pattern maker and foundry man and in some respect they are better but in other aspects they can’t replace the skills and experience. I’m grateful to you for all your contributions and I think you share our vision for what we want this forum to be. Johnny
                I'm planning to do this thread much like a metal build thread, with pics and explanations throughout the project. That should suffice to help clarify what & how I do things without being boring. Later on, maybe I can post a pic now and then

                This granite work is done by hand with either die grinders with diamond bits or pneumatic hammers (called hand machines) with hand-held chisels. Traditional work is done with hand machine & chisel, which produces a uniquely tooled final surface because all is done to the final smoothed surface with a chisel. That surface is much like penmanship (remaining visible brush marks) in oil painting. Chisel lines are oriented to either catch, direct or not be visible in the light. Die grinders produce a faceted surface, like any grinding process, that is difficult to full blend without too much loss. It also colors the stone differently. Most people never notice these things until an expert teaches them. Chisels impact stone. Diamonds abrade. So different things may be possible because the related energy affects the stone differently. In a nutshell, chisels vs die grinders is like the cast vs fabricated English wheel debate...

                My hand machines are simple air motors, somewhat like those in a planishing machine, that run at a constant speed based upon air flow. Imagine holding your planishing hammer, hand wrapped around the barrel. No pistol grip, no trigger or pedal and pushing it again st the work to control how hard it hits. I hold it in my right hand, adjust air flow with a valve on air line to desired speed, insert chisel held in left hand and start carving.... Hand machines sizes are designated by diameter of piston (1/2", 3/4" and 1" are most common) and length of stroke or piston travel. Hard stone- full stroke. Soft stone- half stroke. Some machines run great from new. Most require 3+ months of full time running to properly bed the piston & bore for smooth operation. Some are crap and never improve. We want some wear or blow-by to soften operation and make a machine more tractable. I do 99% of my work with a 3/4" & 1" full stroke machines. Most chisels I use are carbide-tipped, which I re-tip by brazing & silver solder to help lower expenses. A plain 5/8" wide chisel (most used size) costs approx $20 (retipped) or $30 (new) lasts approx 1hr to 2hrs of actual on-stone time before the carbide is sharpened completely away and fully exhausted when carving granite. By contrast, the same materials chisel used on softer stone like marble or limestone will last for weeks or months of full-time carving. I plan $25/hr or $1k/40hrs consumable cost while carving granite.

                5 axis CNC is trying to become viable in the stone business. For some hand work specialties like cutting detailed molding and recessed panels, it has taken over. I have a little of that work now, but it's rare. For repetive or duplicate work in sculpture, it can be used for roughing in. For one-off work, it still isn't viable. Make a model to scan, scan & digitize, mill the job, then hire an expert like me clean off all the combing left from milling process. The only benefit is the CNC mill runs 24/7/365 unless tooling issues arise. It's the same approx number of billable hours for the machine to cut the job as for an expert like me to do it. I just don't work 24/7/365. There's guys trying to incorporate CGI tech & experience to do virtual models, but it's still beyond their reach to program & adapt what we can just do. So far one-off work is still by hand. It's life or death for the craft. Very often, new art people will have a model scanned & CNC milled into stone to near completion, then finish it themselves and claim 100% credit, even though they could never carve it themselves. BS imho but I know they cannot do that as a commercial competitor because the scan & CNC bills eats up all the profit. Art prices are not commercial professional prices, so for art it can make some sense.

                posting this info will hopefully help people here who are learning. They need to track their work - time required per amount of task completion, consumables required, etc- to improve their efficiency and approach things realistically. Masters, mentors or employers might casually mention how long it takes to produce & finish 1 foot of welding or maybe how long a specific tank of welding gas lasts in their shop. Now you have a reference with which to consider & compare yourself. If you are going to make money, you have to know these things. If you only have spare time and little extra money, you need to use those things just as efficiently and practically. Maybe that Ferrari body Peter is build ping requires 30 4x8 sheets of aluminum (I have no idea..) and has 300 feet of welding (again, I have no idea). At $100/sheet, that's $3k of aluminum. At 1 hr/ft of weld, that's 300 hrs of welding & finishing for an expert that can go that fast. Mere mortals may require 2x or 3x as long to weld.

                Anyways, I'll post the process of this stone as it progresses. Stay tuned.

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                • #9
                  a few more pics from yesterday and today.

                  Theres always potential dimensional issues issues with this work. Unless there is an architectural requirement for a stone to fit within a specific vertical dimension, Stones are usually produced slightly taller than specs. Usually less than an inch taller, but still taller. This job is designed and sold as 3'-6" tall, including my sculpture work. My model measures 1'-6" tall. When indexed onto the job, the lowest portion of the carving is 1'-11 3/4" from the joint of bottom of stone. That means a final height of 3'-5 3/4", not 3-6. Several emails to confirm the carving was properly placed at 1'-11 3/4" from the joint. So I will stretch the carving by indexing it slightly higher on the stone, Jesus will have a little more length & detail at the bottom below His belt. Not a big problem, but lots less of a potential problem than having a stone arrive as shorter than ordered.

                  Pics show the placement of the bottom of the niche and differences in height between. I'll index the model as high as possible to produce a stone closer to 3-7 tall than 3-6.

                  Tomorrow I'll start carving.

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                  • #10
                    after the layout was approximated on the die/stone & all is approved, I had to install foundation points on the plaster model for the pointing machine. I install screws to provide a durable receiver for the sharpened feet of the pointing machine. This is an old pointing machine I purchased from my Uncle & Master Sculptor Dario Rossi , who,retired just as I opened my studio. It's very fancy, but not as practical to use as the one given to me by one of my Master Sculptors named Angelo Ambrosini. 3 Foundation point locations on the model are determined, then screws are installed, adjusted to proper height to correspond to partnering foundation points on the job/stone/die (lots of proofing to make sure everything is cool) and then screws are stabilized with additional plaster.

                    I'll double check things in the morning to make sure everything is correct, then cut the foundation points into the die. These will be the basis for placing the pointing machine in the same exact place every time to facilitate transferring measurements between model and job.

                    Many artists will hire this work out to a common laborer to duplicate their work into stone. Most artists aren't expert stone carvers. Most stone carvers are not expert artists. Some of us do it all and wish we were better at the things that challenge us. The stone always humbles me....

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                    • #11
                      All is resolved with foundation points on model & job. Now I cut the border of the circular niche. This stone came as cut, with no demarcation for niche placement beyond the upper portions of the circular niche border on the cutout. I drew the balance of the circle on the stone with a red pencil, cut a relief line inboard of the desired niche border, then tipped or beveled the stone from the relief line to the outer edge of the red line. Any unwanted chipping here or a stray chisel strike could mean a failed job, full replacement of stone at my cost, etc. not cool... you do this work when rested, comfortable and focused, not when you're over it..

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                      • #12
                        Here's a quick overview of the pointing process.

                        The pointing machine is an adjustable armature used to capture a specific point in 3 dimensions. This will take a couple of posts, but is easier to see against flat stone than on a more complicated surface.

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                        • #13
                          Just set the point and marked it with a red pencil Mark. I stayed up a little, probably about 1/16". Then I put a red dot inside a circle on the model to denote the point. If I go to exact depth, I have no wiggle room. In that case, I will draw an X in the circle on the model. I do this process for every point shot, whether I cut 50 points or 1000 points on a job... the rest of the pointing work will just move forward.

                          It's always great to be in studio carving. After enough points are cut, the areas between them will be carved by eye to finish the job. I'll post some progress pics along the way without trying to overload the thread.

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                          • #14
                            A quick update. Between studio-related office stuff and other things, it hasn't been a 40 hr week. No matter, studio time was spent working on opening up the niche and roughing out the area to be carved.

                            Most bas relief carvings of this overall height aspect (+/- 1'-6" tall) average around 2 1/2" deep. As a result, the subject(s) are significantly foreshortened or proportionally flattened to fit but still properly demonstrate within this space. You don't want the composition to look like it has been squashed. Some details are foreshortened more than others. Knowing what and how much to do is largely based upon experience. Since this job has a full round head & shoulders (like a statue), the lower portions of the figure cannot be foreshortened as much. So this small niche is just over 4" deep. Lots of digging without much room to use a diamond saw to help quickly open up things.

                            Two pics show model & die, then close up of die. Two other pics show the placement of the carving within the die. The carving was shifted up so that the right shoulder is located at the saw cut, as high as it can go. This pic is taken from above, looking down with a single red pencil dot in the approx center of the pic to denote the top of the shoulder at saw cut. Left shoulder is also within 1/4" of the saw cut. The carving is also properly forward in the stone, with two knuckles/joints on the left hand being flush with the front plane of the die. Very cool...
                            Last edited by cliffrod; 09-19-2019, 11:20 PM. Reason: Add pic

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                            • #15
                              After roughing away the bulk of stone including cutting some approximate points to guide removal of inches of stone, now I begin the formal pointing. It's prudent to work from the outside towards the center. Not everyone does this, but it usually produces work with a greater fullness, compactness and vibrancy. When starting in the center, any over-carving will make details & elements migrate away from each other. This cannot be fixed and looks like crap.

                              i began pointing along his right lapel area in an approximate honeycomb pattern. I stayed up just a little so when I do the final carving all will clean up fine. It's always easier to cut more off than to add it back on...

                              When pointing, it is imperative to both measure each point on the model and produce each point on the job perpendicular to the tangent. This will help limit the chance of eroding material around each point as it is cut. A hard lesson to learn is to carve a detail without carving away the stone needed for the details immediately around or beside it... That goes along with things migrating away from each other, like I previously mentioned,

                              once you start pointing, repeat until finished. This is what & all I'll be doing for the next 2-3 wks....

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